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How to Mix Hit Songs in-the-box with Mark Needham

Transcript
Hello everybody, hope you’re doing marvelously well.

So this is an exciting little excerpt of a course that I’ve got for you. I have a very good friend: Mister Mark Needham. And those of you probably know Mark from mixing The Killers, for developing bands like The Killers and Neon Trees, and of course, most recently, Imagine Dragons.

Mark has been a go-to mixer of mine for many, many years. We’ve known each other for maybe fifteen years, and he has mixed so much of my stuff since I moved to Los Angeles.

What I love about Mark is he spends such a huge amount of time developing artists. He really is somebody I go to for great mentorship, so this is a perfect opportunity to show you what he does.

A few years ago, I was making an album in Indiana, and one of the chief song writers on that album whose name was Mister Jay Clifford. Jay Clifford is the singer and guitar player for Jump, Little Children. Those of you that are from the south, etcetera will know that band really, really well. They’re a massively hard-touring band. Jay is an incredibly talented singer, great song writer, all around musician, and is actually fairly well known as a string arranger as well.

After making this album together, Jay came to me and asked me to produce a solo album for him. So he flew out to Los Angeles, and we produced his solo album. We assembled an amazing cast of characters; we had Travis McNabb. Travis is the drummer for Sugarland, he’s the ex-drummer for Better than Ezra, and he’s played on many, many sessions. He’s a Nashville based musician and he’s phenomenal.

The bass player was Dan Rothchild. Dan played bass on Fiona Apple’s first album, he played for Sheryl Crow, David Beck, Shakira, and is currently the bass player for Heart. A wonderful musician. Exceptionally talented.

David Levita on guitar. David is the current guitar player for Tim McGraw. David actually came up in the late 80’s and 90’s playing with Alanis Morissette in the 90’s, and before that, a band called Annetenna, and those of you may remember that band, because the two principle song writers in that band are massive, massive song writers, having written Torn, for instance, which of course, most famously was covered by Natalie Imbruglia.

David is a phenomenal guitar player. You’re going to love this song because the guitar parts are twisted and weird. They’re not just strums, they’re really interesting guitar parts. He’s a real king of pedals. David brings a lot of creativity to the music.

Also Greg Suran played guitar, who was also Jewel’s musical director for many years, and was the touring guitar player for the Goo Goo Dolls and many other great bands. It’s an insanely talented bunch of guys, and the album was basically recorded in an old school method, meaning we basically recorded it live in a room, and then overdubbed and fixed things, so the interplay that you hear between the bass and the drums is live off the floor.

These are phenomenal musicians in a really good — really good room.

So we took this finished album to Mark, and Mark just did a phenomenal job of mixing it. This is going to be a really fun one for me to show you. The course is really, really exciting, because you’re going to get every multitrack — every single multitrack, not just stems, and combined, and not just pieces of the song, but the whole song to mix.

Also, it’s completely and utterly mixed in the box, so you can open up actually Mark’s session, and have — if you have the same plugins that he uses, for instance, the whole session will come up exactly as it is. If not, all the wav files are there to be imported into any DAW, and you can mix it any way you like.

This is a really, really, really wonderful session. I think Mark is a truly talented guy who has worked with some of the biggest artists — not just some of those modern artists we’ve talked about, but — I mean, he’s made Fleetwood Mac albums, he’s made Lindsey Buckingham solo records, Stevie Nicks albums. I mean, Chris Isaac. He did some of the biggest Chris Isaac stuff.

His resume is massive, and it is no mistake that he is so successful.

So without further ado, we’re going to play a little bit of the song so you can hear it. You’ll be able to click on the link as well and go to the page and see and look at more about it, but a little bit of the song, and then we’re going to go into some excerpts with Mark, showing how he mixed kick, how he mixed some toms, some guitars, vocals, you name it. A little bit of each of the course. So here we go!

[music]

Hi, it’s Mark Needham here with my studio in LA, and we’re going to mix a song by Jay Clifford, called Know When to Walk Away.

[kick]

What I’m going to do is boost some 8kHz, just to get a little more attack, and then I’m also going to boost at 50 cycles here just to get a little more oomph out of it.

And I’m probably going to add a couple more EQs. I’m kind of a fan of — I like the sound of different EQs for different purposes, so I’m using that SSL to really get that kind of 8kHz attack, and using it for that 50 cycle oomph. I’ll probably use this Abbey Road just to push it a little more in like, the upper mid-range. More like the 2.5 or 3kHz range.

[kick]

That’s out. Something like that. There’s out. Yeah, on this SSL I’m also compressing.

You see I have a fast release, and I’m compressing down at a ratio of about four-to-one, and then maybe 6dB down. Just to tighten up the low end, and I’m trying to keep it fat, but also keep the low end tight.

There’s some spots it gets a little uneven on that attack, so I’m going to use this Fatso compressor that I can set — I’m not compressing anything below 480, and I’m using a medium attack, and a super fast release. I’m going to use that to try to just change some of the really hard attacks, like in the chorus on this.

[kick]

So I’m going down about 2dB when he really hits hard on the attack there.

On this track, there’s quite a bit of bleed within the tom mics. Every tom hit, I’m just gating it down about 6.5dB.

[toms]

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I’m going to use this Oxford Envolution, and they have a preset that lets the cymbals breathe, which I like a lot. It’s not quite as tight as a gate. Let me see how that comes out into a cymbal or crash here without it.

That’s cutting down just a little of that, “shh” the cymbal trash just kind of bleeding into the tom mics.

The bottom still feels light to me on this. I’m going to use — just to make it a little warmer, I’m going to use this Maag EQ. It’s like boosting 1.5dB just in the whole sub range.

[toms]

Here’s out.

I might even go up two dB from that. That’s starting to feel a little better to me. I have a preset on, but I’m kind of boosting it — kind of started with boosting around 450, a little at maybe 4.5, just kind of some upper mids. A little bit of top end, the 5 range or so, but I’ll usually start and see what that sounds like, just see where I’m at.

[acoustic guitar]

I’m not going to use the compressor on the SSL though. We’re going to use — let me get this back up too, we’re going to use an 1176 on this.

[acoustic guitar]

A medium attack, pretty fast release, maybe just coming down a dB, dB and a half. You can do different combinations of EQs that I’ve used over the years, and that I’ve — you know, I really like the top end of one, maybe on the 1.8, and the 1.8, the 10kHz on the 1081, since I have the ability to just stack a bunch of them together, and I’ve got ridiculous amounts of DSP, I combine a bunch of stuff that are my favorite EQs together.

But we have that Neve. We’re going to use this MEQ. Let me put that back over here so you can see it.

[electric guitar]

I’m going to push — again, just trying to make this guitar a little warmer, because it’s really crunchy and bright.

I’m going to push just a little more like, 300 something. That range. Make this a little fatter. While I’m using a 560, I might just get a little more of this upper 1,000, something like that.

Now, I could do all of this with one EQ, I mean, you could certainly do this at home with just one SSL EQ, or maybe a couple, but I like certain ranges on certain EQs that I use, so I’m just using a combination of stuff to achieve the result, but you can certainly do it — you can certainly do the same thing these four EQs are doing with one, but I just — I have a particular attachment to some of the ranges on these EQs.

I’ll split the verse and the choruses and the bridge up. If it’s all one track, I’ll split it to different tracks, just because I want maybe different compression, different effects from verse to chorus to bridge. Effect levels.

So I’ve kind of chopped this up a little bit. This is kind of a pretty common vocal chain that I use, and it’s kind of a — it’s kind of a long vocal chain, so let’s start with this. So I’m using…

[vocals]

Um, the first thing I put on here, just an Oxide plugin, a tape simulator, and set it at 7.5 speed, and it’s just kind of warming it up.

[vocals]

Here’s without it.

[vocals, no tape]

Just trying to warm up a little of the top of this thing. That’s why I set it to the 7.5 setting. The next plugin I’m using is the FabFilter de-esser. I use this just on a wide-band setting, and just barely hitting some of the top.

[vocals, de-essed]

So I’m going to use a combination of that, a couple of compressors, and it should be two different compressors, two de-essers. They’re doing slightly different things.

Mid attack, fast release. And you know, maybe compressing down four or five dB, and then there’s a second de-esser, which is set pretty narrow, just to really catch the big esses.

Now, compressing this vocal pretty hard on this, but also trying to keep the esses within reason, and — the best way I’ve found to do that is I’m using a wide-band, I can be subtle, but just using this second UA one on a really narrow band, and just really go for those — just kind of search out that 6 to 7kHz ess that’s really taking your head off.

So I really hope you enjoyed that. Thank you ever so much, Mark, for giving us your time. I was in the room with him for quite a few hours while he was making that, and I got to learn loads and loads of tips. It was really, really exciting.

So have a marvelous time recording and mixing, please leave and comments and questions below. Please check out the course. You’ll really love it. So thank you so much Mark, and thank you everybody. We’ll speak to you soon.

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