An apology - I while back I promised to post about recording and mixing our latest album 'Unity' and I let it slide... but here it is! (Surely the phrase 'better late than never' still carries some weight, right?!).
Many of you were there and saw the recording! We did two nights of live recording that were open to the public, and one that was not, just to ensure we had 3 takes of everything. Nothing was re-recorded or added in the studio after those live recordings - what you saw (and heard!) is what you got!
Next came mixing. Mixing involves taking all of the recorded sounds and balancing them. With bands like ours, it means balancing the drums and bass against the guitars and keyboards, and then balancing the overall band sound against the vocals. It wouldn't be much use, for instance, if the snare drum was way louder than the lead vocal!
In my view, the mixing process can either make or break a project. It doesn't matter how good the recorded instruments sound on their own - if it's not carefully mixed, the listener will not enjoy the end product. It's the studio equivalent of mixing the front of house sound at a gig.
We had the privilege of once again having multiple ARIA-award winner David Nicholas mix this album (he also mixed our last album). He has worked with artists including Sting, Elton John, Midnight Oil and Delta Goodrem, so we knew we were in good hands! But every band has a distinct sound, and every song has a distinct sound too. So it's important that the band works closely with the mix engineer to achieve the desired result.
David, Trent and I headed down to Sing Sing Studios in Melbourne where David mixed the album over a 5 day period. (It was an awesome studio to work at - tonnes of great Aussie albums have been made there).
As David mixed, Trent and I would provide feedback. It's a gruelling process, with back to back 12-13 hours days. Overnight we'd review the mixes (with helpful feedback from the band members in Sydney too), then head back to the studio the following morning to do a revised mix of each song. We'd then review the revised mixes that night, and so on.
It's quite a surreal experience, sitting in a studio all day listening to very particular aspects of each song (it's not uncommon to listen to only drums for an hour at a time!). But it's great fun immersing yourself in something you've worked hard to bring this far - I remember sitting in a café one morning listening to a version of the mixes on headphones and taking notes, entirely oblivious to what was going on in reality around me...the music was all that mattered.
I always find it helpful to listen back to the mixes closely on headphones, but also on a few different stereo systems (car stereo, lounge room stereo etc) just to work out which elements of the mix are being affected by the different system you play it back on, and which elements are consistent across the systems. It's then important to let the mix sit for a while, returning to it later with fresh ears, so you can have some perspective on it.
Getting a mix to sound 'right' is a hugely subjective thing. But for this album, there were some things to bear in mind:
- Our music is seeking to help people reflect on God's Word as we seek to let the Word dwell richly within us (Colossians 3:16). So the lyrics must be clearly audible above the band sound, and the band sound must support those lyrics.
- There were musical points of interest and certain elements in a song that were unique to that song. It was important to identify these things early on and ensure they came through well in the mix (in 'Fairest Lord' for example, the offbeat acoustic guitar part carries the rhythm of the song, but is also a unique flavour in that song.)
- We wanted the voices of the congregation and the choir who sang at the live recordings to feature on each track. This not only offered a guide as to how the song could be sung congregationally, it also added a beautiful ambience to the overall sound.
Recently I was in the studio working on a mix for another project and was reminded of one of the most important ingredients in the mixing process: patience - both for you as the artist, and also the mix engineer. You've written the songs, you've recorded them, and you just want people to be able to hear them! But you can't expect to get the mix right instantly - lots of revisions will be required. But when you get the sound you've been imagining in your head all along, it's thoroughly rewarding. We hope you like the sound of 'Unity' as much as we do!
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