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You Know Better: Mellow Mix
Here's my initial take ... now off to listen to some of the other mixes.

WAV file (88.2/24) version:

Update: Version II following feedback from Mike and others. (Many thanks!)

Update: Final posted. Mastered to LUFS-13.

.mp3    You Know Better.mp3 --  (Download: 8.39 MB)

.mp3    You Know Better II.mp3 --  (Download: 8.25 MB)

.mp3    You Know Better (Master LUFS-13).mp3 --  (Download: 8.25 MB)

All sound is a distortion of silence /
Had a chance to listen to a number of mixes now...

A few observations on what I learned from other mixes and also how I approached my mix:

1) Is this song wanting to be Reggae (spacey delays), Rock (distorted guitars, harder drums) or Folk (more acoustic)? I ended up at "Caribbean Cowboy", as a cross between Folk and Reggae. Listening to others, the range of excellent interpretations across genres is apparent. Illustrates how the multitracks become very different songs in different mixers' hands.

2) How to keep the listeners attention? Many mixes muted portions of the arrangement (i.e. drums) to add contrast, others flew existing parts around (generally guitars and/or whistles); and some added new parts (i.e. piano accompaniment). I found what I needed in a quite unexpected place: the percussion (esp. the Timbale, Congas and HiHat). Those hits seemed well timed to transition between sections and add interest in the right places.

3) Managing dynamics between verse and chorus? There wasn't much to work with. Just the drums (snare, hat) and the Organ. I felt that was the toughest aspect to get right. In my mix, by heavily treating the Organ to become an ambience pad, and drawing out the HiHat and percussion. On other mixes, some nailed this, but in other cases there are otherwise excellent mixes where the overall presentation suffers by not delineating the verse and chorus sufficiently.

4) Where to put things in the stereo field? The area where we seem to have, collectively, taken the most divergent approaches: opposition panned delays; doublers/wideners; opposition panning of rhythm guitar and piano; to all sorts of creative reverbs. I ended up with something close to mono for the verses, but with more use of stereo in the chorus and outro. I felt this song centers on call-and-resonse phrases between lead vocal and lead guitar (and, at few other times, the base). So I treated it more like a duet there, which is why the main guitar stays centered throughout.

My sincere respect (condolences?) to Mike for offering to listen through all the mixes!

Good luck to all on the competition!

Cheers, Jeff
All sound is a distortion of silence /

Thanks for your expansive dissertation on the challenges of this song. It is well thought out and researched and accurate, in my opinion.

As for your results, I just don't feel you've hit the mark on any of it.

I feel the duet as you defined it, appears in your mix as more between the lead vocal and the conga and not the lead vocal and the lead guitar. And unfortunately I think the conga wins. The idea of turning the organ pad into an organ pad is a bit redundant and in this mix appears to overwhelm the chorus and bury everything. The dynamic difference between the verse and the chorus does not seem to be apparent in your mix either.

I apologize for being so tough on you. Your stated interpretation is right on the money yet your mix does not seem to carry that through. I wonder if it is an artifact of your mastering compression? Again, I apologize for my harsh critique.
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Thx Mixinthecloud. Appreciate the comments. Some comes down more to style, but I'll definitely have a listen to my mix again in a few days and see if the elements don't feel balanced at that point. Always the risk of going down a rabbit hole right after mixing the song there and hearing what I think I should, not necessarily what's in the mix!!! :-)
All sound is a distortion of silence /
(15-01-2019, 01:48 AM)jeffd42 Wrote: Thx Mixinthecloud. Appreciate the comments. Some comes down more to style, but I'll definitely have a listen to my mix again in a few days and see if the elements don't feel balanced at that point. Always the risk of going down a rabbit hole right after mixing the song there and hearing what I think I should, not necessarily what's in the mix!!! :-)

I think we all know how that goes. Been there many times myself.
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Hi jeffd42

Really like the vibe you have going in this mix. I really liked the conga sound and the snare sound you achieved a lot. You also chose to feature the congas and the Hammond quite a bit which likely contributes to your take on the track. The level of the congas and Hammond in the track at times seemed to distract me a bit from the lead vocal, so that may be worth a closed eyes listen - I could be out to lunch as well, so please take it with a grain of salt. Not massive level discrepancies by any means. Would also love to hear that awesome sounding snare bring in chorus 2 a little bit more if it suits your taste.

Nice job from my vantage point !

Hi jeffd42! This is another interesting new perspective, with the congas much more prominent in the balance and centrally panned, and a lovely smooth, expansive Hammond sound. The overall mix tonality feels rather low-mid-heavy, so I'd definitely give it a bit more sub-80Hz to start with. Be careful with this, though, because something in this mix is generating some powerful subsonics -- I suspect it's the kick-drum. Whatever it is, even just high-pass filtering it at 20Hz will help avoid people's subwoofers complaining or any master-buss or mastering dynamics processors from reacting unpredictably. If you do boost the sub-80Hz frequencies, though, you'll also probably want to cut at around 150Hz as well to avoid muddiness. At the upper end of the spectrum I'd suggest pulling back the 4kHz in favour of some added 10kHz, so you can brighten the tone a bit without adding too much harshness. You might have to rein in the 6-8kHz range of the hi-hat a little, though, to keep that from getting fatiguing in a brighter overall mix tonality.

The kick's character seems a little out of keeping with this kind of reggae-influenced style -- it's low-end woof and upper-spectrum slap sound more in a rock vein. If you toned down those higher frequencies and gave it a bit more weight in the 80-200Hz range, I think you could balance it a touch higher overall to drive the rhythmic groove more solidly, as well as anchoring the prominent conga rhythms. The congas, for their part, do feel a bit too upfront for my liking (something that's exacerbated by the spiky-sounding edit glitches), so I'd probably try rounding off their high frequencies a little and adding a little ambience reverb to pull them a little less forward of the lead vocal.

I can see the thinking for the bass part's added distortion, in that the extra midrange harmonics will inevitably improve small-speaker translation, but I wonder whether the treatment you've used in this case is maybe throwing the baby out with the bathwater, because it seems to be softening the instrument's rhythmic definition significantly. Switching to a parallel distortion setup might help with this, by letting the sound's undistorted attack phase through more prominently. In general, I reckon the bass could simply be faded up a bit too -- it's just more interesting musically than you've given it credit for in your mix balance.

The solo guitars feel a bit stark and upfront without any effects tail, and they're also balanced rather high at times, distracting from the lead vocal, especially in Choruses 2 and 3. The Hammond's timbre is lovely, but I reckon you've probably overused it. When it arrives it feels like it's flooding the mix a little too much, masking the lead vocal and compromising the mix clarity. I'd suggest carving away at both Hammond tracks with EQ to try to make them a bit more 'efficient', in other words, so that they're not adding too much frequency information where it's not really needed.

The lead vocal has low-frequency consistency problems, for example notice at 1:01 how the low end of "but I just thought of something really well" suddenly balloons for the last four syllables compared with the first six. This is something that multi-band processing or region-specific EQ can sort out, and that'll help keep your vocal more solid on different playback systems. Other than that, the vocal balancing isn't bad already, although there'd still be some room to improve the lyric intelligibility by micro-automating consonants and bring up swallowed syllables. Oh, and the missing "the" upbeat to Chorus 3 feels strange.

The stereo width and mono-compatibility both seem fairly sensible, but the effects and balances do feel a bit static, so long-term dynamics aren't as strong as they might be, despite the nice stereo 'opening out' that you Hammond timbre affords.

Hope some of that is helpful -- thanks for posting your mix and getting involved!
Thank you Mike and Thomas.

All comments very much spot on.

Played with the mid/low balance (and no subwoofers shall be harmed now!) I'm sticking with the kick drum tone (no sample there; its direct from the recording). Some tighter control and more pop friendly processing on the vocal; including the suggested multiband EQ. I still want to have a play with flying some parts of the lead vocal around to create a double in the chorus: both for added interest and as some phrases are markedly clearer in one or other verse/chorus. On the high end, Mike, you were exactly right; a dip at 4kHz and some extra sparkle at 15kHz. I then had to throw a de-esser on the snare to tame the hi-hat bleed. The Hammond has a sidechained compressor against the vocals to duck it 1-2db (as does the base against the kick drum). The 15KHz boost made the reverbs more audible and I added a little on a few elements. Distortion n the base was primarily with an eye towards tone but certainly also a nod to keeping it audible on smaller playback systems.

Thanks again for the detailed listen and the comments.

Cheers, Jeff
All sound is a distortion of silence /
I like what you've done with the organ much more in this take but still over-takes the compressor at the end. The reggae feel comes through better as well. I can't say I feel the same about the bass guitar. The sound is good but I feel it dominates too much, especially in the beginning. Sometimes it feels you are bringing a bazooka to a knife tight. At places the pads and bass just overwhelm things especially the vocals, which is the focus of the song.
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Master now posted.

The comments received along the way were extremely helpful in dialing in the sonics.

This struck me as a song where the mix very needed to very much sit in the background, rather than calling attention to itself. Which, counter-intuitively, led me to some rather more complex processing chains than usual (screenshot attached).

All sound is a distortion of silence /