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Mix Breakdown: Gabriel Hugoboom “You & Me Tonight”

Transcript
Hi, it’s Warren Huart here. Hope you’re doing marvelously well. Today in our how to arrange series, we’re going to do a track by an artist called Gabriel Hugoboom. This song is called, “You and Me Tonight.” It’s a wonderful song. It features my lovely upright piano. We recorded it with a pair of Lewitt LCT550s, a separated pair. It’s a great sounding piano. It’s pretty trashy. There’s a couple of notes that barely play. It probably needs some tuning, but to be honest, it gave it a lot of feel and a lot of emotion, and not everything has to be perfect.

I think as we talked about very early on, maybe a few months ago when I first started these YouTube videos, I talked about using a harmony 12-string acoustic that I have over there. Used it on Back to You, for instance with Trevor Hall. These are cheap instruments, but they have a lot of — I hate this word, but I’m going to use it — a lot of vibe, a lot of feel, a lot of emotion. So sometimes, it’s great to use cheaper equipment.

Anyway, let’s get stuck into the song. Please, subscribe, go to producelikeapro.com and sign up for the email list, and you’ll get lots of free goodies, and we’re going to have a premium channel soon, so you’ll get to see even more fun stuff, but anyway.

Let us move over here. Here we have it. Now, this is a relatively simple song in some respects. He wrote it on piano, it’s him playing piano, there’s a little bit of editing as you can see there. Not as crazy as you would think. Most of it is just played, performance, and then I’ve just moved some stuff around against the groove that we’ve built.

It grows exponentially, I’ve done some very simple stuff. It’s really vocal centric. So look, let’s just listen from the top.

[piano]

Okay, so that piano there is the upright in the other room. What I’ve got is I’ve got a good old fashioned REQ. Just a low rolloff at 84. Nice gentle slope. There’s not a huge amount of low stuff going on, but if there was, we’re getting rid of it. We don’t have any issues here with air conditioning unless it’s going crazy, but that might be another reason to put some low — depending on your studio space, a little bit of low rumble might come in sometimes depending on how sensitive the mics are.

But that’s not why I did it, I just did it to make sure it’s clean down there. We don’t need the low lows, so let’s pull them out, or at least gently roll them off.

Now, again, this is a favorite of mine. It’s a parallel compressor in a box, it does a great job.

[piano]

So it’s pulling up — just reducing the dynamic range sweetly. This is without.

[piano without parallel compressor]

Very dynamic. A little too dynamic for me. Now listen.

[piano]

You’ve still got that, [mimics piano], but it’s not as, [mimics piano]. It doesn’t come down quite so much.

And last but no means least is an API EQ with some 10kHz boost, a little 3kHz, so just a gentle high mid and super highs, and that’s it. So really, just some low roll offs of super lows, like 80 and below, and some high boost. It’s very gentle what we’re doing on it, but it sounds great.

[piano]

Last but no means least is an R-Verb. It’s a good go-to reverb for me. I’ve got a second on it. Wound off the top end here so it’s a little darker, so it just sounds like it’s in a dark room. It doesn’t really rear its head out until you start boosting the super top end. If we boosted the highs though, you might hear a little bit more of it.

All it really does is create the feeling of this piano just being in a reasonable sized room, so it keeps it intimate sounding.

Okay, so that’s our piano. The first thing that obviously comes in is the vocal.

[piano and vocals]

Great. So the vocal, it’s using all the same tricks that I do in different balances, like, you know, I have a lot of different things, and then sometimes I push other elements up or down, so please go to the vocal tricks video and you’ll see all of that stuff, but what’s interesting here is some real subtle kind of things. This is what this song is all about. It’s a piano/vocal with just some subtleties.

So here is our first thing that comes in.

[synth]

And that — that came from Logic. We’ve got a trim on it just to get more level out of it. There’s a parallel compressor on it just to kind of even it out. Then of course, our old friend Decapitator, so we’re really driving it home. If we take that off, it’s still good.

[synth with and without Decapitator]

But with it back on, it just trashes it out a little bit. Then our old friend EchoBoy. Then just an edge of a little bit more, tiniest amount of Lo-Fi, which is a free plugin that comes in Pro Tools.

Don’t underestimate Lo-Fi. Lo-Fi is — I use it a lot very subtly, just to kind of subtly edge up things. You’ll notice with stuff that I do, I don’t do huge amounts of EQ and stuff like that. I’m doing very small movements. I might use multiple EQs, like an EQ, then compress, then EQ then compress. Like, little tiny movements. I won’t do huge boosts and cuts.

I always hear that in music. It always sounds overly EQ’d, so that’s — I’m not a big fan of that.

So that’s all that’s coming in there. The next thing that starts to come in is this really low level string part. Let’s have a listen.

[mix]

Just follows the vocal line. Creeps in.

[strings]

Now, what you can see there is I’ve done quite a lot of fun stuff to it. First off, I’ve got a spread on it, because it was a mono source, so I’ve created a stereo.

[strings]

That’s right at the end of everything. I’ve got a trim on it just to give it a little bit more level. MV2, same thing, just to kind of compress and reduce the dynamic range a little bit, just to give it a little bit more guts. Then, for distortion, this time I’m using SansAmp. With no SansAmp. With SansAmp.

[strings, with and without SansAmp]

Good, just edges it out a little bit. Back to our old friend EchoBoy. See where we’ve got the mix? We’ve got full blown quarter notes, so quite a long delay. Then an R-Verb again.

[strings]

And about 50/50 dry effect. So there’s quite a lot of fun stuff going on in that, but it’s trashing it out.

[mix]

Creeping in.

Okay, so what’s happening here is we’ve got a double that comes in against our lead vocal. Here’s our lead.

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[vocals]

Just lightly. The double is not affected.

[vocal double]

Super, super low. Just to thicken it out ever so slightly. This is all about subtlety, this song. Now, the bass line, again, this is interesting, it’s just…

[bass]

And I actually went to town a little bit on this by taking off all the top, because it was…

[bass with no EQ]

That was just too much nose. Too much point for me. Then an MV2 again just to even it out.

So very subtle. A little swell, reverse effect.

There’s no EQ on this. This is as it comes, this is a Logic creation. You can manually control the speed. That’s going into the second verse, which has the addition of an organ.

[mix, then organ]

Gabriel is really big on organs. He loves playing a Hammond. This was Daniel Powter’s organ that was here — Nord that was here and we used it.

On its own, it’s very Ecclesiastical, very church like, but in the track, it adds a sort of ominous mood to the track. Very subtle.

[mix]

Here come the bells. Strings creeping back in. Cool. Now before we get to that second chorus, and in the outro, I just want to point out that the Nord, we printed the MIDI as well. Now, we just print the MIDI just in case. Now, as it is, it’s just playing downbeat chords, it’s not a fancy part, but it’s worth printing the MIDI as well as the audio, because if you do want to edit it, which we didn’t need to, but if it was a very complicated part, we could then obviously trigger the part and reprint the audio.

As you can tell, it’s just three takes put together, three punch ins. Really simple. So it wasn’t a complicated part, but it’s always good to print the MIDI if you have access to that, because this is the audio from a Nord keyboard, and we’re getting the MIDI information. Also, later, we might change our mind on the sound, and we’ve got the MIDI there, and we can use some virtual instruments inside of Pro Tools, for instance.

So, where you can, I like to print a DI of a guitar as well as an amp, because that can give me reamping situations, or I can use virtual simulators and guitar simulators, and the same thing when printing audio from keyboards, I like to print the MIDI as well.

Okay, now coming out on our chorus — second chorus, we get a little bit more…

[mix]

One big thing is a synth bass. It’s just playing — framing the chords. So that allows our other bass sound to get creative.

[bass and synth bass]

That’s our other bass sound, but you see what I did there is I got kind of nutty with it. I took away the low lows and took away the high highs and just gave it a mid-range sound. So that same bass sound we’ve been using before, where we EQ’d the top out, now we’re taking out the lows and letting the mid-range come through, but now the Decapitator is on it.

[bass]

Because that’s just too 80’s, DX70 for me. Put this on it, now it’s a bit more dangerous. Now it’s more Depeche Mode. A little tiny bit of D-Verb. It’s only up 30% mix. Then a widener, because we’re going to use it in stereo on this. Because we have the sub bass above, which is giving us a mono bass line, down the middle, what we’re doing is we’re spreading this one just a little around the outside of it.

So they become one bass sound, but there’s a little less phase or polarity issues.

So that’s our bass stuff, now the other stuff that changes very subtly is some drum elements come in. Now there’s not a lot, but there’s this.

[drums]

So simple. Just an Addictive kick and a snare. Just one cymbal. All it is. So this whole chorus, those are the only two elements that change. Just the bass sound, and there’s the simple kit.

[mix]

Now this is a djembe. Again, from Logic. Got a PanMan on it going crazy. Decapitator just destroying it a bit, then Lo-Fi just for an extra bit of distortion. Just a tiny amount. Subtle.

[mix]

So there’s some fun vocal effects going on. There’s some reverse delays, which were printed after we made them. Have a listen.

So it’s detuned delay is a second one here.

It’s on the whole track, piano and vocal, and then on the very end. Very fun.

So look, as you can see, it’s a very simple song, it’s very vocal centric, it’s really about the vocal and the piano. It’s a beautiful song, it’s written about him and his girl, and you know, it was a case of like, we did a lot of stuff, and then pulled back.

This is what we ended up with. Very simple production, but very vocal centric. Vocal and piano.

Thanks ever so much for watching. That’s a very simple piece of production. Sometimes, some of the stuff we do is very involved. The Alexx Calise one had a lot of gang vocals, there was like, 24 vocals going on, etcetera, and multiple guitar parts.

On this, this is all about the piano and the vocal. It’s my trashy old Baldwin piano and Gabriel’s vocal, and those are the two most important things. I didn’t want to get in and clutter it up. The song is not yet released, but the people who have heard it love the vocal performance on this, and I believe that sometimes, you can have an amazing vocal performance, but you can overproduce a track. I’ve done it many times. I’ve overproduced a track, and then nobody knows there’s an incredible vocal performance in there.

So it’s always just finding that balance. We ended up doing lots more overdubs in this, and then pulling them back, and again, we did pre-production for about three or four days before we started this, and we built on the original piano track and kind of added very subtle to it, so definitely a less is more approach.

Please leave me any comments you have about the sound, but of course, any experience you have recording this kind of thing or anything. Let’s talk about production. This is — I’ve explained the mix and the basic arrangement, because it never goes back to the chorus at the end, it just goes back to the, “You and me tonight,” because that’s really the power in the song, that’s the lyric that carries it.

So it’s not a traditional verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus, out, but I think it suits the intimacy of the song, so again, let’s talk about arrangements, let’s talk about production, mixing, you name it, I love hearing your suggestions, and I love hearing your experiences.

So thank you ever so much for watching, and have a marvelous time recording!

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Warren Huart

Warren Huart

Warren Huart is an English record producer/musician/composer and recording engineer based in Los Angeles, California. Learn more at producelikeapro.com.

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