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Mixing Piano Layers with Brad Wood [Excerpt]

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Okay, let’s move on.

The next track is the main piano part, and I’ll just solo that up real quick.

[piano]

I’m not sure if that’s Warren’s piano in his house or if that’s a sample. It sounds great, regardless.

So really, the only thing I needed to do on that was this.

I put the Tape Head sort of tape saturation emulation from Massey on here. And I’m not a Massey endorsed anything, I just like Massey stuff.

Fair amount of drive. It’s a pretty subtle difference. Maybe it’s taking off some of the high overtones.

[bypassed Tape Head]

Yeah, it is actually. So it’s maybe a little less high frequency information, it might be a little less shrill sounding.

[enabled Tape Head]

You could probably accomplish this with an EQ as well. That’s all this is is altering the tones until it sounds good to you.

So that’s the main piano. We also have this additional piano, and this I know is a real piano. It’s probably a Spinnet. Like an upright piano. Let’s have a quick listen to this.

[Spinnet piano]

Again, a really busy part. Lots of playing. It came with printed reverb or delay on it. You can have a quick listen here.

So that’s a real piano.

[Spinnet piano]

That’s a pretty severely affected track. Lots of EQ, it’s really cool sounding, and it stands up in the track really, really well, and he didn’t need a whole lot of help. In fact, let’s have a look at how many plug-ins I have on it. I have no plug-ins on it. It just sounded great. It’s not going to a reverb, it’s not being compressed, there’s nothing going on.

You can see I’ve done some editing here. Let’s explode this a little bit.

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If anything, since it’s not a MIDI track, it’s actually performed, if I had to do anything to it, it was just a little bit of editing for time. Trying to get it to lock into the kit a little bit. Mostly at the intro. You can see where I’m kind of showing you the subdivisions here.

I locked that down pretty tight to the drum track, and then I let go of it here. This is the original. Just playing by itself.

[piano]

Um… And that’s a lot of what I do when I’m mixing a track. A song for somebody is I listen to see if there’s things that are jumping, rushing, falling behind, out of time, even the best producers, the best engineers, best artists, can have some things slip. I — stuff slips with me too when I’m recording a band. You start paying attention to other stuff, and frankly, some stuff doesn’t need to be paid attention to.

One of the things that makes some of these vintage recordings — pre-digital recordings — sound so great is that people weren’t correcting every single little thing. So I always walk into a mix situation of somebody else’s music that I am just hired to mix with the assumption that they intended to do — to have their whatever timing issues that are left alone.

I don’t go in thinking, “I’m going to crank down on this and make everything perfect.”

Having said that, if there’s something that’s making me scratch my head and go, “I don’t really like the way this is feeling. What’s going on here?” I will start to pull things apart.

I’ll start with the drums. Are the drums all feeling right? Is that tambourine track loose to the kick drum? To the drum beat? Is the bass in time? If something presents a problem to me where I’m feeling like things aren’t quite right, that’s when I start to pull things apart and have a little look.

To that end, this piano part was a little jumpy up top. Maybe it might have been the first pass, or it just escaped somebody’s attention, but the beginning was a little bit loose.

[mix]

So that’s been tightened up. It’s not exactly perfect, but it’s swinging, and that’s what I’m looking for.

You know, that’s a matter of taste as well. So. Some of you out there might be saying, “Dude, fix that piano.” I think it sounds great.

[mix]

Same thing later on. This piano is adding a lot of accents. You know. Nice little bits, right? We get to the chorus again, straight eighths. Throughout.

I didn’t really change anything here. Because it all sounded great. So that’s it for that piano track. Let’s move on here.

Next up is a backwards piano. Again, I just didn’t do anything to it. I’m not going to lie.

[reverse piano]

That sounds really great. Great big chord, does its job. Just place it in the mix, get out of its way. Didn’t really have to do anything to that.

We have a track here…

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