Week 6 – Aidan

This week was a relaxed week as far as actual composing went. I spent a lot of my time teaching myself how to mix vocals.

I spent most of my time this week and weekend mixing vocals for my good friend Elijah. When you hear a song on the radio, and you think, “Wow, that person’s voice is so clear and sounds so good!”, you really mean to say “Wow, that mixing engineer really made this person’s voice sound so clear and good!” For that very reason, mixing engineers can (and have) win grammys for their efforts in making artists vocals sound as good as they can be.

There’s a lot that goes into the mixing of a vocal. Shockingly enough, the more normal you want the vocal to sound, the harder it is to mix it (assuming you want to do the job professionally). A lot of what goes into mixing vocals is something called ‘compression’, which is a part of mixing all things in music, but especially in vocals. There are many ways of explaining compression, but the one I like to choose is this example: stuffing a plush toy into a box that is too small for it, so that it seems like it is bigger than it is (based on your perspective). I know that’s kind of hard to grasp, but what that does is increase the perceived size of the object, in this case vocals. Compression however, is a very easy tool to completely botch. If you over-compress a vocal, you’ll find it sounding strangely fluctuating in volume at random times. The point of compression is to make a vocal sound bigger, but if you try and push the vocal too hard, the compression can start cutting into different frequencies in the song. This is where the delicacy of compression comes in.

Another part of vocal mixing that I’ll go into is equalizing. Equalizing is a pretty common setting in any modern car. You can boost bass, mids, and treble. Those words are just bins that stereo manufacturers have put in place to not confuse consumers however. Those three categories are just generalizations for frequency ranges, low, mid, and high respectively. When mixing vocals, you don’t want you vocal to have too much high end or low end, and you might want to boost some of your mids to add punch to the annunciation of words of your artist. Often mixing engineers will cut the top-most high frequencies of a vocal for the effect of making the vocalists ess’s not sound to sharp. This is a technique called “de-essing” and is the reason why you don’t hear much of the sharp ess noise in modern vocals.

The track that I mixed vocals (and produced the track ,actually!) should be out by next week’s blog, maybe I’ll share it with everyone…

Favourite tracks this week:

This week I decided to choose a cool low-temperature mood to fit the season!

  1. Dreamtrak – Odyssey, Pt. 2 (A. G. Cook Remix) – This song reminds me of ice skating for the first time when you can’t quite stand up straight but it’s still a very fun time.
  2. Jinsang & Loka – Blue – I really like this song because of the nice cozy mood it give off. The smooth guitar reminds me of being inside watching the leaves fall.
  3. Froyo Ma – Home Phone (w. Nick Hakim) – I might have written about this song in one of my previous blog posts, but it just keeps coming back to me. The falsetto singing is so lovely, and it goes perfectly with the gentle production & percussion behind it.
  4. Brothel – If Only You Knew – This one really just reminds me of pushing through a blizzard in the car, watching all the snow hit the windshield in clumps. I love the huge atmosphere created by Brothel.
  5. Olli – Elokuu (ft. DFK5) – This is another song by my friend Olli, this time with Finnish vocals to boot! The lovely ukulele and soft Finnish lyrics make this the perfect lullaby for a cold night.

5 thoughts on “Week 6 – Aidan

  1. riadas99

    While I know music is a form of art I never considered working with different beats and sounds to be an art as much as I do. The same way painters may struggle to combine different colors and patterns in their work while also taking risks, musicians like yourself may have trouble taking risks while also finding different beats and sounds that mesh well together.

    Reply
  2. dexcoengilbert

    I like to think that I am a musician because I play some instruments. And generally, I used to think I understood what it meant to be a producer because of my love for George Martin and what he did with The Beatles. But Aidan, your posts make it seem like a far more complicated and difficult job than I could ever have imagined. It makes me appreciate everything that goes in behind the scenes and be grateful for all the people that make music happen and get very little credit.

    Reply
  3. amaanstewart

    I didn’t realize so much went into being a music producer. There are so many things to think about. I appreciate the in-depth look you give on the specifics. I feel very informed now.

    Reply
  4. margaretjhaviland

    Aidan, you are rushing the season! Your music selections from last week, when we were experience a heat wave of October 80s, all suggested winter and ice skating and cozying up to a fire. Having said that, I agree with you for the most part I found the percussion in both “Blue” and “If only You knew” a bit jarring and pulled me out of the mood of the rest of the track However, “Elokuu” worked for me in that it felt like all the pieces were in concert.

    Reply

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