Mixing ‘Zed Leppelin’: Good Times Bad Times

With the mix of our first track Immigrant Song put to bed, it was time to get back into the studio and smash out number two of the three we would initially deliver. We had really received a boost from the feedback and sense of accomplishment and were eager to recreate it on Good Times Bad Times. This is a very different track than Immigrant Song with a completely different vibe. Almost like we had recorded a separate band! The reference track is below:

We again started with the drums namely the kick and discovered that similar settings worked on the kick in this track as had in Immigrant Song. The snare sound that we had recorded was very close to the one in this song which was great but one thing we haden’t noticed and only came to light when we were really listening to the original was the absence of the Glyn Johns mic placements. The panoramic movement particularly with the tom fills was missing. We still had a great drum sound and took this as only a minor hiccup but one that again could be avoided by knowing the reference tracks inside out before recording. Something different we tried to add a bit more crack to the snare was add some tape saturation which just made it hit home a little harder.

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The cymbals are just manic in this song and because we had used the Glyn Johns set up we captured a good amount, however we did boost a little (3dB) up top using a high shelf on the overheads.

The bass in this song is full and warm and once again we felt we needed to work on ours as it was a bit tinny? We tried everything in the box with no satisfactory results so made the decision to try for some warmth by running the signal through one mono channel on the NEVE. We played around with the EQ and ended up boosting 180Hz, 330Hz, 2.7 kHz and also used a LPF at 7.8kHz to get rid of some of the higher frequencies. We had definitely improved upon the original signal and it was cool using the desk in this way. After adding a compressor and some tape saturation we felt we were as close as we could get using the signal we had.

The guitar tone in the original is really Fuzzy, not sure how else to describe it? Our recording was much more powerful and had real direct clarity in its delivery. We had all agreed that whilst we were trying to capture the vibe of the original recordings that we also wanted a modern feel to our versions as this is more in line with how the band performs live. However, Shay and I agreed that it needed something to warm it somehow and since we had achieved this with the bass, decided to run back through the NEVE console to see what we could get. Rather than pushing all the signals we had from the different mics, we decided to just send the DI through and see what we could find. By over-driving the input gain and playing around with the EQ we got something that added some of the warmth we were looking for. It was a small improvement but one that complimented the other guitar signals in the mix; and to think we had discussed deleting the DI signal!

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Now to the vocals. We had experienced some trouble when recording this one as Tony is so used to singing it live and in the higher registers that I really had to coach him to sing the lower parts as the soul of the song and the higher parts as a compliment. We got through it but there was a lot of back and forth from the control room and studio before we arrived. Apart from a few phrases, this song is much more naturally suited to his vocal range, we didn’t do too much apart from again using a little bit of trim, the Monster Compressor and the mic emulator. In addition, to thicken up his voice subtly we added 30ms of delay which definitely worked well.

vocal mix rack
Slate VMS settings: Trimmer, Compressor and Neumann U67 emulator

The EQ on the vocals below:

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We now added Reverb to each element as after listening many times to the original, we knew that there was not a great deal in there and it was probably recorded in a small – medium room. We set the reverb up with 33ms of pre-delay and 378ms of decay. This seemed to work and sounded pretty natural to us once we sent a mainly dry signal of the drums and bass but a much wetter signal to the vocal parts.

We completed our mixing session by once again adding tape saturation (which was already on the master fader adding a little noise), but Shay went through each signal adding a little more to each instrument (except the guitar). Given that the original song was so fuzzy and ‘Lofi’ and ours was really clean and direct, I felt this really pulled everything together for us. Once again a big learning curve for us in many ways including using plug ins effectively, general matching of sound to the reference track and using the NEVE console to dig us out of a hole on the bass and guitar parts. We had really worked hard and long to this point but we had one song left to mix. It was the longest in track length and as individual as the first two, check in to my final blog to find out how we went!

Our finished mix can be heard here

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