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How To Write A Song! 13

by Jayme Gutierrez

Now, before I start I just want to say that I don’t consider myself to be that good at it.
All I’m going to say on this post is what I have picked up over the years. So there’s probably lots that I don’t do, am doing wrong or should be doing at all! So please excuse me for that.
Now that I have the harmonies and everything done, it’s time to start mixing.
I usually find myself mixing the song as I’m putting it together. This results in a lot of cpu usage, from all the fx used on each track. So I usually end up having to work with high latencies (to gain more processing power). When the overloading cpu starts getting ridiculous, I start bouncing down the tracks that I am pleased with, or freezing them (a handy function in Cubase) to then be able to get rid of the xf, thus freeing up more processing power!
So anyway, by the time the song is ready for mixing I already have a small amount of it done!

The first step I take, I like to call ‘clean up’, is basically going through each track, rolling off (cutting out, by equalizing, EQ for short) the bottom end of any track that doesn’t require any bass. The more tracks you have of something, the louder it becomes. So by doing this, the bottom end of the spectrum remains clean, leaving more clean space for anything that does require bass.
Then I go listening to each track “soloed”, checking for clicks and pops that could have been created from badly chopped audio. Then I check the sync to make sure that there aren’t any notes or beats out of place that could cause a problem later on.
After that, I’ll listen to the whole track and decide what sounds are the most important and when they need to stand out.
The kick-drum and snare-drum are quite important, seeing as they are what define the beat. But sometimes the bass-line can make it hard to hear the attack of the kick-drum, when there are notes that coincide.
A way around this is to move the bass line slightly so that it plays a bit later than the kick, just a tiny bit after, I’m talking milliseconds here! That way the kick gets heard before the bass, as if it were the sound that you hear when plucking a bass note.

I’ve usually already spent ages tweaking the guitars throughout the recording of everything, so it’s just a case of getting the right volume, and the smallest of adjustments make all the difference!

The main vocal is the most important, obviously. But it can sometimes stand out too much; if a song gets quite busy, the vocal needs to be turned up, but turning it up so that it’s clear enough to hear can sometimes make it sound almost too up close. A handy way to be able to get more volume without the vocal sounding out of place is to give the illusion of it being further away by putting on some reverb or delay on it (room sound or echo), making it sound like it’s in a far away room. Getting the right delay or room sound can take a while because it may sound good on it’s own, but then when played with the whole track it could sound rubbish! That’s why it’s a good idea to mix with everything playing, that way it’s easier to hear what the changes, that are made to each part, actually do to the whole flavour of the track.

I am being very vague about all of this, and have left out lots because otherwise this post would be too long and boring, so I’ll cut it short and leave it there for now…

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