Reference Tracks (Week of 5/15/22)
Here's this week's list of mixes I love and the reasons why...
Mixed by Craig Silvey
This mix is a great example of tasteful element separation. Each component—vocals, drum loop, bass, synths, piano, feedback—feels well defined without being sterile or bare. In fact, the whole thing sounds lively and gelled thanks to the liberal usage of slap delays and splashy reverbs…not always an easy line to walk. I’m also a sucker for hard-panned lead vocal doubles.
Mixed by Chris Coady
I chose this track because of how propulsive and energetic it is. To me, that momentum comes from the rhythm section and the kick/bass relationship in particular. Like the Luke Sital-Singh song (below), the lows and lower midrange are thick, but never muddy or overpowering. I’m also a big fan of the vocal placement in the mix; it’s not too upfront which makes it feel as though there’s a conversation happening between the vocal and the riffing guitar.
Mixed by Tom Elmhirst
I love how the acoustic perspective changes throughout this mix. At certain points, things feel quite close and tight—as if the listener is in a small room—while other times the mix is washy and reverberant. Some songs allow for more of this type of internal contrast than others, but I always like to automate reverbs and delays throughout a mix to impart a feeling of movement and to keep the listener engaged. This song is a masterful example of that idea.
Mixed by Mike Mogis
This mix is great because it serves the song perfectly. As I see it, there are really only two crucial components of the arrangement/production: the vocal, and the quarter note pulse. Yes, there’s an instrumental bed, but it’s almost as though it’s only there to be sidechained by the kick, like a mechanism to accentuate the pulse. All of this seems to have been considered in the mix; the vocal is up front and captivating, the kick is punchy but never overpowering, and the instrumental bed provides a tonal foundation and a means for the pulse to cut through.
This mix also serves as a good reminder that a song’s arrangement should dictate the tonal balance in the mixing and mastering stages. If you look at a frequency analyser, you’ll see (and hear) that there’s not a ton of high frequency information going on in this track. It would be easy to make the mistake of cranking high end in the mix/master stages so the tonal balance “matches” music in similar genres without really considering the song itself. Instead, the mix is dark and therefore true to the production and arrangement.
Mixed by Tchad Blake
I’m suspicious of any mixer who doesn’t—at least a little bit—wish they were Tchad Blake. I have an issue with the word genius (I think it’s overused) but if anyone in music/production/audio is one, it’s him. For me, it’s the impact of the choruses that really drives this mix home. Of course a lot of that has to do with the production and arrangement, but the way Blake approaches panning, EQ, and saturation is masterful and makes the choruses feel like a massive hug. The lower midrange is fortified and wide without feeling muddy or out of balance and the vocals are airy and crisp but never harsh. This song also makes me want to go buy a fretless guitar…