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Hannes Keseberg - You Know Better: Laid-back Mix
I really enjoyed working on this song.

I tried to go for a laid-back mix. I did some editing and played a lot with muting and exchanging certain parts here and there to highlight the dynamics and the style of vocal performance. Especially in the first section and with the attacks of the choruses.

I introduced the whistle earlier. I like the happy vibe it gives to the mix.

The third chorus became a kind-of-breakdown building up to the outro. I left the surprise effect of it because I actually like it. It ends the song on a positive vibe...

I would love to know what you think Smile

.mp3    You Know Better - Daniele Timo\'s Mix.mp3 --  (Download: 8.17 MB)

Hi timo! A really intriguing version this, with lots of detailed arrangement tweaks, but a lot of thought has clearly gone into them too, because there's a suitable deference to the primacy of the lead vocal -- something that it's easy to overlook when you're elbow-deep in rearrangement ideas. There's so much going on, in fact, that I'll go through section by section.

The shortened Intro is direct and to-the-point, and makes a lot of sense from a mainstream perspective in terms of getting that crucial lead vocal into the mix as quickly as possible. I like some of the 'perforations' you've done to thin out the first Verse and create some sense of build-up into Verse 2, but there were a couple of moments that didn't quite convince me. The first was the big empty gap after the second vocal phrase at 0:22, which feels at once a bit too long in terms of maintaining forward momentum, and at the same time not really dramatic enough to sound confidently like a 'feature'. The second moment is that bass line at 0:34. I realise what you're trying to do here, kind of handing the listener's attention from the bass to the guitar, but I think that bass riff just functions much better when leading directly to the downbeat -- it feels a bit awkward musically in the shifted-earlier position, somehow. Again, this stunt kind of falls between two stools, feeling awkward enough to unsettle me, without being assertive enough to really sound like an intentional move. Maybe that bass line would sound more confident if the last note were sustained and then slid down to the downbeat note under the guitar line. Or if you perhaps made the gap even more obvious between the end of the bass note and the start of the following solo guitar chord -- muting the drums completely for that moment might do that. This stuff is so 'suck it and see', though, that it generally involves a lot of trial and error to find something that really works.

In Verse 2, the whistle fragments at 0:41 and 1:02 feel rather distracting from the lead vocal, so I'd probably mute those myself, particularly the one that draws attention away from the work "drink", which is one of the hookiest moments in the lyric, in my view. When you hit Chorus 1, I think it's quite a risky move shifting the bass emphasis onto the downbeat as you have. Firstly, it changes the feel of that opening quite a lot, compared with how the band recorded it; and, secondly, it doesn't feel like it 'arrives' convincingly, perhaps because it has no strong kick/snare hit underpinning its onset. The Reintro seems to lose a bit of momentum after the end of the sustained final Chorus syllable "heart", because the backing texture is a little hollow. This has a knock-on effect too, because the transition to the more stripped-back Verse 3 backing texture isn't then particularly dramatic, and you don't therefore get very strong section differentiation, something that might have been useful to startle the listened into refreshing their attention for the singer's new lyrics. I think you could afford to open up the Hammond more in the Reintro for this reason, even if that means multing it for that section so as not to disturb the well-judged way in which its Chorus 1 sound supports the harmony and adds appealing rotary-speaker movement without clouding the vocal timbre.

I'd also query the transition from Verse 3 to Chorus 2. Again, it's not quite attention-grabbing enough to sound really confident. Perhaps if you paused the rhythmic movement a bit more for the word "glow" that might help. I really like your decision to bring the claps in early to bolster your vision for the drop-down in Chorus 3, but the pace of your build-up seems to flatten out after we get to the first "you know better" line, where I'd expected something new to come in, but nothing did. It's also a shame, I think, to lose the rising guitar line that leads into the Outro, because this felt pretty effective to me the way it was by default. No point in cutting things that work!

On the whole, the balancing of the mix feels very sensible. The lead vocal is nice and smooth, with ample warmth and presence, and at a healthy level in the mix. You seem already to have taken some steps to even out the raw vocal recording's low-end variability, which is good news, but you could still work more with your fader automation to maximise lyric intelligibility, especially during the choruses -- eg. on "better than that" at 2:26. The bass guitar has decent small-speaker translation, but comes across as rather lightweight sub-100Hz compared with the kick, and this makes the mix as a whole feel like it lacks warmth, despite something of a woolly frequency-build-up at around 150Hz in the overall spectrum of the mix as whole.

I wonder whether you've gone a little too heavy on the drums/percussion during the Mid-section, because it lacks the sense of harmonic fullness that I'd consider more appropriate for that part of the lyric. Something a bit similar is going on in the Outro too, which could handle much more of the Hammond and mob backing vocals to beef up the cheery community atmosphere at the end of the song. As it stands, that section comes across as slightly self-conscious, whereas it's clear from the arrangement that it should really be the climax of the song. The almost subliminal level of the flown-in whistle track in the Reintro and at the end of Verse 3 feels like a mistake, as if you left a bit of bleed in by accident. I think I'd fade it up a bit, and then use effects to keep it in the background, perhaps as another nice depth contrast moment.

I like your effects work, which is often very tastefully done. There's a good sense of blend and space, and some nice depth-contrasts too between, say, the lead vocal and some of the solo guitars. You could do more to adapt the effects to changes in the arrangement, though, I reckon. For example, the lead vocal effects don't really seem to change between the Verse, Chorus, and Outro, and that wastes some opportunities for enhancing the mix's long-term dynamics and section differentiation. I reckon you could also widen some of your effects returns with MS processing, because the stereo width feels a little too understated, given that the mix brief is targeting the mainstream music market here. The Hammond, piano, and bass would be other contenders for widening effects/processing of one type or other, but be careful not to destabilise the mono-compatibility of the bass's low end in the process.

One tiny final thing: there seems to be some kind of distortion in the mid-section at 2:32 under the word "ask". Might be worth checking what that is, and whether it's more subtly compromising the sonics elsewhere.

Hope some of that is useful -- and that it all makes sense! It's often quite difficult expressing what I mean in matters of arrangement, so just let me know if you need me to clarify any of that. Thanks for contributing!
Hey, Mike. Thank you for all the valuable and detailed feedback. I appreciate it.
I’m I still in time to submit a new mix for the contest or is that it? Smile