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Mix Breakdown: The Matthews “Colourblind (Stripped Down Version)”

Transcript
Hi, it’s Warren Huart here. Hope you’re doing marvelously well. Today, we’re going to talk about a song called, “Colourblind” by a band from Ireland called, “The Matthews.” The Matthews are teenage brothers, I believe the singer is 17 and the oldest brother is about 20 or 21. There’s three brothers, they play every instrument, and they’re fantastic, and they flew over here from Ireland, and came here, and we made an EP, which is going to come out any day.

Now, every song we did, we did a full band version, and we also did a stripped down acoustic version, so what we’re going to start with here in this particular video is the stripped down version of a song called, “Colourblind.”

So as ever, let’s check it out. Please subscribe. Go to producelikeapro.com and sign up for the email list. You’ll get a whole bunch of free goodies, and you’re also going to get information on our premium account, which will be launching soon.

So thank you ever so much for watching, let’s check out the song.

Okay, so this song is a very beautiful song. We started out actually with the rock version, so if you go up here, there is a lot of other schnizzle going on. All of which is greyed out and is not being used, but we’ll do that as another version.

So this one here is very straightforward. There’s a piano part that was played by Jeff Babko. Jeff Babko is an incredible piano player. Rock and roll, but he’s also a jazz player. He actually plays with Martin Short and goes out and does all of Martin’s shows, and he’s probably more well known as being Jimmy Kimmel’s piano player. So next time you’re watching Jimmy Kimmel and you see a blonde guy playing piano, that’s Jeff Babko. A wonderful player. So he recorded this at his own studio with a stereo mic.

So the challenge with this song, when you’re taking something really stripped down is two-fold. We didn’t have a budget to have live strings, so we had to take string samples and make them sound as real as possible. The other thing is there’s a lot where you’ve got a full band track where you’ve got a full band track where you’ve got all the guitars coming in and out, and huge drums, and all of this kind of stuff, it’s very easy to build the passion around the vocal, and this is a very impassioned vocal.

So Jeff Babko, the piano player here, really went out of his way to try and help us a lot, and he did some great, great stuff. So this is his piano.

[piano]

Beautiful piano sound. So as far as what we did on the piano here, EQ-wise, we’ve got a gentle roll off at like, 120. It’s not stupidly steep, but it’s there, because that low rumble just gets in the way, and we don’t need it. There’s a 3dB boost at just under 6kHz, but as you can see, it’s just a gentle lift. We’re using our old friend MV2 here. Take it off.

[piano without MV2]

It’s a little too overly dynamic for me. Without it on, you can hear the high line. Some of that low movement on the left hand is gone. So you put it back on.

[piano with MV2]

See, there’s where it really works. So I love the MV2. Then after that, I’m doing a little bit more EQ. Doing some 7kHz boost, just a little air. 550 is a really good sounding plugin, and then believe it or not, another little bit of MV2. Not doing a huge amount.

As you notice, a lot of the times, I like to compress, EQ, or EQ, compress, EQ, compress. You know, it’s like little gentle amounts each time is a lot more effective, for me at least, than doing one huge piece of EQ. I find that with a lot of compression and EQ, if it’s done gradually, it’s a little bit more invisible, and doesn’t screw up the sound so much, but there are instances where I’ll take a really nice sounding EQ, especially on a console, like a 1073 EQ and just boost it really heavily if I’m after something, but in this instance, there’s a little bit of boost, and a bit of compression, a bit of boost, and a bit of compression.

Okay, now the piano verb is just a good old friend, R-Verb.

[piano with reverb]

Take it off. A huge amount. If I put this into pre for a second, I’ll mute the piano auxiliary, and you can hear just the verb on the sound.

[piano reverb]

Together. With it off. Back on. Just the verb. You can see the way the EQ is set here, the top end is gradually taken off there, just to help the actual — the thing is, when you get a lot of top end detail in reverbs, sometimes it’s fantastic, like ambience on snare. Sometimes I’ll actually go in and boost the top end. Other times, it can make it a little messy. Where you’ve got the high end of the instrument, and then you’ve got a lot of high frequency reflections going on, so in this instance, it’s rolled off.

Okay, the next thing that happens off the piano of course is the vocal comes in, and we’re using all the same vocal tricks that we do, so you can check out the vocal tips video.

[mix]

As you can see here, on the first verse, the effects are really low. They’re there, but they’re only barely. It’s a lot more intimate sounding with Jack, who’s the singer, with him and the piano. It gives the illusion.

[mix]

Okay, so what’s creeping in there is some strings. Now, we had Dan Coe do the strings. Dan did a lot of the last Aerosmith album that I did. He’s a great string arranger, and he did this all — I think Dan does everything in Digital Performer. A lot of string arrangers do when they’re…

[strings]

Now there’s a couple of things I did, just simple things. I’m using the Spread, just a — and I’m using it pretty wide, as you can see there, just to make sure that there’s room in the middle for the vocal. I do that quite often. Take it off.

[strings with and without Spread]

Put it back on. I often find with the Spread as well is it really throws the high end wide, and for strings, it’s kind of nice, because what it’s doing is it’s exaggerating this sort of bow sound, because you know, you can get the pure tone of the string, like a violin sample, but sometimes, that violin sample can sound kind of synthetic, and that air needs to be added.

Now, the string buss, where these are all going to has a little dip here at 334, you know, right about 350, and the tiniest amount of boost on the top end, which is actually muted, so it’s just the low roll off here, keeping it out of the way of everything else, and then that little cut at 350.

So there’s not a lot of extra stuff going on on the strings. His samples are really good that he’s using. We didn’t have the budget to use a real orchestra, you know, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. Now Dan, obviously when he was doing a little of the Aerosmith stuff, we had real players playing on it.

[strings]

Those low strings coming in. So this is the pre-chorus. The next thing that’s coming in here is a stereo guitar part.

[guitar]

It’s just a Telecaster. Just a simple Telecaster guitar part with a stereo delay on it.

Cool, so let’s listen to the end of the first verse, going through the pre-chorus.

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[mix]

Guitar creeps in with the low strings. Cool. Now, the other things that’s going on in the strings here are just some multi-effects. Not a great deal of stuff, but I’ve got the Eventide reverb here, which I like on certain things a lot. I’ve had some fun with it. You can hear the strings.

[strings]

So we go to our string buss and do the same thing that we did with the vocals, go into Pre and mute it.

[string reverb]

You’ll see a nice trick I’m doing. So that’s the Eventide reverb on its own. Without it. It’s a pretty natural reverb, it’s only got a second’s worth of decay on it. Try to keep it out of the way of the piano verb, but you’ll see another little trick I’ve done. Just take off this. Let’s keep the pre on for a second, and you know I was talking about the air on the strings, well, I’m using our old friend here the Morphoder. This is the Morphoder on its own.

[strings with Morphoder]

Pretty evil. It’s like the vocal whisper trick that I do. On its own, it’s pretty horrible and evil, but what it does is it gives us the extra bow, the air, because the samples can sound a little synthetic. Highly recommend doing this.

[strings]

Without it. It’s nice. But with it on… With it off. And back on. So it’s a subtle thing, but I really like it. It adds — it just adds some air. You know, like I was talking about earlier, if they’re very pure and they’re just a note, there’s all that randomness of bows and stuff, and multiple players playing, so I think real players miked up with real mics, not an issue at all, but when it comes to samples, anything you can do to help there.

Okay, so let’s check out the chorus where we’ve got the guitar and the strings playing.

[mix]

And you’ll notice, the vocal effects have come up considerably here. They come up in the chorus and the pre-chorus.

So there’s a little high line string idea that comes in here for the re-intro.

[strings, pizzicato]

It’s a harmony to this low string part that plays from the re-intro through.

[strings, staccato]

And it just adds some movement and momentum, because this is a piano/vocal song, and quite often, if you’ve got only legato strings playing, it can get a little melancholy and depressing, which is fine, but it can also slow down considerably. So this is…

[mix]

So that’s playing through the whole second verse, as you can see, the harmony part comes back in against it.

[strings]

Pre-chorus, high strings coming in with the lows.

With the chorus, just following the vocal melody. Keeping the string arrangement quite simple. You know, we had that movement there going on in the second verse and the second pre-chorus, so the chorus part is following, [sings string melody] with the…

[strings]

That’s completely supporting the vocal melody.

[mix]

Same thing, supporting the vocal melody. Bridge.

[strings]

Breakdown. Piano is driving through the instrumental section. Chorus.

Beautiful. I mean, I love what Jeff is doing on the end here, just the way he completely changes up the post-chorus section.

[mix]

Beautiful. Thanks ever so much for watching. Please, as ever, leave some questions and comments below. Subscribe, and of course, go to producelikeapro.com and sign up for the email list for a bunch of free goodies, and information on future things happening. Now, this song, we’re going to do a part two of this song, and we’ll show you all of the drums, and the guitar, and everything, but this was a real challenge, because it was all about taking a very passionate vocal that was sung over massive guitars and drums, and recreating that with minimal amounts of instruments. All you have is a stereo guitar, strings, and a piano. I really feel like the piano part in particular, that Jeff Babko did, and we did work with him quite intensely on it, but he really brought the passion for it.

As ever, please leave any comments and questions below, and how have you done this kind of stuff where you’ve taken a very simple song of just maybe a vocal/acoustic, a vocal/piano, a vocal/electric, with or without strings, just something where it’s minimal amount of instruments, but you still wanted the power and passion in there.

Let’s talk about that, let’s talk about the various different ways that you can record and mix to create that, and the parts that you have come up with. As you can see, this was very driven from Jeff Babko’s incredible piano part. He’s a very talented piano player, obviously, but it wasn’t so much about the technical stuff as the fact that the very simple kind of powerful arrangement stuff. Especially what he did at the end of that song there.

So please, share your experiences, and ask any kind of questions, and 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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