Ableton Certified Instructor, Greg J.Gordon, breaks down his approach to mixing “Luv Turns 2 Dust” by BishopeMagnetic. In this Ableton Live 9 Tutorial, G2 explains how he goes about setting up this Live project for final mix with EQ-8, The Glue Compressor, Auto-Filtering, Reverb, Utility & groups.
I recently had the privilege of working in the studio at Pyramind with Meikee Magnetic and Sason Bishope Perry on their electro Duo project BishopeMagnetic. They came to me with some pretty well conceived and produced tracks that they produced in Ableton 8. At first we debated the idea of exporting the tracks into Protools HD for final mix, which has traditionally been my usual workflow. This was just at the time when Ableton 9 was still in beta and as a certified Ableton Trainer I was fortunate to have access to the pre-release beta version.
After spending some time in Ableton 9 I was impressed by the improved functionality and sound of EQ 8 and the compressors. As I showed these to Meikee we both agreed that it would give us more flexibility to not have to print all the Ableton processing in order to mix in another DAW and that it would ultimately save time and be more efficient if we could do the final mix in Ableton 9.
So with that as the agenda I went about opening the session in a beta version of Ableton 9 in 32 Bit mode. I started the mix on my laptop, a retina display 2.6 Ghz i7 with 16 GB of RAM running OS 10.8.2. I did this mostly to do the pre-mix clean up I like to do which involves setting up the markers to identify the arrangement and then to color code and group my tracks in an intelligent and easy way that helps me manage the gain staging of the session. I also expose all the automation tracks to be able to see what is “in motion” at any given time in the mix and scrutinize the tracks for any un-wanted clicks or pops or back ground noise.
Once this was done I moved the mix into studio A where I could listen back on the Meyers sound system and begin to scrutinize the EQ and dynamics of each of the tracks. My intention was to give everything in the mix it’s sonic space so that each sound had its’ space in the mix, both from an EQ and dynamic perspective. Particular attention went into blending the various layers of vocals so that they had a dark & edgy presence but could still be easily understood without sitting too far out in front of the music.
This was achieved through lot’s of hi pass filtering and using both Ableton compressors and McDSP channel G as well as the EQ 8 to selectively bump specific frequencies that wouldn’t clash too harshly with the synth or drum mixes. Use of reverb on the vocals was specifically relegated to the backing vocal to give the vocal mix depth but at the same time keeping it very intelligible. The backing vocal is heavily soaked while the lead vocal remains completely dry.
My strategy was to take maximum advantage of the three sub groups that I created. By doing this I could easily focus on the vocal mix alone and then see how it blended with the synths and drums by gradually bringing those in to support the vocals. Meikee had already implemented a bunch of automation in certain places so rather than re-write all the automation moves I used the Ableton utility processor to adjust the overall gain of the individual tracks to maximize my ability to get the right blend within the groups. Once a group sounded right I would test the blend with the other groups and adjust as necessary, including bus processing to get the blend just right.