How to Add Excitement to the Hook with Stereo Imaging
I route things — in Pro Tools HD we call them VCA’s, I’m using AUX’s and I call them VCA’s, but I’ve got an All Vocals, All Drums, Percussion, Low End, All Music, High End, and All Effects. Now if I’ve got stylistically a rock song I may have an All Guitars or whatever, but they’re gonna be further up if we look here, so like background vocals, I send all the background vocals to a bus. Or the strings — I send all the strings to the bus. Well, then they’re getting bussed to the appropriate — call it a VCA. So strings is going to All Music, you would come down here and the BGV’s are going to All Vocals. The Lead would go to All Vocals. But any effects like the vocal slap would go to All Effects.
Acoustic guitars all music. Electric Guitars are going to the All Guitars but then that’s going to All Music. You get the point. Kick, snare, toms — they go to All Drums. Cymbals typically will go to a high end although I may send them to All Drums, just depends on the song, style, how I’m feeling. I’ve got a series coming up on how I use Pro Tools mix templates.
This allows me to treat the drums with independent compression to just the drums. Or in some cases the shells of the drums. The low end I may do a little something different to the low end at the hook. And so this allows me the opportunity to treat things one last time, All Music is typically gonna get the Slate SSL emulation, FG-Grey, some widening, etc etc.
Sometimes high end will get high and low pass filters and I’ll automate or do something cool with that. Then it gives the option to automate drums up as a whole.
For All Music, I’ve got an instance of Ozone’s Imager bypassed until things get to the hook. When we hit the hook you can see here this is gonna come alive. It’s gonna push up a little bit of width in the low-mids, the upper-mids are gonna get a pretty decent boost, and the highs — in this I’ve got some synths — where those highs get pushed up and out wide.
I’ve got only the music, only the music in right now. You won’t hear vocals or drums or anything because i want you to hear the difference in this by itself and then I’ll unmute and you can feel how the hook comes alive. This is before the hook and then it’s gonna come in you’ll see it turn on.
[music with iZotope Ozone 5 unbypassed via automation for the hook]
And now bypassed.
Let’s bring everything back just to try to get you to think outside of the box a little bit when you get to hooks. What’s the saying: don’t bore us get to the chorus. I’ll actually most of the time mix backwards. I’ll start at my big section. My hook, the vamp. And mix that big and sweet so I get this high point established early in mixing and then go to the verses and kind of let them build up to the explosion. One more time with everything in.
[music without automated Ozone Imager]
Now back in.
[music with Ozone Imager automation]
Bypassed. So be thinking outside the box. When you get to the hook try to get things to explode if that’s the style of music you’re working in, if it fits that. Man I’m even doing this on acoustic tracks. For singer-songwriter acoustic folk type stuff maybe dull things out in the verse and then let them get a little bit brighter at the hook. I forget which episode of Pensado’s Place it was — he was from Texas and mentioned how he’ll have big drum reverbs in the verses but close those down and make them tighter so the drums come forward and they’re more in your face at the hook. Almost the opposite of what we sometimes think is at the hooks is gotta have this big drum room. Make everything sound big and explode. But what that does is pushes it back in the mix. So different perspectives, I can see where both apply and sound great. But think about what you can do at the hook to differentiate it from verses. What you can do at the bridge to differentiate it from the chorus and how to keep things interesting and changing with subtle moves to bring excitement to the song. Hopefully you guys are taking something from that. Feel free to hit me up at david[at]davidglennrecording.com.