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Blake Mills / Vulfpeck / frequency response

 
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SpencerMartin
gimme a little kick & snare


Joined: 27 Feb 2015
Posts: 78
Location: Akron, OH

PostPosted: Tue Dec 08, 2015 8:14 pm    Post subject: Blake Mills / Vulfpeck / frequency response Reply with quote

First of all, Blake Mills is the man. It's not very often that I'm super blown away by someone's guitar playing (actually, with the exception of St. Vincent). Creative/interesting sounds and arrangements are what I'm into - not so much straight up guitar playing that may otherwise be overtly impressive and technically skillful. But holy damn, he is on another level. I was listening to Vulfpeck recently (a group whose sounds and aesthetic are incredible / deserve an entirely separate discussion) and noticed some unmistakably great guitar action on the tune, Rango II. "Damn, that sounds like Blake Mills." Sure enough. Check out both artists:

Vulfpeck

Blake Mills
(Sorry - I don't condone YouTube listening, but it's all I could find. Listen to his whole "Heigh Ho" album in a high quality format if you can.)

Amazing stuff. Anyways, the REAL question:

I know that in a perfect world we trust our ears to make things sound good on a subjective, micro level. But inevitably, on a macro level - more so with mastering and overall dynamics / frequency response, we all get to a point where we dig a little deeper into our studying and analyzing of the different things we feel sound exceptionally good to uncover their common denominators. With the tracks/artists/albums I've come to greatly admire (as well as the majority of noteworthy commercial releases that I've analyzed), I've found a general, ballpark average of level and frequency response that they all fall within. It does indeed vary a bit with the vibe and aesthetic style of each particular artist (for example, the high frequencies roll off at a much lower point for one artist versus another, and appropriately so - they both sound good) but despite these understandable and (in the big scheme of things) relatively small variations, I've found there definitely seems to be a general window of what type of overall tonality/level sounds good (to my ears at least... and maybe those of the general population, considering these patterns and trends).

That being said, the Blake Mills stuff at times seems exceptionally bass heavy. It's immaculately produced/arranged/recorded/mixed and is very wonderfully dynamic. It definitely sounds fantastic, but DAMN. There are moments where I cannot imagine myself presenting those mixes to a client without their obvious response being, "Holy dicksharts, that's WAY too boomy - let's tighten up that low end!"

But I think it works. Right? I mean, I definitely still like it. I just accept the tonality and enjoy it nonetheless.

In the Tape Op community especially, the general vibe is that it's certainly not hip to be square. But;


1.) Have you ever, or do you regularly use/refer to reference tracks?

2.) In general, do you use outside references to help inform the shaping of an overall mix while either mixing or mastering?

3.) With your own work, do you strive for a general goal (measurable or otherwise) as far as quality/frequency response/dynamics are concerned?

4.) What did you guys think about the Blake Mills album?

5.) How much is too much? Or too little? (In terms of lows, highs, level, etc.)

---

If you'd like to chip in, please answer those questions honestly![/url]
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joninc
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 09, 2015 2:28 am    Post subject: Re: Blake Mills / Vulfpeck / frequency response Reply with quote

I love that Blake mills album. He's really got it going on. Great songs. Great player. Great singer. Great producer. Dang.

I also like bass heavy mixes. Have you heard the the tbone Burnett produced Allison Krause/Robert plant or Jakob Dylan albums? Boom the low end is phat and bloated. I like it. This album is similar in some ways. Vibes and loose. Junk in the trunk.

These albums all share brilliant casts of supporting players too. Cmon Jim keltner! Jay bellerose!

I sometimes listen to other albums when I am mixing, for aN ear break or a dose of perspective. Any Nigel Goodrich mix for example. Then I want to jump off a cliff upon returning to my pinched anemic attempts at mixing. But I keep going anyway.

I have told mastering engineers that I don't want them to lean out the low end too much. Referenced a few albums with this type of thunder down under.

It doesn't suit every record but I do like it.

Also any tchad Blake mix of husky hoskulds. Mad geniuses. Peter Katis too.
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markjazzbassist
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 09, 2015 11:47 am    Post subject: Re: Blake Mills / Vulfpeck / frequency response Reply with quote

i love vulfpeck, great band.

as a bass player i always appreciate a bass heavy mix or one where the bass isn't buried. i feel my standard for a quality mixing engineer is how the bass sits. if they just bury it "cause shit guitar is what they wanna here" they can F#ck right off, no thank you. I read a fantastic interview once where they said in the 60's and 70's a basic begining point of the mix was to match level of lead vocal and bass. everything would conform to that (was an article on average white band) and i realized that's why i like all the old shit. bass was up there for everyone to hear. now it's all about bass drum being super sub and strain your ears to hear an actual bass guitar note, good luck.
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SpencerMartin
gimme a little kick & snare


Joined: 27 Feb 2015
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Location: Akron, OH

PostPosted: Wed Dec 09, 2015 1:40 pm    Post subject: Re: Blake Mills / Vulfpeck / frequency response Reply with quote

joninc wrote:
Have you heard the the tbone Burnett produced Allison Krause/Robert plant or Jakob Dylan albums?


Nope! I'm always looking to hear new things though. Which album should I start with?

joninc wrote:
Any Nigel Godrich mix for example.


Holy yes, amen. Nigel Godrich is one of my all time favorites. Beck's album Sea Changes sounds so amazing. Everything with Air and Radiohead too. You can recognize his snare sound from a mile away (except on Radiohead's stuff, strangely enough). So perfectly tuned, dead, and punchy. I mean, everything else in his mixes sounds great too - let's be honest. He's fantastic.

joninc wrote:
Also any tchad Blake mix of husky hoskulds.


The only Tchad Blake stuff I've honestly heard (that I'm aware of) is The Black Keys' album, Brothers. I think that album was by far their best one, sonically speaking - I use a few tracks as references. On the topic of bass, "Too Afraid to Love You" has been my longtime go-to reference for gauging bass/low end levels. As long as I don't have more bass than that track, I'm good! Which other Tchad Blake-itized album should I start with?

markjazzbassist wrote:
i love vulfpeck, great band.

i feel my standard for a quality mixing engineer is how the bass sits. if they just bury it "cause shit guitar is what they wanna here" they can F#ck right off, no thank you. I read a fantastic interview once where they said in the 60's and 70's a basic begining point of the mix was to match level of lead vocal and bass.


YES. Vulfpeck's sound is so incredible. I don't even understand how they get those tones sometimes. I think they track a lot of their stuff live in the same room together without headphones. All the amps are out of sight. With the exception of a few tracks where you can hear the room, everything is really tight and dead in a good way. Do they just keep volumes super low, barely enough to hear themselves? I don't even get it. That's one of those sounds where I'm just like, "HOW??" I wish I could just hide in the corner and see everything they're doing.

Yeah, I can definitely agree with that bass/vocal philosophy. I've always felt that the most important things in a mix (for the sound I like at least - not ALL types of stuff, of course) are the drums, bass, and vocal (or primary/focal melody/sound in that general range). With drums, you've got the entire feel and groove of the tune. Between the bass and vocal melody, you have your essential two part counterpoint. It's really Bach-like if you think about it. Your brain fills in the rest of the chordal information based on those two parts. You can hear what the chord progression is without any actual chords. Any pianos, guitars, or chordal instruments are really not that critical in helping the listener make sense of what they're hearing, musically speaking. For a sound that's really punchy and grooves hard, but is also open, immaculately arranged, and interesting to listen to, you really only need drums (or some sort of moving, non-pitched rhythmic element), bass, vocals (or something melodic in place of vocals), and "other stuff". You can have so much flexibility with the other stuff when you've got the bulk of the sound established with the first three. The other stuff can be sparse or dense or weird or normal and come and go, yet everything still makes sense. Having WAY less dense chordal instrument parts than what would be typical for a self-accompanied singer-songwriter paves the way for so much sonic freedom and creativity. Since I mentioned Sea Changes earlier, "Paper Tiger" is the perfect example. Or anything by Michael Jackson. Or anything that's "professionally" arranged, really. It's a common factor in a TON of stuff. Crazy.
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markjazzbassist
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 09, 2015 1:48 pm    Post subject: Re: Blake Mills / Vulfpeck / frequency response Reply with quote

great points man. akron ohio? i'm from cleveland originally, what studio do you work at? i have a buddy kevin coral who does stuff in akron, great guy.
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SpencerMartin
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 09, 2015 9:55 pm    Post subject: Re: Blake Mills / Vulfpeck / frequency response Reply with quote

North Canton, actually - just 20 minutes south of Akron. Nice, man! New Orleans must be such a crazy scene compared to Ohio. I've been meaning to vacation there and check it out at some point.

I really only operate out of my personal home studio. Chances are I've been at the same events/shows as him though - it's a pretty condensed area.
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Gregg Juke
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 10, 2015 4:26 pm    Post subject: Re: Blake Mills / Vulfpeck / frequency response Reply with quote

Wow, very cool. "Rango II" is blues-y, organic, and tasty, with what sounds like some Robert Randolph and Richard Tee references in there, but that "ear candy/production values" section at 2:50! Crazy man, crazy!

GJ
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SpencerMartin
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 10, 2015 5:26 pm    Post subject: Re: Blake Mills / Vulfpeck / frequency response Reply with quote

Gregg Juke wrote:
Wow, very cool. "Rango II" is blues-y, organic, and tasty, with what sounds like some Robert Randolph and Richard Tee references in there, but that "ear candy/production values" section at 2:50! Crazy man, crazy!


All their stuff sounds so good/funky/tight. I really like the title track from their 2014 album, "Fugue State" - definitely check out that one too.

Yeah, the chipmunk soul breakdown at 2:50 is nuts! Definitely took me by surprise.
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Snarl 12/8
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 10, 2015 6:18 pm    Post subject: Re: Blake Mills / Vulfpeck / frequency response Reply with quote

The two beards on the right need to get a room...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4dpvyZBKg6Q
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SpencerMartin
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 11, 2015 1:28 pm    Post subject: Re: Blake Mills / Vulfpeck / frequency response Reply with quote

Dang, nice! I hadn't seen the video for that one. A few questions though... What do you think the guy behind the keyboardist's head is doing/playing? He's holding a guitar, but I only really hear the bass and slide parts. Also, the guy on the far left? Maybe they strategically shot it at that angle knowing those two parts could be expendible in the final mix.

"Well, _____ and ______ are here and want to play on this one too. Oh, well... Here, let's set you up right here. And you can set up right over there so you can be in the shot. Nudge to the left just a liiiiiittle. Ok, perfect."

Oh, and at 0:24 seconds he reaches over to his amp but there's still a chord. Is there some overdub trickery involved or did he hit the open strings? Either way, these guys rule. If there's additional magic happening off screen to make it sound the way it does I still dig their live/filmed approach either way.
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joninc
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 11, 2015 3:59 pm    Post subject: Re: Blake Mills / Vulfpeck / frequency response Reply with quote

he's plucking the open strings with his right hand while he fiddles with his amp.

a lot of "rooster necks" rocking in that crew. Smile
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jckinnick
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 13, 2015 3:16 pm    Post subject: Re: Blake Mills / Vulfpeck / frequency response Reply with quote

I love Vulfpeck this was the first song I heard on an episode of High Maintenance and instantly fell in love .

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XftabV9S2z0&ab_channel=Vulf
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SpencerMartin
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 14, 2015 1:25 am    Post subject: Re: Blake Mills / Vulfpeck / frequency response Reply with quote

It's crazy how they were able to get such a roomy sax sound with everything else happening right next to it and it still sounds great.
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