How To Mix A Platinum Selling Record
Skill Level: Intermediate to Advanced
Genre: Alternative Rock / Pop
Mark Needham is a Grammy nominated and multi-platinum mix engineer who has a track record for not only mixing hit records but also working early in the careers of artist such as Fleetwood Mac, The Killers, and Imagine Dragons. See how he uses his custom presets and a creative workflow to quickly set up an effortless mix of a massive session with layer upon layer of production.
Absorb how Mark works on each element of the mix with full transparency. Like a game of chess, every move he makes has a purpose and sets himself up for success later in the mixing process. Learn from Mark's intuition that comes from over 35 years of experience working with superstar artists such as Chris Isaak, Shakira, Moby, Pink, and more.
"It's Time" by Imagine Dragons is certified 3x RIAA platinum and was the band's first Billboard Top 40 single. The song blurs the lines between genres and epitomizes the band's mix of alternative rock and pop that focuses on deep bass, strong drums, and powerful vocals.
In this tutorial, you'll learn how to create epic sounding mixes that:
- Identify and maximize the emotional impact and "hook" of a well written, recorded and produced song
- Take an already powerful vocal performance to the next level with lead vocals that jump out of the speakers
- Make a mix that's not just loud, but also punchy, clear and HUGE sounding
- Use a blend of recorded and emulated ambiences to define the space for the entire mix
- Quickly blend multiple kick drums and snare drums, combining several microphones and samples
- Handle dozens of drum layers with clever parallel processing and channel strip plugins
- Manage the low end information on not just bass drums and bass guitar tracks but also stomps, synths and room tracks
- Combine keyboards, synths, electric and acoustic guitars that interweave and fit together like a sonic glove
- Add the finishing touches to a mix with master bus automation and mix bus processing using multi-band compression and more
This is an unique chance to absorb Mark's unique mixing techniques and methods. Learn all the tricks he used to mix a hit song and then apply them to your own mixes!
PLUS you get access to the raw stems from the original session to practice and perfect all of the tips and techniques you'll pick up from Mark Needham and Imagine Dragons. Explore the tracks on your own! Please note: stem files are truncated and contain the un-mixed and consolidated wav files for every track in the original session from the intro to the 2nd verse.
Parts of this site and some files are only accessible to pureMix Pro Members or available to purchase. Please see below our membership plans or add this video to your shopping cart.
Once logged in, you will be able to click on those chapter titles and jump around in the video.
- 00:00 - Start
- 00:0 - Introduction
- 01:46 - Session Setup
- 01:56 - Rough Balance of Drums
- 02:26 - Kick Drum
- 03:00 - Snare Drum
- 10:30 - Parallel Compression on Drums
- 15:40 - Overheads
- 18:24 - Hi-Hats
- 20:05 - Toms
- 23:25 - Room Mics
- 31:37 - Drum Machine
- 33:11 - Re-Balance The Drums
- 35:26 - Drums 2
- 41:21 - Stomps and Claps
- 49:47 - Putting All The Drums Together
- 51:42 - Bass
- 56:44 - Acoustic Guitars
- 1:04:37 - Electric Guitars
- 1:08:09 - Pianos
- 1:14:12 - Synths
- 1:21:04 - Reverb Across The Full Mix
- 1:24:03 - Lead Vocal
- 1:29:06 - Vocal Verb
- 1:31:23 - Background Vocals
- 1:36:41 - Gang Vocals
- 1:39:04 - Stereo Bus Processing
- 1:43:32 - Re-Balance The Mix
- 1:51:54 - Master Automation
- 1:53:24 - Multiband Compression
- 1:54:13 - Closing
I'm Mark Needham. We're gonna mix a song by Imagine Dragons called "It's Time." I'm gonna run through the process that I did in 2009 or 10 when I did the song.
One of the first things that I would do is probably just take a listen to the rough, to see where the band left this song in the studio.
This is just an instrumental with no vocals, but at least it'll give me an idea of the vibe that they were listening to in the studio.
One of the things I really love about these guys is just their live show. I'm probably gonna try to make this...
Right off the bat I'm gonna try to make this sound like a big live feeling track.
I always like to have my tracks lined up exactly the same way every time.
It just makes it so much easier to find.
Anything you're looking for, I know right where to go to find it.
So the first thing I'll do is...
I'm bussing 3 kicks and 4 snares to their respective channel.
I'm just gonna go through and get a balance on those mics.
The Kick Out mic has a D112 just outside of the head.
That's this mic right here.
All that sub information is a little too much for me, so I'm gonna compress that and cut a little of the low end so it's a little more consistent.
I also hear–I'm kind of wondering– sometimes I'm getting a big ring, sometimes I'm not.
So I'm just compressing that like... 4dB. A fast Release.
And I'm just filtering out a little of the low end, like 38 or 40 cycles.
So that would be the kind of balance I'd start with, with those drums, and I'd just do the same thing for the snare.
Doing the snare top and the snare bottom mic, whenever I go into this, I'm always listening for phase on mics.
A lot of people don't.
They put a mic on the bottom of the snare but they don't flip the phase when they're recording on that.
If you put those two together, all your bottom end is gonna go out of the snare.
All those are things to listen for as you go into the drum mics.
I have two replacement tracks here.
I'm probably just gonna go with this one on 7.
The other one is adding a little more ring than I want.
At this point, I would start probably just to put in some rough plug-ins.
I'd probably take those tracks and hide them since they're bussing.
The kick drum. I'm gonna use a few different plug-ins that I'm gonna put on this, which is gonna be an SSL...
As I work on plug-ins, I know... this MN Kick Drum 1 is gonna be good for this kind of a sound. Here also I have a lot of those presets that I've kind of saved. They're good starting points for me.
You'll find I do this a lot when I use an SSL, I use a Neve, I use a Maag EQ.
I could do this all with one EQ and probably come up with a result that wasn't way different, but I really kind of like certain bands on certain EQs, and that's what I'm gonna be doing.
I'm gonna put a Fatso compressor on here.
I'm gonna put a Pultec.
And also this VEQ.
Let me turn these off for a sec.
I really like the 8K range on this SSL Waves plug-in.
I use this 8K boost a lot on a lot of different instruments.
Then I'm using the compressor, with a fast Release.
I'm using the filter, just to filter this...
just a slope down from like 75 cycles down so I don't get a big rumble-y kick.
And also I like this 50 cycle boost.
So I use a combination of the cut and a bell-curved boost to get kind of a fat bottom, but not an overwhelming down in the 30 cycle range.
If I'm getting a little too much click on some of the attacks of the kick, if the guy is really whacking every 4th beat hard, I use this Fatso compressor.
On that I'm gonna set that filter like at 400...
I'm gonna set, maybe a 30ms Attack, and a super-fast Release.
Coming in like the first hit of these quarters, it gets a little too sharp for me, so let's kind of pull down some of the top end on those.
I've always liked the sound of the Pultec, pushing that at 60 or 100 cycles where you're boosting 3, and also attenuating 3, and that's a nice big kind of fat warmth so I'm gonna do that.
The last thing I'm gonna do...
is I use this VEQ a lot to...
I like this 27 cycle filter.
I just have to be careful, I know I'm gonna get a lot of information that has a lot of big low end when I get to this.
There's a lot of stomp tracks. And I'm gonna be trying to get a lot of low end out of those, and just don't want to...
I want to be careful right off the bat to not get a lot of rumble-y low end and a lot of crap all the way across the track.
Sometimes I'll boost a little more at 100 cycles, or even at 330, depending on the kick drum.
I'm just gonna use this 27 cycle filter on it.
So I'll go from that. I'll go to our snare...
Which is gonna be...
I will start with that one.
I use this 8K boost a lot on this particular EQ.
I'm also boosting like a bell at 200 cycles just to get a little more bottom.
Again, that's just kind of a starting point that I know...
Especially in this particular rock world, I'll use this, my Mark Needham Snare 1.
That just worked on a lot of stuff, and it's a good starting point for me.
So I'm boosting a little bit at 3K, and quite a bit at 8, and boosting at 200.
I have a fast Release compressor like at 3:1, and I might be compressing down a dB or so.
That's a really soft compression.
And I pulled that 200 cycles back, like a dB...
Sometimes I'll start at 8 or 9, I'm back to about 7 or something now.
I'll probably try a couple other things on this.
I want to hear this Maag EQ, and I want to hear... Let's do this.
This Maag EQ...
2.5... I'll use that several places, probably up a half a dB.
I don't hear like a big boost in the EQ with this, but it adds like kind of a nice punch to me.
And I'll probably distort this snare just a little.
I'm trying to add a little crunch, and a little more sustain to the snare.
I'm always using like 3 parallel compression busses on the drums, which are doing different things.
What I'm gonna do is I'm just gonna run through these compressors.
I'm using 3 different ones that kind of do 3 different things and add in some different amounts of a little aggressive distortion.
This is an alternative rock track, and I'm looking for pretty aggressive, slightly distorted drums.
This is a Fabfilter Pro-C.
I'm using that with a super-fast Release, really like 10:1 compression.
I'll use that especially on the snare, and the hi-hat, and things like that, to really... have a really tight smack on the snare and the hi-hat.
I'm using another bus here, which I'm just using on the kick and snare which is a combination of 3 things, which is the API 2500, which I'm just using to compress down, just on the kick and the snare, about 2 dB...
along with a Variable Mu set up in Limit mode, that I'm using a super-fast Release on.
And then I'm using a Decapitator that I'm probably pushing about the Drive at 5 or so.
And that's just to get a little more aggression on the kick and snare.
So that would be like...
I'm just setting those compressors so the Variable Mu is maybe coming down a dB, the API 2500 about 2dB, and then just pushing the Decapitator.
The kick and snare are both running through those 2 chains.
The snare is also gonna be running to a couple of different reverbs.
I'm gonna use this Ocean Way plug-in, which is set up on Studio 2, which is probably one of my favorite rock rooms in the world.
I usually put the drums on that wall and do re-mics back over here when I'm over at EastWest.
I'll use a little of that maybe on the kick–probably not the kick on this, because I have a lot of other roomier stuff, but I'll use it a little bit on the snare and on the toms just to add a little extra life.
I'm just getting enough of that room in to fill out just a slight stereo spread.
I'm not looking for a huge room off of that.
Let me try this as well...
This ReVibe bright Ambience on the snare here, I sometimes like as well.
So I'll probably use a combination of that shorter and a longer one.
So, I'm not super happy with the low end on this kick.
I might start for just a minute with some of this, a little of this R-Bass in there. It's adding a little more sub information that I might lose out as I get more kicks in, we'll see.
What I'm doing is just trying to do a little less compression on that kick.
He's really... There's a lot of dynamics on this kick, and when he's hitting it hard, I really hear the bottom end compressing down.
Usually, I always have my kick drum –because of these parallel compression busses, my kick and snare are gonna be pretty low on the faders.
I always end up almost in the... pretty close to the same spot.
I always start my kick at around -28 along with these parallel busses.
I usually end up at almost that exact same position by the end.
I try to really not have creeping faders.
Usually at the end of my mix, everything will be generally about the same as the starting point.
A lot of times I'm just stopping and bringing some stuff down.
So the next thing I'll get onto is the overheads.
And again I'm gonna just kind of move through these pretty fast and then we'll go back and look at the whole drum chain.
I have kind of an overhead –a couple overhead starting places and we'll probably go with this one which has a little bit of a boost at 400, and again this 8K boost up here.
We'll throw in a different compressor instead of this one.
Let's go... an LA2A. Let me just hear it on one cymbal.
On this I'm just boosting–you know, I'm doing an 8K boost again, I'm boosting also at around 400, just to get a little bit warmer cymbals, and not much compression off the SSL, but picking up a little more with this LA2A, compressing down 2 or 3dB.
I'm just gonna drag that exact same set of plug-ins over to my other overhead.
And then I have a ride cymbal too.
On this ride, I have... I have a little bit different setting that I like.
For the cymbals, I'm gonna use these sends...
Just to... 2 of these parallel compression busses.
Then I'm gonna send that just...
to this one, which is what I'm looking for, and where I have the hi-hat, cymbals and snare.
That's a super kind of crunchy mid-range compression.
And I will also be sending it to...
this one, which is a super hard, saturated compression.
On this one I have–I'll go back to these, but I have 4 things in a row that are kind of getting a fairly kind of crunchy, compressed distortion on the drums.
So, let's see my level of those against the kick drum.
For hi-hat, I'm using a few different things.
I'm gonna put a tape simulator on it.
I'm gonna use an Omnipressor.
And I'm gonna use this SSL.
So it's gonna be a combination of those 3, I don't know how much of the hi-hat is going to be playing here, not a lot.
Having recording on analog for many years, I kind of like what an analog–just the feel of what an analog tape recorder does to a hi-hat with the tape compression.
So I'm emulating that a little bit with the combination between this and this Omnipressor.
So I'll set a super-fast Release.
I'm gonna send that to the same two busses as the overheads are in.
I always put drums drummer's perspective since I was a part-time guitar player and drummer.
I'm just so used to hearing drums that way that I have always been doing my drums drummer's perspective since probably the 70's I guess, I've always done it that way.
Toms. Let's find some toms.
We'll keep going through these, get the rooms, and we'll go back to the whole set.
I was just listening for the amount of cymbals to see if I need to do any gating on those, but they're not bad.
Mostly on this floor tom, what I want to do is get a little clarity on the top end and the attack, but I don't want it to get ticky, so I'm pulling the top end back a little bit.
So I'm gonna boost around maybe 5 or 6 a little bit for attack, and probably about 1.8, and picking up a little bit of bottom around 90 or 100 cycles here.
Compressing very lightly these two floor tom mics.
So that was 2 floor tom mics. I just wanted to listen what they were together and make sure that–you know, that they're not out of phase, or otherwise sound rumble-y.
That looks like there is an overdub set of toms as well...
Let's hear what these are.
That's just an overdub like maybe another take of that same tom.
It's the exact same tom. Let's pull that over.
I'm gonna use the same overhead compression bus on these toms as well.
I'm also gonna put a little of that room that's on 5-6, that we have the snare going into. The Ocean Way 2 Room.
Let's drag that same amount across the other ones here.
I'm gonna go on to these room mics really quick.
I'm probably going to start with...
just a Multi-Band compressor, just to pull down a little of the overheads, the big crashes in there, so I get more of the actual room sound of the drums.
So that would be the first thing I do, I'm just pulling down those crashes 4 or 5dB.
Let's go this room here.
On this one, I'm boosting a little bit at...
Around 1.8, about 6...
6K, and around 100 cycles.
Pulling back some 500 cycles.
Trying to warm up and keep that kind of lower mids really kind of booming through this track.
There's a left and right room. Let's just put that same thing on both those and hear both together.
It's always good to listen both sides of your pair of left-right room mics, because sometimes one will be a completely different microphone, or EQ'ed weird, or a bad patch on the compressor when they were recording.
Sometimes those can be wildly different, but these sound like they're actually the same, which is good.
So I have another stereo pair of room mics, I'm gonna listen to those real quick.
These are really compressed.
I'm just trying to compress that cymbal down enough so I can have the room mics loud without just an overbearing cymbal.
These are already compressed a little bit, I'm putting just a little more to even it out.
I want to be able to get a kind of nice, continuous rumble on those toms going.
Let me solo them together.
As you're going through your overhead pairs, room pairs, or if you have some mono rooms, always listen as you're putting those all together or some of them together that they're not out of phase with each other or out of phase with the kick drum or the rest of the set.
A lot of times you'll hear your bottom drop away and you know something's out of phase, or if you hear this kind of weird stereo spread.
The middle sucks away, you know something's wrong.
So I'll get those 2 rooms together.
Let me look at these mono rooms.
Same thing. I'm gonna put this Multi-Band across all of those, just again trying to keep my cymbals manageable.
Good. And then this last one.
E-Series for these as well.
I'm gonna look for some more kind of–instead of the 8K, I'm gonna look for some more of the mid-range in the 3 or 5 range, and probably drop the low end more, closer to 50 cycles and really get some kind of a little more aggressive super bottom end, high end, upper mids, down the middle on the mono mics.
Something like that, boosting kind of around 4 or so, and on the top at 4K. I'm gonna filter a little of the bottom out at 50 and then also boost at 50 on the Bell to get kind of a nice little curved bell with a steeper roll-off on the bottom end side.
Let me hear that across all 3 of these.
I'm gonna stay away from the fast Release on this.
It's kind of getting that nice continuous rumble with the Release back on the compressor.
This room mic I hear is out of phase with the other one.
If I put that out of phase, I can hear the bottom again.
So the phase is rather on that one.
I want to hear this first mono mic against the kick drum, because it's out of phase with two in a row, so that makes me suspect that maybe it's out.
No, it's right, the other two are out of phase.
You know, it's a good idea to really keep an eye on the phase is when, I mean, I see this with kick drums, with room mics out of phase, where people have 15 kick drums in the session, and the kick is still barely audible, and they have all these phase issues and they just keep adding in more and more subs so they might get some real subs on the kick and maybe some top, but most of the kick is missing because it's just out of phase.
It was the case with those 2 mono mics. We were really just losing a lot of bottom on the toms, on the room mics and on the kick drum.
I've got one last thing in this first set of drums which is–there's an actual whole nother stereo drum track that's just playing along with this as well, along with these drums.
It's a stereo drum track pre-recorded.
I'm gonna do a couple of things on that.
I'm gonna do kind of the same thing that I'm doing on that mono room.
I'm gonna make this super aggressive.
So I'm compressing that a bunch. Let's see...
Let me try something else here. That's not really killing me.
So I might do something like this. I'm gonna put this Decapitator and put the Thump function on, which adds a little more of low end.
I'm just gonna roll the whole top end back.
I just do a high cut on the Decapitator.
Let me just go back to this whole drum set really quick.
Just get a better balance and see how that other kit is gonna fit in here, so I'm just gonna mute the whole drum set again.
When we originally started here, I just started with my 3 kicks and my 5 snares.
I got a balance on those that I liked.
That balance is not really gonna change, so I'm just hiding those.
All the kicks are bussed to the Kick return, all the snares are bussed to the Snare return.
So they're not part of the actual drum group.
I just muted all my drums, and I'm gonna start with the kick again.
The first thing I'm going to do, I see my kick is getting a little loud for me, I can see already I brought it up.
So I'm just gonna bring that whole drum group down a little bit and just get started here, just getting a balance between everything.
I want a little more crack out of the snare.
I'm gonna use a API 560.
And I'm just pushing a little at 4K with that.
I'm gonna call that whole...
That whole group will be 'Drum 1' I guess here.
On to Drums 2! Like likely we don't have like 80 tracks of drums on here, but we've got a few more to go, so I'm gonna mute those for a minute.
Let me see just what I have here. It looks like I've got a few snares.
So I've got just one machine kick, and two machine snares.
I'm gonna move this original live kick down...
I'm gonna pull these across, because I want to use something pretty similar.
And I'll probably use the same parallel compression busses that we see here.
I'm gonna pull that back.
We're gonna go to this kick drum for a minute.
I'm gonna tone down that dead high-end click on this one for starters.
Let me take the rest of these off for a minute.
Here I'm going down like a couple of dB with that Fatso.
Pick up a little more 50 cycles with this, and the 27 cycle filter, with this VEQ.
And I'm pulling down a little of this, just around 300.
Let me hear that with my other kick drum real quick, and make sure everything is phase-aligned.
Let me hear the snare, just making sure that those...
what the phase was like between those 2 kicks.
So on this I'm just picking up a little of that 800 range, just trying to get a little more mid-range out of the snare, but compressing it so it's not getting too jagged.
I'm getting back to these... These two kicks.
These are time-aligned together so they're not flaming.
As I'm trying to keep kind of a live feel on this, the machine drums are actually quantized in with the live drums.
I'm gonna usually go one to the other.
Sometimes I'll let the flams go, sometimes the flam is a cool thing, it's kind of a judgment you've got to make song by song.
In this case, I know there's a lot of tracks of stomp and claps that are gonna go with this, and so we're gonna get a lot of flaming I don't think we needed to have any more of that, especially with the bottom end.
Now we have our first live drum set and our machine drums here.
There's a lot of tracks of kind of stomps and claps here.
What I'm trying to do is just pick up a little more warmth and bottom out of these things, and we're gonna make a pretty big deal out of these stomps and claps.
There's a bunch of them here.
I'm gonna drag this across as a starting point here, and then just go through all of these.
As I remember, they're all pretty similar, at least these sets of stereo, or these first ones, I think they're all pretty much the same.
And... This is next one. Ah, snaps alright.
For the snaps, I'm just really kind of pushing around 1500 cycles.
With the bell here.
Let me just take a listen to what the rest of these stereo ones are.
I think we have 4 more sets of claps, let me double-check.
We've got two claps.
It's another stomp there.
I'm gonna move these back, sometimes they're not quite in order.
So that should be the same as this.
So I've got those... We've got two snaps.
And I think we have 3 claps.
So I'm gonna look at these claps here really quick.
So these claps I'm gonna compress just a little bit.
I want to keep them kind of uneven, I don't want them too even.
I'll do a boost again at 1.5, but probably not a bell this time.
Just on both these claps to get a little more clarity on them.
We have one last track, which is kind of a combo track, I think.
Let's get a quick level on all of these.
Now we're gonna go on to our next set of stomp and claps.
These are all stomps.
I definitely want a little more low impact out of this batch.
Let's go to this R-Bass again here.
I want that, more of that kind of energy on these.
Alright. And then, let's go...
I'm gonna try to push a little more the bottom end and make sure I get enough mid-range on these so they really cut through the track when I get all this together.
This is kind of a really crushed version of that.
I'm gonna put a little less R-Bass on that one, because it's getting pretty rumble-y.
Then let me see what these last ones are.
I'm gonna drag this R-Bass across those as well.
Then this whole group is gonna have a lot more low end in it.
That will be our Stomp/Clap group 2.
And then we'll put all this together, and hopefully we'll have something close to a drum set here.
So again, just going to my Drum 1...
I was bringing my level down overall on that so I'm not, again, giving too much creep.
Then we've got our Drum set 2 with that on the chorus here.
That will give us a general starting point for our drum group here.
Let's go to our bass.
I just have a bass DI track.
We just have that one bass DI, so what I normally do in these situations, I mult that bass DI track and I'm gonna make 2 separate amplifier chains out of it.
So I'm gonna use this B-15, and I'm gonna make a couple different amp chains here using that.
Also I'm gonna back to this SSL E again.
So I'm gonna push like around... 2.2, around 8 or 900.
I'm pushing a little bit at 3, and a little bit at 50 cycles.
I'm gonna go back to this amp for a minute.
I'm just gonna have the HI off, and I'm using the Ultra-Low mode.
I'm using this for like the low-end side of the amp, so I'm not gonna go for the super punchy top on this channel.
That's going to happen more on the duplicate that I've done of it.
I'll end up with two bass amps that I can alter, and if I need a little more top on choruses, I can just kick that up.
So I'm pushing a little bit the top, some mid-range on this, but not a lot.
I'm gonna use this Fatso again to compress some of the top end on this, so I'll go to... like 280 on the high-pass filter.
I'll go again to 30ms for the Attack.
A fast Release.
I'm trying to tone down some of those parts where he really attacks hard again.
We're gonna do this VEQ.
I'm gonna punch a little bit more at 100.
And probably do this 27 cycle roll-off.
So I'm just pushing a shelf at 100, and a little more at 680.
These are both a bit lower frequencies that I'm doing on the E Channel.
I'm pushing a little more at 2.2, just trying to get a little more pick out of this low side.
I'm gonna pull this chain over to what is gonna be my higher end side of the bass.
The main thing I'm gonna do different, I'm gonna take this Low off.
I'm pushing a lot more the mid-range and treble.
I don't have a super low end on this.
I'm pushing the amp a little harder so I get a little distortion.
My E will stay about the same.
I'm using a little more compression on it.
Maybe I hear it more on the Fatso.
I'm just trying to keep this smooth.
On this V–on the high side– I'm gonna do a shelf at like 330, and then roll it off at 47.
I can go back and really adjust the balance between those 2, depending...
you know, if I get a lot of stuff with high-frequency information and it's gonna start phasing out the top end of that bass, I can just add a little more of the high side to punch through.
Drums and bass! On to guitars! There's some acoustic guitars, a mandolin part, a sitar part...
There's several acoustic things which are actually gonna be a pretty big part of this song.
Let's start with Acoustic 1 here.
That's a little boxy and super-compressed sounding.
Again, I have a lot of presets set up, so I have like probably 5 or 6 different acoustic ones, that I kind of know where I want to go with them.
So I'm just modifying that preset. Not quite a bit on this one, but...
We're gonna do a couple other things here.
I use this silverface a lot on acoustic guitars and aggressive stuff in rock music.
I had a lot of these when I first started, I had 2 or 3 rack units and I kind of got used to the sound of them.
So we're gonna do that... I'm gonna go back...
to this VEQ as well on this.
I'd like to get a little more sparkle out of this guitar.
So I'll probably boost at like 15, and maybe at 3.
I'm rolling off some at 45.
I don't need a lot of low information on this type of thing.
I pull that Acoustic over to Mandolin.
I can use these same plug-ins. I'll just modify them a bit.
I'm pushing some at 450 on this.
Pulling back that top a little bit, but definitely pushing a little more the warmth than I was on the acoustic.
And again a slight compression with the 1176.
Not quite as much of that spanky top as we had on the acoustic.
Let me get this mandolin and the AC together, we'll make a group out of those.
Our next group of acoustic stuff I think is a little more of a melody.
There's that melody that everybody recognize when the song comes on.
I'm gonna drag these same plug-ins, and I'm gonna use some variation of these plug-ins on all 3 of these.
I'm gonna start with this mando. I'm gonna take these off for a minute.
So again I'm just adding a little at 450.
A little bit upper high-mids.
Now the 1176.
We don't need that VEQ on this one.
I'm gonna find my mandolin in the bridge. Hopefully, it's pretty close.
Now that's back into the strumming mando, which I've actually had set up over here.
It's just another version of that track. Let's take a listen to that.
I'm gonna move that one over, 'cause this is a strumming track like the other mando.
I'm gonna change this first group that I made, since that's actually kind of part of that...
first AC 1 group there.
There's a sitar and a mandolin that are playing the melody and those will be our second kind of acoustic group here.
So here's just the sitar on its own.
I'm gonna keep that same start on the E.
I like that low end and that kind of 450 thing on all these, and a little of this top.
Let me see this compressor.
I'm compressing that a little bit harder than the other ones.
I just want to keep that rolling melodic thing, which I think will kind of smooth this whole thing out.
And I'm gonna use this for just a little of this 3.3.
I'm gonna get a balance between those and the mando.
It's a catchy melody.
We left off at electric guitars. Here we go! We've got a few different E-bows here.
I'm gonna pull out one of my normal starting points for electric guitar.
I have a combination of 3 EQs that I use.
I might not use all of them, but a lot of times I'll just start.
Usually, I find that any guitar situation with these I can kind of mold what I want.
Sometimes I'll swap one of these out for an API 560.
So with this E-bow, I'm probably gonna go...
I'm gonna use that 8K...
On this SSL again, which I like a lot.
And a little bit of compression on it.
And then, I use a Neve 1081 to push like... I'll push a little at 1.8.
I'll probably push a little the lower mids, like 400 with it.
And then this Maag EQ, that I talked about earlier.
I really love this 2.5, I use it a lot.
Depending on the microphone used on the guitars, I use this Sub on the Maag EQ a lot.
If I don't have 2 mics, a ribbon and a 57 or something, I'll use that to get that bigger sound.
I'm not necessarily a big fan of multiple mics on guitar cabs, but if there isn't phase, it can be great and this can emulate that...
that same feel of having 2 mics.
And then, I also use this SPL harmonic generator a lot, just to add a little extra upper-end harmonics.
So, I only have 3 guitars on this.
So I'm just gonna drag those same plug-ins across all 3 of those and then go back and modify them. So I have 2 E-bows.
The second E-bow is a little bit brighter so I'm gonna pull some top off of it.
Let me go back to this other E-bow.
The first one is in the verse, the yellow ones are in the chorus, and these get a little brighter, but...
And then we've got... like 5 pianos. Some are doing some low notes.
I should go through the pianos one at a time.
I'll probably start with this E again.
I'm pushing like 7, 1.8, maybe 800 or so, and I'm pushing a little bottom at like 2.
And I changed the Release to a pretty fast Release on this.
Let me find the other piano that plays with that.
So we have a big low-end one here.
I think I have another octave here. Let me check that out real quick.
I might drive that one a little bit.
Let me hear all 3 of these together.
Sorry, I forgot one guitar. Let me go to the end here.
This is a super crunchy guitar.
I'm gonna pull this compression back.
I'm gonna pull that Sub back on the Maag too, 'cause it's just getting really muddy.
So, let's keep going. Let me look at these other 2 piano tracks, and then we'll kind of judge all these pianos together.
There's two more.
I'm gonna solo all these and kind of get a blend of them here.
I'm just gonna reverse the pan on these 2, 'cause they're both kind of left-heavy, with the left hand of the piano, so I'm gonna reverse those to kind of double that.
We'll get a more of the feeling of the low note being doubled.
And then, let me go back to these last 2 tracks here again.
Overall, these pianos are pretty dry.
Here again, I'm gonna try and keep with our big room.
I'm gonna just pull a little bottom out of that reverb.
Soon we'll be at the point we guys to go back to all this stuff and make it sound like a song.
So I've got... Looks like...
Maybe 4 or 5 synths here. Let me see what everybody is doing.
Ok, so that's a nice big heavy line.
Next thing I'm gonna do is I'm gonna double that, just to make it a little wider.
I need to push a little more the top and control the bottom a little more.
I'm just gonna push a little the top.
Let me try like a little 800 here, just to get that bottom.
We're compressing that a little bit. Not a super-fast Release.
Trying to push some 800, and 2.5.
I think that helps to clear up the bottom end when you have a lot of low end. It's something that'll help make it really cut through the track.
And I think spreading the stereo is gonna allow us to cut through the track a little more and be able to keep it down on level but still hear it come in. Let me see what these are doing.
Let's put a SSL on these.
So I'm gonna actually pull some of that 8K off on both of these.
Let's throw a compressor on both of these.
Not quite that much.
Something like that range. And then...
I'm gonna try this kind of filter with delay on both these as well.
Maybe change it a little bit on each side.
That still sounds kind of mono to me.
I'm gonna put another doubler on the right-hand one of these.
Take the direct side off.
I'm gonna just use two delayed version of it for every pitch.
Pitch it up and down like... I don't know, 9 or 10, something like that.
Let me compress that a little harder.
Let's hear that.
Let me see what these last 2 tracks are.
I'm gonna compress these again like 3:1 and I'm boosting like at...
1.9 or 2K, something like that, but filtering a little of the top end off above that.
This one I get a little more string-like by boosting at 8K.
Let me put these 2 together.
I'm trying to pick up the kind of high- mid-range-y bell thing with that first one by cutting some top end and getting more of the string top with the second more sustain-y synth.
We have a crowd right here.
It's the NFL cheering crowd! Alright. Perfect.
You know, another thing I'm just feeling overall on this track, I'm running a stereo bus across like all the instruments, including my drum auxes.
What I'm gonna try to do is even get this...
I still feel this needs to be like kind of roomier and bigger overall.
So let me throw in another bus here.
I'm gonna throw something really big like a stadium here.
Let me just hear this for a minute.
I'm gonna shorten that a little bit and take some bottom out.
Let me go back to the top, that might be a little long still.
I'm just trying to get a blend between that mandolin, the sitar, and these 2 synths.
That synth is still really left-heavy. Let's see.
Alright. Let me throw the blend of those in.
I'm kind of digging this stadium.
This isn't something I would normally do.
Let me just hear it, I want to shorten it up a little bit.
We're gonna stick with this reverb, this big reverb on everything.
I kind of dig it.
It gives the track kind of like a cool little wash, which is nice.
Lead vocal! Hey! We're making progress here.
I have a kind of again a pretty standard vocal chain that I'll put up.
I know I can probably accomplish whatever I want with this.
A De-Esser. We're gonna do...
a Waves 1176. I take that Noise thing off, which I hate.
We're gonna do a second...
De-Esser, and I'll show you why I'm doing 2 De-Essers in a minute.
We'll do an SSL EQ, we're gonna do...
Let me go this Pultec.
Then I'll show you why I'm doing all of these in just a second.
We're gonna put... Some people may call this overkill, but I used to do the same thing when I was on a console, I used every patch cord in the studio.
Again, you can accomplish a lot of what I'm doing without using this many plug-ins. I just happen to...
I have things I like... the mid-range of one EQ better than another.
When I have enough DSP Power, I can put this stuff across 90 channels.
So the first thing I'm gonna use, this Fabfilter De-Esser I'm gonna set just like in a wide band mode and just try to hit the really big kind of top.
Especially like that first line of the chorus, it's always...
So with this 1176, which I'm gonna set Attack at noon, super-fast Release...
I'm going down to maybe 5dB, I'm hitting this pretty hard.
So then this second De-Esser I'm gonna set as a pretty narrow band, at about 6.5.
Let's go back to "the city never sleeps" line.
So I'm just using that to catch just some super high S's.
I want to be able to get enough top end on this vocal...
That's really feeling aggressive and clear to me, but...
without that, those S's are taking your head off.
I'm starting where I usually start this vocal EQ with this SSL.
Again, I like that 8K.
These 2 bands here, I have one about 4, one around 2.5, depending how aggressive I want to push the mid-range on this vocal.
I'll use this start like, maybe around 2dB.
So I'm gonna push a little at 8K, a little bit at like 4 and 2.5.
I'm gonna pull back some 160.
And then I'm going to use...
I'm gonna use this Pultec at 100 to try to get basically a proximity effect of the mic, so you're getting that kind of boomy bass, so that really sounds like he's singing right on the mic.
I'm kind of pulling back a little on that one at 160.
I'm trying to get the feel of the low end, without making the vocal too tubby.
I find sometimes this Maag Sub does that in an interesting way without getting that kind of tubby... at 160.
That's kind of a nice feel with that bottom, so I'm trying to push that. I might push a little my magic 2.5 on that Maag again.
And I'll probably push...
the Decapitator, like on 3 or so on this.
I'll pick out a couple of reverbs.
I'm gonna do a combination of 2 reverbs, one a little shorter, one longer.
I'm gonna use this 250 to just kind of spread the vocal a little bit, and feel like a little bit of a stereo feel out of it.
I'm not sure about this reverb, this longer reverb yet.
We'll see with the rest of the track.
Now our breaths are getting a little big here too. Let me go back.
So I'm just toning that compression down a little bit.
Let's leave that for a minute.
I've got some backgrounds here.
I'm gonna pull that De-Esser over.
I'm gonna pull a few of these elements over.
Again, I'm pulling that Pultec over.
I'm not gonna have this try to sound as close on the mic.
I'm using these 2 compressors.
I'm using this one at a super-fast Release, and a little harder compression.
I'm just trying to pick up like 1dB of compression with this LA2A just to really kind of smooth it out a little bit.
Again, sometimes if I have something where I know I've got 5 BVs that are pretty much the same, if I can get...
if I get one pretty close, I can just pull them over then jump through each one individually, and we're gonna be pretty close.
It won't take us long to tweak. So these first BVs.
A normal instinct would be to pan these left-right from each other.
But I'm really trying to have more of a live feel.
I'm gonna keep this vocal and its double just off to the right a little bit.
Again, trying to keep this more of a live feel than a big production feel.
Again I'm just checking those compressors, the De-Esser on those, and make sure we're not hitting anything too hard.
So there we have...
I'm just keeping these all right.
On this one, we have a guy doing one line here.
Again I'm putting a subtle De-Esser on all these.
I just don't want the S's to build up, like I did on the lead vocal.
I'm gonna leave all of her vocals right and then his one vocal– he comes in on the other vocals only slightly left, just feeling again, going for the big band-type thing.
Let me look at a quick effect on those as well. Not that.
Let's do that.
I was thinking about what kind of verb I wanted to start with on these BVs.
Which I think will be just an EMT, nothing too crazy or wild.
I'm just shortening that up a little bit, pulling a little of the bass out of the plate and a little more top.
And then I've got a gang.
I'll make this a little simpler here.
I'm just gonna go... Let me go back to this vocal.
I'm just gonna go back to this E which adds just a tiny bit of top end, and, maybe a dB in these upper mids.
Not much at all. And I'm gonna use a soft compression.
These are just duplicate tracks here.
That one and that one. And that one. So those are all gonna be...
So those are all duplicate of each other.
Then these stereo tracks, let me look at that for a minute.
These are all just in a room. They are already pretty compressed.
I'm gonna put maybe just an extra dB or so of compression.
I'm not really doing any EQ on this.
I'm gonna drop that across these room mics.
These are all just multiple passes of the same thing.
I'm gonna give you just a rough idea of what my stereo bus chain is gonna look like.
I switch this up every now and then, because I get bored, I want to change to something else.
Right now, this is kind of what I'm using on the stereo bus channel, which is like a lot of crap, but I kind of like the way it's working.
Right now, I'm just gonna tweak.
So there is these compressors I'm just barely hitting.
I'm just going to take everything off to start with this Shadow Hills.
I'm gonna roughly set how I think I'm gonna be using these compressors, I'll have them pretty light right now.
Just doing the Optical side of this.
I'm gonna try to pick up about a half dB, maybe a dB of compression, just a real soft with that.
I'm also using a SSL compressor, their stereo bus compressor.
I'm using it at a really fast Release.
Trying to pick up maybe an extra dB or so of compression.
It's kind of a combination between the Shadow Hills and the SSL I'm really looking for.
Then I kind of massage them when I really get all the levels up.
I use this K-Stereo a lot, which I really like.
I kind of like the M/S gain on this.
This really gives a kind of stereo spread without really getting that phase-y feel that lot of them get.
I'm gonna use this Maag EQ to kind of just do a Sub overall a little bit on this track.
I'm just doing that to kind of just warm up overall the feel of the bottom.
I have 2 EQs that I use.
Either the Maag, or this Precision EQ.
I do a combination of those 2, between top and bottom.
Let me hear this one.
Normally, I would probably push this 9K.
I'm gonna leave that flat for right now.
I'm pushing like a little extra bottom at 68 with this as well.
At least the past year or two, I've been using kind of a combination of 2 analog tape recorder simulators put together.
So I'm using this ATR at 15 IPS.
Sometimes I put this one behind it too.
I like the sound of these 2 together.
This Kramer head has kind of a nice little crunch thing on the top end.
I don't always use it, but I'll leave it on this time.
I use to have a limiter running on here.
That's one of the last thing that I'll set, after all the tracks really have the levels that I want.
Be like maybe a half dB of limiting.
So this will be super subtle.
I'm using a Maximizer to just elevate the levels.
I generally run my stereo bus levels, without anything on it. I'm running them pretty low.
It's maybe -8, or -9.
And then I'm picking up with some final gain at the end.
Sometimes when it's getting really hot on Pro Tools and everything, sometimes it starts to feel like the stereo field collapses to me.
I know that's just me, but...
I've heard other people have the same feeling about it.
I have kind of rough setting of where the Master is gonna be.
I just made a overall band group, and muted everything.
Now I'm gonna just start going through the whole thing, and putting things up and really kind of fine-tuning my levels from that point.
We'll just print the automation across my basic starting point, do some Master fader rides, and then we'll go back and tweak stuff.
But I think we're getting close and it feels pretty much like the song running through.
I'm gonna go to a chorus here, start bringing up my drums, and just double-check all my levels.
In this process, I usually turn stuff down, more than stuff up.
Usually, when I set my drum levels when I first start a mix, it isn't usually exactly where they end up being at the end.
So if you can... You know, just not...
get that fader creep and make everything louder.
That's a really easy thing to do, but if you try to hold back from that, you should be able to go through this pretty quickly, and get everything... make sure you're not burying stuff.
I'll do something like that.
Now I make a Master group here for my Master faders.
I'll go through on the Master fader, and just do a ride, at sort of probably 1dB on the Intro, I'll go down 1.8 on the verse.
Coming into the chorus, I'm gonna swell a little bit and then do a hard drop right to 0, coming back just like a little re-Intro.
Coming back into the 2nd verse, I'm gonna come back down.
Basically, I'm just gonna ride the dynamics a little bit and really make those choruses really pop.
So we've got our Master fader rides in.
There's one last thing I want to check on the stereo bus.
I use this Multiband a lot to keep the bottom big, but not get too big on these kick downbeats.
Especially, you know, as you go in the alternative rock world, they just want the levels like stupid loud.
You know, you have one giant kick, and it's gonna just completely destroy the track.
With that Multiband, I compress down a couple of dB on the big hit.
This would normally be, maybe a 2 and a half hour process for me from beginning to end.
This is kind of where I'd probably take a 10 minute break, come back with fresh ears.
Generally, that's what my mix would sound like.
This would be pretty close. This is probably...
a half an hour away in tweaks from where I ended up on the album.
Once logged in, you will be able to read all the transcripts jump around in the video.
- SSL E-Channel
- API 2500 Compressor
- Doubler 2
- Kramer Tape
- Universal Audio
- EL7 Fatso Sr
- Pultec EQP-1A
- Maag EQ4
- Manley Stereo Vari-Mu Limiter Compressor
- Ocean Way Studios
- Studer A800
- API 560
- UA 1176SE Legacy
- Teletronix LA-2A
- Neve 1081
- SPL Twin Tube Processor
- Precision De-Esser
- Pultec Pro Legacy
- EMT 250
- Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor
- SSL G Bus Compressor
- Precision K-Stereo
- Precision Equalizer
- Ampex ATR-102
- Precision Multiband
- Soundtoys Decapitator
- FabFilter Pro-C
- FabFilter Pro-DS
- Avid Revibe II
- Plugin Alliance Vitalizer MK2-T
- Eventide Omnipressor
- McDSP MC303 Multi-Band
- Amplitube 3
- Altiverb XL
Written by Ben McKee, Dan Platzman, Dan Reynolds and Wayne Sermon
Produced by Brandon Darner
Recorded in 2010 at Studio at The Palms in Las Vegas, NV
Published by Imagine Dragons Publishing/Song for KidinaKorner/Songs of Universal Inc
Licensed courtesy of Interscope Records/KidinaKorner
Mark Needham is an L.A. based Grammy nominated record producer and mixer whose credits include a diverse array of internationally recognized superstar artists including The Killers, Fleetwood Mac, Imagine Dragons, Walk the Moon, Shakira, Pink, Moby, Dolly Parton, Chris Isaak and many more.
Parts of this site and some files are only accessible to pureMix Pro Members or available to purchase. Please see below our membership plans or add this video to your shopping cart.