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BASS (47) COMPRESSION (32) DRUMS (41) EFFECTS (47) EQUALIZATION (27) GUITAR (100) HOME RECORDING (81) IMPULSES (21) INTERVIEWS (19) KARAOKE (1) LIVE (10) MASTERING (56) MIDI (18) MIXING (163) REVIEWS (131) SAMPLES (56) SONGWRITING (18) VOCALS (29)

Saturday, February 2, 2019

How to mix a song with free plugins part 5/5: Keyboards and Extra Arrangements!



Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Now that we have taken care of all the basic elements of the classic rock band it's time to work on the additional arrangements (which sometimes are the most important part of a song, for example in case of orchestral music, edm, jazz or piano driven pop music).

Let's start by saying that those additional arrangements can be done by using real instruments (for example click here to see how to record a real string ensemble), or with MIDI instruments (click here to read our article about virtual orchestras), and within the MIDI realm we can use sampled instruments or synth instruments (click here for an article that explain the difference between the two), but no matter what those additional instruments are, the important thing is to apply the same process of carving space in our mix to accomodate them, the same way we did in the previous parts of this tutorial.

The good thing about MIDI instruments is the fact that most of the times they are pre-processed, so it's mainly a matter of finding the right sound and fitting it in the mix then a real sound processing, but on the other side if we are microphoning a real instrument (like a piano) we will have much more control and leeway when working on it to adapt it to the rest of the song, using our hammer and chisel: the equalization and the compression.

In order to process our instruments there is a variety of free software, most of it in form of Vst plugins; some of them are bundled directly in our daw (click here for an article about how to mix only using stock plugins).
If we're not satisfied with the stock plugins, here's our ultimate list of the best freeware Vst plugins sorted by type.
And here's our top ten 2018 Vst plugins, if you don't want to bother with trying and choosing among them :D

After we have processed properly our additional arrangement tracks, it's time to put the icing on the cake: we need to listen to the song very carefully, and we'll inevitably find out that regardless all of our volume balance and compression there will still be parts which are too loud or too quiet, too effected or too dry, therefore we will have to write automations until the song will flow perfectly smooth.
Now, if we feel that some track is still a bit too weak and lifeless we can route them into a console emulation plugin and let it do its magic in fattening the signal and making it more "round".
Finally, we can add some cool effect if we want to keep the listener's attention high, like inserting a reverse sound effect.

Once we have all of our tracks in place and well integrated in our mix there is still some final check to make. A good starting point is to make sure we have avoided the biggest mixing mistakes listed HERE.

After having cleared our project from the most common mistakes, it's time to do some A/B (actually this is a good habit to do at all steps of mixing and mastering, to keep our ears fresh and our perspective right) with a referencing track, so that we can rebalance our mix if we find out some major problem. You can read more about how to mix with referencing tracks in this article.

Now the last step before passing to the mastering phase is to make a test run of our mix through various playback devices (click here for a dedicated article) in order to find out whether there is some unbalance (for example some instrument can be too loud or too quiet when listened through some specific device); this will make the mastering phase faster and less frustrating. 

Let us know in the comment section if you found this serie of articles useful!


CLICK HERE FOR PART 1: DRUMS!

CLICK HERE FOR PART 2: BASS!

CLICK HERE FOR PART 3: GUITARS!

CLICK HERE FOR PART 4: VOCALS!




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