BY Matt Greco
It’s tough in a lot of modern pop music to find space especially as productions grow larger in what seems like a never-ending quest. I’m all about a big beautiful production but instead of adding more instruments or vocals, how about stripping things down? I know this isn’t a new idea but I find myself trying to keep things simple in production and mixing more and more nowadays. This can be a great way to make a mix sound bigger!
A large sound can truly be achieved in multiple ways. It’s taken me years to really understand this concept but I really do believe it can be done with fewer tracks. Honestly making a really big production with 150+ track count is more difficult to sound big, in my opinion. Only experienced producers are able to achieve this.
Now let’s look at a basic pop tune arrangement. Drums, bass, guitars, maybe keys or some aux instrument, lead vocal, and background vocals. The concept is simple. When choosing to add layers of instruments or even with engineering and placing microphones, try not to go overboard.
Just like when placing multiple microphones on a source you have serious phase issues at play, it’s the same when layering instruments. There is phase stuff going on, masking of frequencies, and less overall room in our production ‘space’. When miking drums start simple and add microphones you feel are necessary to achieve to sound you’re after.
Same for guitars and any other instruments being recorded. Once you build the production and feel good about your simple approach, it may still feel smaller. This is only in comparison to your larger productions and you must keep in mind mixing. As you move into audio mixing now you have more space to work with and working on the mix overall should be easier. You can have more fun with reverb and delays to help take-up more space within the mix.
A MIX WITH ONLY ONE PLUGIN!
Usually, with a dense production/mix, I have to be really careful with the reverb and delays I’m using to not take up much space. This tends to yield a drier sound overall but works with that type of production. This simple concept of production can be carried through to audio mixing as well. I recently gave myself an experiment to use one plugin on a whole mix. I gave myself a few others for effects but wanted to limit those as well to only one reverb, one delay, you get the idea.
This one plugin I was going to use for the whole mix had to be a channel strip and basically replicated the approach of mixing on a console but in the box. I decided to use the Satson Channel Strip from Sonimus as my one plugin. After years of experience working out of a studio in town that had a 48 channel SSL 4K. I became really familiar with the board and welcomed the sight of the Satson Channel Strip. It’s basically made up of three modules. One input/fader, one compressor, and one equalizer.
The compressor looks and sounds like the 4K G bus compressor and the eq looks just like the familiar SSL EQ. This eq is actually a little more flexible than your typical SSL eq which made it really fun and easy to use. I strapped Satson across all of my channels in my mix and started mixing. Within 45 minutes I had a really solid mix sound and the Satson plugin did not disappoint. Reminded me of mixing on an SSL and even gave me the same tonal punch the SSL is known for.
I CHALLENGE YOU!
The production was a little more on the simple side and this limited approach to audio mixing was actually really refreshing. I can’t remember the last time I had mixed something that quickly before and the end product sounded really great. Challenge you to adopt this approach even for just a mix or one production. I have learned a lot by simplifying things over the years and I’m able to create bigger and better productions/mixes because of it.
For more mixing information, check our other articles!