[QUOTE]Originally posted by recorderman
there's a question over @ RO on a forum I help moderate...and it's right up your alley. Could you give it a wack?(here's the question & the link) thanks in advance.
-recorderman (PS I worked on BIG HOUSE a few years back...and am getting ready to cut that new group the Jenkins...but other than that, I haven't done much country)
Sure, I'll give it a shot (though You'l have to understand that this is a combination of what I do and what I hear on other cuts - it's not necessarily a step by step of the way Chuck Ainley mixes...
Regarding drums, you say that they're tracked 'fairly well' - exactly what do you mean by that? If the kick drum isn't both distinct (if you can't tell the kick drum pattern throughout the song) and thumping pretty hard, you're going to have problems. For example, I hate the sound of a D112 - it sounds more like a basketball than a kick drum to me. But I digress.. The low end has to come from the kick at least as much as from the bass - if it doesn't, you're pretty screwed. Also, how much isolation do you have between the snare and the hat on the snare mic)? Too much bleed can screw you there, too - and a lot of drummers hit the hat too hard. (See the thread about studio musicians). Third, how do the toms sound? Are they humming while the rest of the kit is played? If so, great - if not, there's another problem. To my ears, a lot of the glue that holds a drum set together is the ringing of the toms - I'll seldom gate them (and 90% of the time when I do, I bypass the gates after I listen to the sound. Sure, it's audible when you solo the dums, but you're not recording solo drums - you're recording a song. That's important to remember. But continuing to talk about tracking instruments...
Moving on to acoustic guitars (for no real reason). A huge percentage of the acoustic tracks are doubled, though there are several versions of this (by the way, I still believe that the best recording acoustic that there is is a Martin D-18 - I work with Gibsons and Taylors all the time, but the 'sound' comes from Martins more often than any other brand). You can simply have the acoustic guy play the same part twice (panned left and right), or each pass can be played with the capo in a different position, or you could use a high strung guitar or a guitar strung with a high third (though both of these are pretty old school these days - if that sound is needed, a Baby Taylor strung up a 4th is more common). It's generally not the low end you're after from the acoustics, but a high sheen, pretty much in the same place as the hat (one reason why controlling the amount of hat in the track is important).
Steel guitar, if used, is pretty much recorded like any other electric guitar, and treated the same way in the mix. Put a 57 or 421 on the amp. If the sound isn't at the amp, it won't be on tape. I usually hear steel and fiddle panned opposite from each other - not hard, but about 3/4. And don't be afraid to use big verbs on fiddle (and steel, if he isn't adding it himself). And quite often a delay like a 2290 helps steel as well. In fact, a lot of the Nashville steel players carry one in their racks.
Electrics are also handled normally (Even to the point that a lot of guitars are making it to records through a Pod, dammit!). And just like any pop or rock record (which is what most contemporary country is). You can use a lot of them. It's fairly common to have 4 or 5 electrics on a song, though not all of them play all the way through. I set tracks up for a main rhythm guitar - if it's a clean sound, I'll generally leave it, and if it's a distorted sound, I'll typically double it (panned left and right). or I may have all of the above, with the clean sound on verses and the dirty guitars coming in on choruses and such - you know the gig - it's like Journey records... And I should mention that when you mix, those huge distorted guitars may be turned down really low in the track...
Bass is kind of odd here - most bass players carry a rack of gear with them, and typically just five the engineer a line level feed. My rack this week is an Evil Twin DI into a mono Manley limiter - more typical would be 1073's or some bass preamp like an Aguilar or Demeter bas pre into either LA-2A's or Tube Tech CL-1B's Sometimes, amps are also used - sometimes, they're not.
But most of the bass sound comes from the bass. Depending on what you are looking for, the bass may be an active 5 or 6 string (Mike Chapman, who played on all the Garth records, has been playing Warwicks when he's not playing his early 70's Jazz), or they might be playing hollow body basses (I've seen a several guys revently with Hofner Beatle basses, and I think that Michael Rhodes has a really cool old Harmony bass the last time I saw3 his session setup). And there are still a lot of Precisions - some with active pickups and roundwound strings, some stock basses with flatwounds.
When mixing, contemporary country mixes are more like Lord Alge mixes (and in fact, he's been doing work for some country acts, for better or (usually) worse), so a quick read of any recent interviews with him woll point you in the right direction.
Personally, I'll start the mix by compressing kick and snare again (I typically use Daking limiters on both when I track, though not heavily). 1176 on kick and a Summit TLA on snare, usually. Then I'll set up 2 drum busses - one, the clean buss, goes through a Mercenary 1969 with the big setting, and the other, which includes everything but the kick drum, goes through a Distressor set to nuke. (I know that Chuck went through a period where he was using a Meek SC2 on the drums, but I don't know if he still is.)I'll use that at 25 or 30% just to add some grit to the drum sound. The last project I did, I used room mics about 10 feet in front of the drums, and Nuked them instead - I like it better than dealing with the whole buss, but either way works for me.
I'll use an 1176 on bass, as well. I didn't mention that I record acoustics with a bit of compression from Manley ELOPS, and mix them through Millennia a TCL2 and an NSEQ. I'll typically compress the electrics a bit (the first two electrics get Crane Song Trakkers, then 1176's for the next two, and whatever catches my eye for any others).
The final mix goes through a Manley Vari-Mu.
Here's part of the trick for me - no single limiter, either tracking or mixing, ever reduces gain by more than about 2 dB. So though there's compression all over the place, it's not really heavy compression. Another trick is that if things are messy in the low end, I'll remove lows from the bass, not the kick. I'll also hi pass the electrics, and even the piano if I need to. The kick is the main low end instrument. And on top, the acoustics are more dominant than the hat.
I don't know if this helped, or if I'm just rambling.
And Recorderman, I think we talked (via e-mail) about Big House at one point. I'l go ahead and paste this into the RO forum, but let me know if he has any more questions...