As the last instalment of this month's focus on Mixing, I wanted to talk about a few ideas I’ve practised on various records, as well as some ideas I’ve played with but admire from other bands I’ve listened to in the past few years.
There’s an infinite amount of ways to enjoy experimenting with music production, and many more ways invented each and every day - most of which I’m likely to still even be aware of or come into contact with, so if you have any ideas please make sure to share them with me!
In any case, let’s dive in!
Dirtying the Clean
One of my favorite bands of all time is a band called Circa Survive. They were actually one of the first bands I had ever seen live, and their ability to use guitar work to dance across the stereo spectrum has never ceased to amaze me.
One technique in particular was the use of having one clean guitar track on the left or right, blended with another on the opposite side, drenched in delay and reverb, but in turn reversed on each chord run out to create this angelic swell rising effect that made the less affected guitar sound like the only one being played - but almost as if in a cave or similar with the opposite guitar so affected it acted like a reflection layer.
I’ve always loved this technique as it rarely gets boring when used across a record. Actually, I’ve used this ‘tone’ as my main go-to across various bands' records including my own bands for a long time simply due to it working so well! A few favorite ways to bring this to life are using bucket brigade delay, or tape delay, mixed with either a shimmer or hall reverb on the reversed guitar swells - the delay I usually keep below 50%, but the reverb I’ll usually have around 80% or sometimes higher to really bring the aspect of distance and depths, along with a small amount of pre-delay on the reverb to add to the ‘cavern’ idea I mentioned earlier.
The more you play with this idea, the more you’ll likely fall down the rabbit hole, so don’t be afraid to experiment!
Memory Brigade from Arturia is my go to for Bucket Brigade delay, but if you don't have this then Sound Toys Echoboy or Valhalla Delay are also great options!
Blending Genristic Elements
Blending instruments isn't a new thing, but the wheel is constantly being reinvented in terms of the way people do it. An early and great example of the first time I had heard people blending elements from varying genres is Attack Attack. They would take trance and dance synths as well as electronic drum elements and splice them into their compositions both in the studio and live via their keyboard player (although later, backing tracks and computers made this a lot easier!).
Enter Shikari are another great example of bands blending the lines between how genres were determined -and this is only going back 10 years or so ago. As I said, the wheel is constantly being reinvented, such is this medium of art; but the best part is that with enough creativity, imagination, and creativity you can possibly play a vital role in the future. Another great example of unyielding imagination is Muse.
Matt Bellamy, in particular for me, has been a major influence across the many years of me playing guitar or producing. I’ll be completely honest, my girlfriend is actually the one who reminded me of this while writing this particular blog - but the point is still the same, he seems to be a beacon for inspiration when discussing this particular topic. From the use of stompboxes on his vocals to Korg Kaos Pads embedded into his Cort guitars, there’s always been something that’s inspired me to try something new in my production, and in turn, try to replicate it live as well with my own bands.
The guitar made for Matt Bellamy literally had a Kaos Pad embedded in it to add more ease of use when experimenting with his sounds.
There are many ways to go about this, but a few to get started are the use of synths like pads, leads or similar instead of lead guitar lines, using electronic drums in a bridge or utilizing percussion such as shakers of tambourines in choruses, and as I wrote last week, using orchestral instruments. If you have any ideas, as always, I’d love to hear them. So, please make sure you reach out either to the email you received this on or to me at Harri@jzmic.com
Until next week, stay creative!