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Mixing in Times of COVID

How technology allows us to produce records from home

Lockdown showed us that nothing can stop creativity. Many artists used this adversity as fuel for inspiration to make some great music. The Spanish band Mailers went one step further. They released the song “Cuando Salgamos” to inject some love and hope into the future and helped to raise funds for The Red Cross.

The band recorded, produced, and filmed the song from their own homes, taking advantage of modern technology. Since the feeling of togetherness was one of the themes of the track, they asked 22 friends to collaborate in the project. From dancers to videographers, even singers from different bands, they created not only a virtual choir but also a music video.

I’ve worked with Mailers in the past and I was lucky enough to be asked to participate in this special occasion. Mixing this beautiful song was a great opportunity, but also a real challenge. Even though everyone followed the band’s instructions during the recording process, all the voices and instruments were recorded in different rooms, with home recording setups of different sizes and levels. In some cases just a mobile phone!

My job was to make the final track sound great despite the pandemic handicaps. A big chore that definitely wouldn’t be possible without a couple of tricks… and plugins.

Mailers – Cuando Salgamos

Behind the song: the mixing approach

Once all the tracks were recorded and the band finalised the production, the main idea for the mix was trying to make the many different parts work together, adding cohesion and warmth throughout. To achieve this I decided to use a console emulation as the main plugin for the session. And what better option than Britson for the job! On top of the non-linear summing and saturation of a Neve-style console, it also allowed me to gain stage, filter the tracks, and create groups to more easily control the different tracks.

Britson Saturation

For starters I added a Britson channel on every track and created three group busses: Guitars, BGVs, and Master. Then I routed the track accordingly and assigned every instance of Britson channel to one of these groups.

Since an electronic drum kit was used, I tried to get some extra punch out of it in the mix. In addition to the Britson channel on the drums, I used some tape saturation and Neve 73 EQ in mid/side mode to open them up and get some extra analogue “vibe”. I also added some compression with an 1176 instance to get the presence that I was after. The result was a drum part that cut through the mix and felt more real.

Automation is a very important step in the mixing process that sometimes gets overlooked, but it is key to make the song move and to keep things from sounding stale. The band wanted to create a musical journey where the voices would grab the attention of the listener. That is why I especially focused on the balance of Anabel’s vocals (Mailer’s singer) with the rest of the BGVs using automation across the whole mix to ensure cohesion with these lead vocals. Bringing each singer into the spotlight at the right time like they were on stage by using volume, mute, and reverb automation. I also emphasised drums and guitars at specific parts of the song to add dynamics and excitement.    

I then used the FAT mode of the Britson Master Buss with the Master Loudness setting to add some additional saturation and EQ tone shaping to the mix. And for the final ingredient, I used an SSL G-buss set with a low ratio, slow attack, and autorelease to tighten up all the tracks on the Master Buss..

The combination of these approaches were able to fulfill our expectations and goals for the song.

Communication is key

Us being forced apart during the pandemic made communication more important than ever. Even more so since I work in London (UK) and Mailers are based in Alicante (Spain). 

During mixing every small detail matters, so it was fundamental to talk with Mailers regularly during the whole process to understand their vision and their drive. One of the tools that I used for this was AudioMovers, which allowed me to share the mix with the band in real time and fine tune the song until it was perfect. Definitely a great help.

Something to hold on to

One of the things that helped me through the lockdown the most was having a project to focus on. Something that kept me close to friends and collaborators during these difficult times. A feeling that was amplified by the fact that we were helping The Red Cross to collect badly needed funds to support the most vulnerable and hard-hit people.

I hope sharing this experience serves as inspiration in these strange times that we’ve got to live in. I really think music and creativity are more necessary than ever, and thanks to modern technology this is easier to accomplish, even when working from home or with people all over the world.

Watch, listen, and share “Cuando Salgamos” and consider donating to Red Cross Spain or Red Cross international. These funds will provide essential support to people who have been or will be significantly impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. Every little bit helps. 

Carlos Bricio

Music Producer & Sound Engineer

Website: carlosbricio.com
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/carlos-bricio-music-producer/
Instagram: @cbricius
Twitter: @CBricius

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