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August 3, 2017

Mixing Alive and Alone - setup

Right! The time has come to mix this thing ... need to just get it out. I have a bad habit of agonising over the imperfections and wanting to fix things, but after watching Macklemore on the subject, I have allocated the next few days to getting this done - imperfections and all.

So, technicalities first. I am mixing and mastering in Pro Tools 9, which is perfect for mixing but not for mastering. Given my lack of skill in audio engineering, the lack of mastering toys probably makes no difference and, in any case, it's what I have to work with. See limitations below ...

The biggest bummer with this approach is that I have Pro Tools 9 - an old version - on a 2011 MacBook Pro. It can cope with the workload as long as I don' try to do too much - either from a tracks point of view or from a plug-ins point of view. I intend to upgrade as soon as I can afford to - ie I sell lots of track from this album ... please do your part to support the upgrade ... :-)

The main problem with the aging setup is that the OS upgrade since I installed PT9 have rendered the DAE plugins (I had some neat AIR ones and a couple of other bundles) useless. I am limited to using the native Pro Tools plugins, which is probably a good thing because it will save me a heap of time trying lots of other things out without really knowing what I'm doing ... D-Verb and 7-Band EQ here I come!

My process will have to be simple, partly because I don't really know what I'm doing and partly because of the technical limitations of my gear. Fortunately, mixing a voice and guitar is not complex ... compared to mixing a masive band or something ... I am using two reference tracks: Bruce Springsteen's "Ghost of Tom Joad" and The Bangles' "Following". I like the space in those mixes and hope to get somewhere near them - obviously, only some parts of them are useful because they rapidly progress to include more instruments while I'm sticking with guitar, voice and stomp box for the whole songs ... they are also a little misleading for some of my songs becuse they have sparce guitars and I have some very busy, active guitar parts as well. Still - this is what I chose and it will do for teh purpose of the exercise.

The recording sessions in Pro Tools have been distilled to single, unprocessed stems, which will be imported into a new session for mixing. When I recorded, I had several takes on playlists and applied a few effects to get a feel for how the parts fit together. Although I promised not to, I did end up comping a few parts together, too, so the output has to be a single file with all effects removed. I also recorded 6 or 7 songs in a single session, which places a lot of strain on the laptop's processors, I think ... better to start over with a fresh session.

I have sought a lot of advice over the years about recording, mixing and so on. I have read a lot and forgotten most of it because I've not actually tried to apply it ... until now. Here's my most valued sources:

Of course, I can't possibly take all of the advice in these resources. I fully intend to make lots of mistakes and have to fix them up - probably next time I do this ...

So, six or seven stems to mix - depding on the song. Today I have created a mix template with the signal chains that I think will be useful:

A&A Mix Template.jpgAs you can see, it's pretty straightforward and pretty much straight out of the Pro Tools templates. Because I had three mics on each part (except the stomp box) I chose to combine those signals into a stereo aux track and apply most effects there. No idea whether that's the best approach but it worked for me ...

So, tomorrow I will make a new session for each song and import all of the audio. Then we will see how far I get through the ten songs in one day. I know expeienced engineers do that easily but I amvery conscious of my limitations and have allowed four days for this stage ...

If you happen to be an experienced sound guy or producer, let me know in the comments what I could have done better here ... this is a project for posterity, after all ... :-)

Posted by Hughie at August 3, 2017 6:18 PM

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