Doom Music Track Mixing/Mastering
This was a fairly simple track to mix and master due to the fact that there wasn't many tracks to deal with, I also didn't think the track had to be over processed either which saved a bit of mixing time. In total I had 19 tracks to mix, 13 for drums, 4 for guitar and 2 for bass, which really isn't a lot for a Metal track but sometimes keeping things simple works out better. Adding more layers and instruments could have potentially made the track more interesting but and the end it's going to be used primarily for the Doom trailer sound replacement so I don't really want to much stuff going on that would take away from the other audio elements. If I want to do more with the track in the future and potentially put some vocals to it or maybe lead guitar melodies I have a solid rhythmic foundation to build upon so expanding the sonic content wouldn't be extremely difficult, but for the moment I'm happy with how it is.
The way I normally mix is that I send multiple tracks of the same kind to AUX tracks, for example in this session I have 3 different audio tracks that make up the Kick drum sound so I'll send all of them to a master Kick AUX where I can process all of them as one sound source. That then gets sent to a full drum kit AUX mix buss to process all of the drum elements together, this is the same for the different guitar and bass tones. The Drum, Guitar, and Bass mix busses then get sent to a Master AUX track then to an audio print track.
The first thing I do before I even started mixing is to clean up some of the tracks, what I men by that is removing unwanted sound when certain instruments aren't being played such as the Toms, Stack Cymbal, and Guitars. See images below.
The top image is where I removed all of the audio from the Toms and Stack Cymbal tracks only leaving in the audio for when they are actually being hit, for the guitars I removed some of the audio between the spaces in the poly-rhythmic sections to create a tighter feel. I didn't go to heavy on the editing for the guitar tracks because I didn't want them to sound over processed and unnatural, I only removed sound in the longer breaks and made sure I didn't cut off too much from the end of each section.
The next thing I did was to add triggered samples to the Kick, Snare, and Toms. For the Kick and Snare I duplicated the Kick in and the Snare top tracks and used the Slate Trigger 2 plugin to create a blend of different samples in order to produce and kick and snare tone I liked, I then committed these tracks in Pro Tools to get a purely triggered audio track. I did this so their wouldn't be any delay between the sampled tracks and the recorded ones which would cause phasing issues, it also means that I can check the phase of the committed sample tracks against the recorded ones.
The sampled tracks in blue where slightly forward compared to the recorded tracks so I moved them back to make them in phase. The sampled drums when blended in with the acoustic ones help to produce a more even tone and velocity throughout the track as they always produce the same sound, the samples themselves have more attack which is very desirable for Metal productions. Another good thing about having drum sample tracks is because they are completely clean with no other background audio I can trigger gates from them better than gates being on the acoustic drum tracks themselves. For example having a gate on an acoustic snare track there would be a limit to how severe you could set the Threshold, Attack and Release times without the gate being triggered by the Hi-Hats, Toms or Cymbals. This limits the control you have over the gate making it practically useless in a Metal mix, having the gate side-chained from the sampled tracks means nothing else will triggered it apart from itself making the gate a lot more usable.
I used gates on the Kick and Snare to clean up a lot of the spill from the rest of the kit bleeding into these mics, because I wanted a super clean and punchy sound getting rid of this background noise would make a lot of difference in the final mix, this with the use of samples makes for a great combo.
In this session I had gates on both of the acoustic kick tracks because I wanted to process them both slightly differently such as the release times to get more resonance from the Kick out mic whilst having a shorter release for the Kick in because I only wanted the initial attack from it, see image below. I also put a bypassed gate on the sampled track so all of them would get the same amount of delay compensation and not have any phase or timing issues.
For the snare because I didn't need to process the acoustic tracks differently I had a gate only on the Snare AUX track. I blended together the different tracks for the Kick and Snare until I got a rough sound that I was happy with, I would then only need to process the Kick and Snare AUX tracks making mixing a lot quicker.
Now that everything had been cleaned up it was time to start mixing. I began with balancing the drums where I usually start with the overheads and bring everything else up around them, I do this because the overheads are a good representation of the full kit sound and balancing everything to them has worked well in past mixes. I also set the overheads to around -10dB to give me some headroom and make sure my drum AUX mix bus isn't going to clip and panned them hard left and right to produce a wide stereo field. I used some high pass EQ and dipped out some 500Hz to make them sound less muddy, I want the overheads to be mainly about the Snare and Cymbals, and a small amount of compression to tame some of those big snare hits. I did much the same with the room mics as I did with the overheads just with more compression.
Top EQ and Compression is for the Overheads the bottom ones are for the Rooms.
The kick I removed some of the low frequencies and boosted around 100Hz to give it some more body, I also did a big boost around 8kHz, this with some slow attack and fast release compression really accentuates the clicky attack sound to help cut through the mix. I did roughly the same with the snare but instead of boosting 8kHz I boosted around 4kHz to get more snap sound than a click, compression is pretty much the same slow attack and fast release as to not squash any of the initial transients. I also notched out a couple of resonant frequencies in the snare that were bugging me.
Top EQ and Compression is for the Kick the bottom ones are for the Snare.
On the Drum mix buss I used analogue emulation plugins because they usually help to glue everything together and I get a nice bit of saturation from them. The first thing I used was a virtual tape machine where I increased the input until the drums started to all sit well with each other (I'm not 100% sure what it's actually doing but it sound better when I use it). After that I use a virtual mixbuss, compression, and sonic enhancer, the mixbuss is used to drive the signal like the tape machine providing even more saturation but in a different way (again I'm not sure exactly what its doing but it makes things sound better). The compressor is being slammed relatively hard with a slow attack and fast release but because it has a mix function it acts in parallel and I can blend in how much compression I want. This is handy because I don't have to setup a separate AUX track and send the different drum tracks to it which saves me time and hassle, the compressor itself also sound pretty nice. The sonic enhancer is there to do just that it enhances the low and high frequencies so I just blend in a small amount to enhance the overall sound of the kit. See image below.
After the that I started working on the Guitars. I first began by blending the Fuzz tone in with the main guitar sound, but I felt like the Fuzz tone was making the overall sound a little muddy so I reduced some of the problematic low end frequencies to make them sit a bit better, I also boosted around 1kHz to help bring out the mid range body of the guitar, see image to the right.
Once I got the balance between these 2 guitar tones I blended the guitars in with the drum tracks that I muted beforehand. I then started to EQ the guitars to sit better with the drums and carve out some space for the Kick and Snare which are the elements I want to cut through the most. After that I did the same process as the drum mix buss and used a virtual tape machine, mix buss, compression and sonic enhancer for exactly the same reason. For the mix buss I used a different circuitry setting so the guitars would be processed differently to the drums as to not have the same harmonic saturation, this was to have a greater separation on sound between these 2 elements. I also used a different compressor for the exact same reason, for the guitars I used a fast attack and slow release to squash the transients of the guitars a little but still using the mix function to make it act like parallel compression. Distorted guitars are already extremely compressed to I really don't need much more, just a small amount to help fill out the sound. Then the sonic enhancer but boosting more of the high frequency content than the low because I don't want the guitars to have too much low end saturation.
There really isn't much processing on the guitar tracks this is because I spent a decent amount of time getting the sound right inside of Guitar Rig working out the specific tone I wanted. After the Guitars came the Bass.
I duplicated the Bass track I had which only had the amp sim processing on it, on the duplicated track I added a SansAmp plugin to make a distorted tone that I could blend in with the main Bass track. I didn't make it overly distorted because I already had a lot of distortion in the guitars I really just wanted to add another dimension to the Bass tone. I also used high and low pass filtering because there's no need for the extreme high and low frequencies to be distorted I only really wanted to get some saturation and dirt from the mid frequencies where most of the tone is anyway, See image below.
Like I did with the Guitars I blended these 2 different tones together, mixed the Bass in with the Drums and Guitars, and then processed them with EQ, and the virtual tape machine, mix buss, compression and sonic enhancer. I used the EQ to carve out some space for the Kick drum reducing around the 100Hz, I also reduced around 600Hz because I felt this frequencies was interfering with the guitar tone and masking them a little, I also made a small boost around 1.4kHz to bring out some string slap. Like I did with the Drums and Guitars I used a different mix buss circuit and compressor so it would have a different harmonic saturation and used the compressor as parallel, see image below.
Now, all of the plugin setting I have been showing are from after I completed the mix and have gone through and tweaked them multiple times, I'm merely explaining what the finished session is like and the rough order in which I went about mixing. I didn't just put these plugins on and get them to the right settings on the first go, but after a bunch of adjustments I had a mix that I was happy with to be mastered.
I did the mastering process for this track inside of the same session, because its easier that printing out a mix then mastering it in a separate session and if I need to changed things in the mix I can do it in real time and see how the processing chain reacts to it. I know that most people like to do the mix and mastering separately but this is just one simple song so I really don't think I'll run into any problems doing it this way.
Processing wise I used a linear phase multiband compressor, linear phase EQ, virtual mastering compressor and a limiter, all of which where on my Master AUX track. On the print track I had a loudness meter so I could make sure I'm hitting around -10LUFS when I start to bring up the overall level of the track with the limiter. I chose -10 because its a good loud level for a metal track without being super brick walled, I'm not going to be putting it up on YouTube or any other streaming platform so I don't need to adhere to any other specific standards just what sound good to me.
The multiband compressor was used to squash the low end frequencies a little and make them feel a bit tighter, I also lightly boosted them to get the Kick and Bass pumping more. I also used a small amount on the high-mid frequencies which helped to bring out more of the Guitars and Kick attack. The EQ was used to remove some of the really low sub Bass energy because I don't really need it for the sound replacement and reduced around 470Hz to get rid of some muddiness. I also used a high shelf boost to bring out the Cymbals and a slight 1kHz boost to bring out the Guitars more as well. I then used another compressor to take some of the bigger Snare and Cymbal transients to make the limiter work smoother and not have to deal with so many big audio spikes. This compressor also has a high pass function where you can select a certain amount of low frequencies to not be affect by the it, I used the high pass up to 100hz because I didn't want the Kick and Bass to be compressed anymore that what they are. It also means I can dial in the setting differently without the whole track being affected by the low end energy. Lastly I used the limiter and kept on reducing the threshold until the loudness meter was showing an average of -10LUFS, see images below.
I really am very happy with how the track turned out, its sounding pretty good for such a simple mix or maybe it sounds good because I haven't messed with it too much. Aesthetically I think it fits really well with the dark and intense Doom environment and will act as a good foundation for the sound replacement. Even for such a simple mix there was still a lot to talk about, more than what I had initially expected. You can listen to the final track on my productions page below the videos https://www.ryanvaneerde.com/my-productions.