Intern Corner: On Mixing Organ and Electronics
Daniel Taylor has recently completed the BA Commercial Music programme at the Broadstairs campus and is currently working on an internship as part of Dr Lauren Redhead’s Organ and Electronics project. Here, he writes about the mixing work he has been doing:
In the sphere of mixing, treating Organ/Electronics is an entirely unique task to undertake. The genre is relatively new, and despite the history of the Organ spanning back over a millennium, there isn’t a huge idea nor much of a preconceived notion on how an Organ/Electronics record should sound. With this in mind, my first steps are to make sure the recordings are treated to be as clear as possible, whilst also being at a good level.
Firstly, depending on the quality of the recording, some remedial processing might be necessary. For this I am using Izotope’s RX5 Audio Editor. This example is a stereo recording of a live concert, “Melos III”.
To begin with, although being of good quality, there was a lot of background noise, probably caused by the recording device. To fix this I used the “De-noise” function, which learns an “image” of the background noise and removes it. This recording was done in a large hall, so has an ambience that is integral to the sound. The “De-noise” function can begin to remove this ambience if over-used, so it is important to be subtle. Problems from a lack of ambience can be rectified however, as such with my treatment of the second concert piece, “CHILD”, which is composed of sporadic clusters of Organ and Samples interspersed with silence. In this silence the background noise becomes particularly noticeable, but as soon as it is removed, the piece begins to sounds odd. I fixed this with a tiny amount of artificial reverb from the Space Designer plugin in Logic X, using the “Botta Church” preset to vaguely mimic the environment in which it was recorded. Any frequencies lower than 40hz won’t be heard by any human ear, and might cause problems during the mix and master, so before exporting it from RX5 as a wav for mixing I applied a Hi-Pass filter at 40hz using the corrective EQ.
To mix and master such tracks I use Logic X, but any DAW capable of EQ, Compression and Automation can be used. Often the pieces get a bit out of control in terms of what is going on sonically, which, although translates greatly in a live setting, can cause a problem in the mix. For example the piece CHILD, which contains an overwhelming amount of bass frequencies in sections. To combat this I have used a multipressor, which is automated to only activate at this point in the recording, where it will then attenuate any out of control low-end frequencies.
At this point, once any issues are rectified, there is an opportunity to be creative. During my construction of the Ijereja radio edit for example I used overdubs to create more textural depth. Being overdubs, I could use more dramatic effects without affecting the integrity of the main recording, so I used the Logic X Stereo-widener to give it more stereo presence, as well as automated filters and Fades to give the piece extra dynamics.
Finally, when it comes to the mastering, I have found that subtlety works best. I use Izotope’s Mastering suite, and the most work I do is with the EQ. This recording in particular had a large amount of bass and a lack of high-end frequencies, so I made some small adjustments to address that, as well as applying another multiband-compressor just before in the signal chain to address any over-the-top bass frequencies. I used the stereo widener just to increase the track’s stereo presence, but as it is a stereo recording anyway, not a lot of work is needed there. Finally, just to boost the levels a little I applied some soft limiting with the Maximiser.
As my work with Organ+Electronics continues, I hope that the mixing process can become more creatively involved. As new challenges arise, specifically in the case of mixing for a relatively new genre, there is new chances to be creative, which is something to be said for any part of the creative process.