It’s been a bunch of attempts, but I finally nailed the sound mix on LIAR.
This is much closer to what I’ve been going for. There were several technical errors that I introduced myself, but figuring out the compression settings was the main place that consumed me over this past week.
Mixing sound is a difficult game as you can never be certain how faithfully your sound system is putting out the frequencies. This is not a studio.
My first issue was to bite the bullet and tear apart the workspace so that I could stick my monitors right next to the computer screen, about two feet from my ears. This has the effect of minimizing room issues. The closer to the speakers the less the room matters. I learned that it needed a slight mid-tone boost as well, and the monitors have that option. With extensive listening and checking, a lot of Goldfrapp, Metric, Conjure One, Sara McLachlan and others, I was pretty sure the speakers were performing where they needed to be. That was just step one, the prologue.
So here were the problems with the old mix, as far as I can discern:
- Bass bubbles, certain low frequencies punched up, my own fault.
- Compression set without enough room in the attack, dulled the leading edges of the sounds.
- Not enough stereo separation, main voice repeatedly covered over by guitars.
There were other problems, congas jutting out too loudly that needed tempering. Some compression, some reverb. I also added chucka-chucka acoustic guitar chords just on the refrains to hammer them home, but they weren’t really what I wanted. They were too bright and stuck out.
Hours and hours of tweaks led me to version after version. Just today I cracked it.
The bulbous bass was flipped over to “low shelf” and I boosted the hell out of the entire bass range, equally. That helped bring in the kick drum and the faked bass guitar. I no longer have a bass, and that’s an electric guitar pitch-shifted down 12 steps.
I thought I was done, but still the magic wasn’t in the room. Back to panning everything around. Voice one, dead center. Then I just decided to bring all the guitars out near the edges, two on the right side, two on the left. Suddenly there was room for the voice and bass in the middle and all this dynamic popping from ear to ear. With headphones it’s even more pronounced.
I also cut out a boring couple of bars, shortening it by a few seconds, and now I can’t think of anything else to rearrange. I think it’s finally in the ballpark, a very decent demo.