In the past week we’ve been working on this year’s Long Wait Christmas song.
Yeah I know. It’s weird to work on a Christmas song so early but that’s what you gotta do in order to release it on time!
Last year’s Christmas song went overboard with fancy bells and whistles. No literally, there were bells!
This year we’re doing a country do-wop rockabilly’esque Christmas song and for the last few days I’ve been mixing it.
To be honest it’s been giving me quite the headache.
I’ve started from scratch three times and I’ve finally got it sounding how I want it.
And it’s all because I tried too hard.
I tried to make the song into something the tracks simply aren’t.
And the biggest tool that works against you in that case is EQ.
Beware the Rabbit Hole of EQ
I went completely overboard on trying to EQ the tracks together in the first few tries.
It got to a point I had multiple EQ’s on each track as well as on all the busses and groups.
And I’m sure if I looked closely at each one they would be contradicting each other.
I kept fighting the song and telling it how it should sound.
Instead, I should’ve listened to the tracks and had them tell me what they actually needed.
So after listening to the second rough mix on one of my walks I decided:
Ok. This has gone on far enough. Let’s break it down and make it simple.
Have a Reason for Every Mix Move
I sat down and reset all my tracks and started completely from scratch.
After getting a rough static mix with faders I listened to the song and had it tell me what was needed instead of mindlessly throwing plug-ins on.
Here’s what my thought process was:
- Why are you EQ’ing? – Instead of EQ’ing in random frequencies I became more methodical. Instead of using my Fabfilter EQ and just surfing around with sweeping boosts I pulled out my V-EQ and really listened to what each cut and boost was doing to the overall track. Consequently, I only EQ’d when I needed and made small adjustments that helped the song instead of going down a rabbit hole.
- What’s the system? – What are the characteristics of each instrument? Does the electric guitar or acoustic guitar dominate the low-mids? Where will each instrument sit in the frequency spectrum. Thinking the mix through gave me deliberate decisions to act on instead of mindleslly EQ’ing.
- How do you want it to sound? – There are a million ways to EQ a bass guitar. But if you’re searching for a specific sound your decisions should support that goal. In this case I wanted a mid-rangy 60s style country sound. That gave me a mixing goal to reach that excluded a lot of mixing processors.
- Simplify your spaces – This wasn’t an EQ decision but it does relate to cluttering up your mix in the frequency spectrum. At first I was trying to give each instrument their own space with their own reverb. This became a spiderweb of busses and routing complexity. Instead, I used one reverb bus for all instruments, one vocal delay and one vocal reverb. This made for a much cleaner mix and it sounded more like a live take (which was the ultimate goal).
Follow a Strategy When You’re EQ’ing
Frankly, it’s fairly ironic that I went so far astray.
I simply didn’t follow my own advice!
In EQ Strategies – The Ultimate Guide to EQ I have an overview over the EQ spectrum, as well as clear guides on drums, guitars, bass and vocals. Exactly the instrumentation I had in this song.
If I would’ve re-read the guide before mixing the song maybe I wouldn’t have spent so much time mixing one song.
If you’re interested in reading more about EQ (and following the advice, not like my dumbass self) check out EQ Strategies here below: