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Hi guys and gals,
Love this forum, always a gas to read the posts... need a little help today.
I'm mixing an EP for my band and one of the songs is a love song and we want to make it into our worksong but the mix sounds too heavy. It isn't really that mellow a song but I think I can soften it up. The thing is most of my experience is working with heavy screaming guitars rock...I'm writing some lines of midi for a cello part, and considering tracking some real cello, and I'm tracking the vocals again because I screamed my ass off in the take I'm currently using. The cymbals sound a little harsh, the drums sound like a monster, the guitars are drilling a hole in my skull and the bass sound like the leviathan, which would be awesome for a rock mix, but I've never tried to make something more pop before. Without getting too deep in the nitty-gritty, what sort of tips can you give me to soften things up?

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DonnyThompson Fri, 07/15/2016 - 10:35

Sounds like a power ballad to me.

Per your description, much of your edge and power is coming not only from the instrumentation, but the ways in which these instruments are being performed. If your drummer is hitting heavy, then there's not much you can do about that in a mix... same for guitars and vocals -if these are screaming, then you can't take the scream away, unless you had a clean dry guitar track recorded of the same performance that you could re-amp through a sim with a softer vibe; but you'd still probably need to re-track vox, and your drums would still have the same power.

On that note, if you had a drum sample/trigger sim, something like Slate or Superior drums, and your DAW allows for audio to midi trigger conversion, you could replace the drums with samples that were less powerful, and by setting the velocities of your drum tracks to a much lower value than the full-on 128, obtain a bit of a softer sound, but your drum tracks would really need to be isolated - perhaps even gated.

But really, you can only work with what's on the tracks. Your question isn't all that much different than "How can I turn this is into a country-pop mix?"
Adding a pedal steel and a telecaster solo isn't gonna cut it. You need to approach the song in the style of which you want right from the recording stage.

Re-arrange and re-track a softer version. It will take you less time, and the results will be much better.

You'll then have two versions and that will also further benefit you by giving you crossover appeal. ;)

JoaoSpin Fri, 07/15/2016 - 16:37

Yes Donny,
I agree completely. I used a telecaster throughout and the entire song is distorted... that single coil is like a drilling machine sometimes. The drummer is really hitting it hard... but correct me if I'm wrong... if I get a lot of separation between instruments, control the transients of the drums and keep it relatively small in the mix then re-track the vocals without the screaming (mix it with audible delays) and control the harshness of the guitars using reverb, that with the midi samples could soften the song up a lot. IMHO. What do you think?

Sean G Sat, 07/16/2016 - 02:47

Another option, if you have Izotope RX4 you can run the denoise feature across the track...just open the project in RX4, open the denoise feature, hit 'learn' so it profiles the track, then you can preview the result before actually finally processing the denoise feature.

You can even manually dial in parameters to suit how much / less denoise you want to apply as well should the pre-defined algorhythm with the 'learn' feature not give you the desired result you want.

RX4 is a stand-alone audio repair program that has many uses from spectral repair, denoise, dehum, EQ, levelling etc, etc.

This should take the edge off things nicely and also control any undesired harmonics. I recently used it on a track and it knocked everything back to ballad levels quite nicely, giving the track a really clean, non-abrasive, finished sound.

If you don't have it, maybe you could try their fully functioning 10-day demo to get the job done.;)

That may just solve the issue without having to backtrack and re-track the whole thing again.