In the first part of Romesh Dodangoda article he discussed setting up the room for recording and dialing in the perfect tones during tracking. Now it’s time to get into the mixing phase, including some tips on production.
The process of live recording and then overdubbing may be fine for a traditional band recording, but what about electronic productions? Or hybrid live/electronic productions? Fusing live and electronic or sampled elements is something most of us deal with in modern productions. There are many common considerations relevant to all of these tracking/production situations.
Asked about his approach to producing the band Bring Me The Horizon, Romesh explains, “We started off with rough guide tracks of the electronic stuff. It allowed me to makes decisions based on what they were planning to do. We had to make sure the drums were really right to the grid. When mixing electronic elements and live recordings, you don’t want the drums drifting because electronic music is very grid-based. We built those songs up with a rough stem of what the keys were going to be. I could build around it. It’s a tough thing because you have to get all the sounds to sit right as well. Some songs had programmed drums and real drums, so it was finding drum sounds that complimented the programmed stuff. I was quite lucky that I had that stuff already so that we could build around the electronic parts. We built everything around the demos, and then replaced stuff. All the demo tracks were stems, so I could turn things off as they were replaced. It’s a very focused direction to go in. My approach depends on the band and what we’re trying to get.”
Romesh is not afraid to commit to a specific sound while tracking, so when it comes time to mix, he doesn’t have to do too much. He mixes entirely in-the-box, relying heavily on UAD plugins. For mix processing, Romesh says, “My main thing is carving the tones in the tracking. If you look at one of the channels, the EQ, the low frequency is on max–you can’t go any further. But that’s the sound I wanted, so I’m happy with that. If you leave lots of decisions to the mix, you’re going to spend a long time mixing.
When it comes to multi-miking guitar cabs, I sum then down to one channel, and I print it. It’s so much easier to mix the song, because you have a fader per part. And then you can bend that sound really easily because you just put an EQ plugin on that one guitar, and then you can reshape it. Whereas if you’ve got six different mics, which one do I put the EQ on? It’s a never-ending mess.”
Romesh doesn’t like using outboard gear when mixing, purely because of recall. “I don’t have the time to recall the stuff. I’m constantly going from session to session. Sometimes I get a call – can you do this ‘no-vocal mix’ – and I’m in the middle of another session. So I need to be able to open it, kill the vocal, print the mix – done. So that’s why I print all the analog stuff on the way in, so it’s there.”
Speakers or Headphones?
We are continually hearing of mixers working on planes or in hotel rooms. Romesh is not a fan of using headphones for mixing while he is travelling and, instead, prefers to wait until he gets to a place where there are monitors. On using the Sonarworks Reference 4 system, he says, “I use the correction stuff on my monitors. I found that invaluable for me. My room sounded good, but it just sounds even better now. Lee [Chapman from Sonarworks] did introduce me to the Sonarworks headphone correction thing, and that kind of blew my mind in the sense of how possible it actually is to do mixing with headphones. I’m pretty new to the headphone side of it. I think now with stuff like that you can mix on headphones and get pretty good results.”
Regardless of the gear available and the genre you are working in, Romesh’s lessons are clear: Don’t be afraid to commit to a sound during recording and be creative within your limitations in order to achieve your sonic goal. To learn more from Romesh and a host of other industry heavyweights, check out his Control Room community on Facebook, or at https://control-room.net