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Using Effects to Create a Vintage Trumpet Vibe in a Mix

Mixing Trumpet: Using Effects to Create a Vintage Vibe in the Mix
Mixing Trumpet: Using Effects to Create a Vintage Vibe in the Mix
Hey guys, Eric Tarr here for I’ve got a trick I want to show you today for mixing on how to use some audio effects to get a vintage sound out of a recording.

I’m going to show you this approach in a very specific mixing situation, but I hope the concepts can translate to other things for you too.

So I’m working on this track here. It’s by a band based in Nashville, Tennessee called “Trapped on Earth.” It has a very fresh and upbeat feel to it, but it also has a classic vibe, and these two things together are going to really determine the choices that I make while I’m mixing.

So there’s an interesting instrumentation on the track. I’ve got some horns, including some trumpet, trombone, saxophone, mixed in with a jazzy electric guitar, a smooth electric piano, kind of a funky drum and bass part. It really makes for a very interesting song, so let me play it back for you and give you a feel for what it’s all about.


So for the most part, what I’m trying to do in mixing is just take the original performances, the signals that were recorded, and just clean them up. Polish them up a little bit using traditional kinds of EQ, compression, and that kind of stuff, but there gets to be a part in the song where there’s a trumpet solo.

What I wanted to do was have this part stick out from all of the other parts in the track, where most things sound clean and polished, what I wanted to do was have the trumpet sound kind of vintage, so that it was distinguished from everything else.

So let me play you a little bit back here. I’ve got all of these audio effects on the trumpet already, but you can hear the final result of what I came up with. Then I’ll walk backwards and show you how I implemented these effects.


So my goal here was to change things up a bit so that the solo was going to be — have a different feel to it. It still fits with the song because of the instrumentation and the different parts, but I’ll show you how it sounds without any of these effects. So take all of these off.

This is the original recording. Really changes up the feel when you just have the dry recorded trumpet.



So let me take you through my effects chain for what I came up with. First up, what I did is I threw on a compressor here. Purpose of this is to even off the levels so that it’s not so up and down throughout the performance, and my approach here is I’m going to use this peak reduction.

This is the CLA-3A style compressor, and because I know the other effects I’m going to be adding on after this are not meant to sound clean and pristine, what I’m going to do is be really aggressive and just really smash it.

It’s alright, because I know that I’m going to be saturating it and doing other stuff afterwards that if I, you know, smash it too much here, it’ll be alright. So here’s what I’ll show you with the peak reduction.


So minus 10dB, minus 7dB, that’s no problem at all. Kind of helps with that sort of squeezed feel.

Next up, I’m going to throw on an emulated tape plugin. Now, you can use just about any of the different ones that are out there for this. They all have similar kinds of controls and features that you can use.

So this is just the J-37 from Waves. I’m going to turn on the slowest tape speed, because I want to roll off those high frequencies, which is what happens when you use a slower tape speed. I’m going to turn up the input so it’s going to saturate more, even use this distortion/saturation knob down here, and you know, use that tape sort of feel of a vintage old recording to add to this trumpet sound.

So here’s that part.



Next up, use some wow and flutter. Now, you have to be careful here. I’m going to start out and be pretty generous with it, and you’re going to notice — just so you can audibly hear what this is doing, and then back it off, how this is really going to make it kind of a warbly sort of sound.


Last thing I’m going to add in using this plugin is a slap delay, so this is another vintage sort of sound, is to have that classic tape delay blended in here, and you can listen to the echo.

Then I’ll use the filters down here. High pass and low pass, so I get kind of a telephone sort of sound to the repeats.


I’m already most of the way there. Last thing I threw on here just as an additional special effect is this plugin. It is a unique one from Waves. This is called the King’s Microphones, where they went in and measured and modeled what these old vintage microphones sounded like. There’s a bunch of different options, they each have their own sound. I’ll kind of flip through them so you can hear them. It’s just going to take it to the next level for having that vintage sort of feel.


So that’s really it. You know, these are special processors for doing this specific thing, but honestly, you could achieve this with just about any kind of compressor, saturation, and spectral processing, rolling off the lows, rolling off the highs, throwing on a little slap delay, right?

Think of it more in terms of the concepts than just the specific plugins that I was using. You know, also just because I was doing this on a trumpet solo, you could apply this kind of thing to get a vintage sound out of anything, from drums, to vocals, to guitars, to bass. It doesn’t really matter.

So hope you guys took something away from that. Again, this music here is brought to you by this amazing band called Trapped on Earth. Killer musicians, amazing vocalist. They’ve really got some good stuff out there worth checking out.

Until next time, take care, guys.


Eric Tarr

Eric Tarr is a musician, audio engineer, and producer based in Nashville, TN. Currently, he is a Professor of Audio Engineering Technology at Belmont University.