Mixing an 8 piece band with an edge

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losthighway
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Mixing an 8 piece band with an edge

Post by losthighway » Fri Jun 28, 2019 9:15 pm

Hello friends,

Once again I turn to the powerful hive mind of the TOMB to do some mix analysis. The vision of excellence is this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IQBC5URoF0s

I'm working for the 3rd or 4th time with a large afro-beat/latin band. 3-4 horn players. Auxillary percussion layers (claves, bells, shakers, djembes, congas etc). Multiple background singers. Improvisational solos. Vocal sections.

In the past I've mixed them like a traditional jazz band: strike a natural sounding balance in levels, panning. Feature the soloist or the lead vocal when they come up and stay out of the way. This time we're talking about sculpting the sound a little more.

I love how this Fela stuff sounds. As always with these questions I know the mission of copying a sound is destined for failure. But there's much to learn and use from good examples.

What do you hear in terms of micing, panning, compression etc?

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Re: Mixing an 8 piece band with an edge

Post by vvv » Fri Jun 28, 2019 10:51 pm

I got nothin' to help, but wanna say I do love Fela.

His sons are good, also.
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Re: Mixing an 8 piece band with an edge

Post by I'm Painting Again » Sat Jun 29, 2019 9:15 am

best guesses :high:

tape compression/saturation - transients are soaked up

dynamic mixing with different sections having different mixes

rolled off highs and lows

Fela vocal sound like a cardioid (proximity effect) valve mic with a rolled off top

SDC on overhead/room drums maybe like a bit farther than normal sounds like maybe 10 or so feet over or in front

some low detail mics on the toms and kick and drums like that

the higher pitched percussion sounds close-ish mic'd

sound like they're in a really good sounding room or the artificial reverb is mixed in very tastefully - it's almost a halfway point between that tube plate era sound and a deluxe Lexicon system - not sure but this is is key thing to listen for here

the percussion is tuned with sustains on the short

BG vox mic'd farther than the horns

piano is distorted with some kind of tube stage and highs rolled off

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Re: Mixing an 8 piece band with an edge

Post by losthighway » Sat Jun 29, 2019 10:32 am

I'm Painting Again wrote:
Sat Jun 29, 2019 9:15 am
sound like they're in a really good sounding room or the artificial reverb is mixed in very tastefully - it's almost a halfway point between that tube plate era sound and a deluxe Lexicon system - not sure but this is is key thing to listen for here

piano is distorted with some kind of tube stage and highs rolled off
Yeah the reverb on his records is totally key to me. I "get" room sound, and I understand various effects styles being applied to tracks (pre-delay, plate vs spring vs digital etc), but I can't crack the way they put space into these recordings (or capture it). It's very cool sounding.

I think the distorted piano, or wurlitzer or whatever is one of the key things that adds a sense of grit, along with the aggressive saxophone tones which sound like they're more coming from the player than the technology.

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Re: Mixing an 8 piece band with an edge

Post by A.David.MacKinnon » Sat Jun 29, 2019 11:43 pm

To me Fela’s records share a lot of the sound and production/engineering approach of James Brown records from the late 60’s/early 70’s (and a lot of American r&b of that era). They sound like they were made well but fast and most of the tones and sound is happening in the room live.
They sound like almost everything was cut live. If I’ve got the era right they would have been made on 8 or 16 track so it’s very likely that the micing set-up is much simpler than we’d use today.
Are you tracking or just mixing? If you are tracking try fewer mics then you would use in modern production. Track sources in mono and pan them where you want them (if you’re just mixing try making every instrument mono and then panning it where you want it). I’d favour dynamic mics for most sources and only use condensers in a few key spots. Tape would help.

If you’re just mixing -
Pick one delay and one reverb and use them universally on anything that needs it.
No stereo signals. Panned mono for all sources.
Mix to tape if you can. If not try a tape sim on the two mix.

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Re: Mixing an 8 piece band with an edge

Post by A.David.MacKinnon » Sat Jun 29, 2019 11:45 pm

losthighway wrote:
Sat Jun 29, 2019 10:32 am
Yeah the reverb on his records is totally key to me. I "get" room sound, and I understand various effects styles being applied to tracks (pre-delay, plate vs spring vs digital etc), but I can't crack the way they put space into these recordings (or capture it). It's very cool sounding.
.
A key element of that sound is likely bleed.

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Re: Mixing an 8 piece band with an edge

Post by I'm Painting Again » Sun Jun 30, 2019 10:10 am

losthighway wrote:
Sat Jun 29, 2019 10:32 am
Yeah the reverb on his records is totally key to me. I "get" room sound, and I understand various effects styles being applied to tracks (pre-delay, plate vs spring vs digital etc), but I can't crack the way they put space into these recordings (or capture it). It's very cool sounding.

it sounds to me like when you use a tube mechanical verb or seriously good digital unit and cut everything in the Fletcher-Munson human sensitivity range way down - all off a sudden it has this realistic but sweet sounding space that's almost subliminal and smooths out the room bleeds

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Re: Mixing an 8 piece band with an edge

Post by vvv » Sun Jun 30, 2019 12:37 pm

FWIW, listening to the above reminds me a lot of his stage mix, at least in this video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E0BhNPiq78k

The far-back BV's is like a thing:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wz2jXHKa7TY
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Re: Mixing an 8 piece band with an edge

Post by Nick Sevilla » Sun Jun 30, 2019 5:25 pm

Sort of like this?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gYtuz1i8xFg

This was done live to 2" tape. Maybe one or two overdubs / small fixes to the electric bass afterwards.

But yes, everyone in the room together. Like 8-11 people. Massive.

Controlled bleed is your secret weapon.

Let them rehearse for a few hours while you place mics in strategic places. Test record a bit, get the blend between microphones,
so that their bleed together makes a "larger" image when mixed together.

Or like this?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HrO3oHprvAs

Again, recorded all live in the studio, no overdubs. Same recording studio. To 2" tape.

The secret is the mic placement. The difference between the two recordings is not subtle. We used very different mic techniques
and placement for each band.
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Re: Mixing an 8 piece band with an edge

Post by Nick Sevilla » Sun Jun 30, 2019 5:37 pm

On the Fela Kuti stuff (always amazing!):

Sounds to me like 16 tracks, recorded mostly live. Could be less, but the separation is very good.

Looks like he was also the engineer, although I am going to ask my peers, see if anyone knows
any engineers who recorded him at his compound or elsewhere.
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Re: Mixing an 8 piece band with an edge

Post by vvv » Sun Jun 30, 2019 5:44 pm

Totally OT, Nick, but when I look at yer rather scary avatar, I am reassured by the note below it -"speech impediment", indeed! :twisted:
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Re: Mixing an 8 piece band with an edge

Post by Nick Sevilla » Sun Jun 30, 2019 6:16 pm

vvv wrote:
Sun Jun 30, 2019 5:44 pm
Totally OT, Nick, but when I look at yer rather scary avatar, I am reassured by the note below it -"speech impediment", indeed! :twisted:
LOL thanks!

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Re: Mixing an 8 piece band with an edge

Post by losthighway » Sun Jun 30, 2019 8:42 pm

Nick Sevilla wrote:
Sun Jun 30, 2019 5:25 pm
Sort of like this?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gYtuz1i8xFg

This was done live to 2" tape. Maybe one or two overdubs / small fixes to the electric bass afterwards.
The hand claps on this sound perfect.

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Re: Mixing an 8 piece band with an edge

Post by Magnetic Services » Sun Jun 30, 2019 9:35 pm

Not completely on topic, but check out Magma for inspiration: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v3cTPLC4NtI

They're definitely not Latin or afro-beat, but they took that big-band-with-horns-and-backup-singers sound and put it in a crazy weird almost gospel-like prog rock context and somehow it worked.

[edit] Magma live: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lo0FxtTceTI

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Re: Mixing an 8 piece band with an edge

Post by Nick Sevilla » Mon Jul 01, 2019 9:28 pm

losthighway wrote:
Sun Jun 30, 2019 8:42 pm
Nick Sevilla wrote:
Sun Jun 30, 2019 5:25 pm
Sort of like this?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gYtuz1i8xFg

This was done live to 2" tape. Maybe one or two overdubs / small fixes to the electric bass afterwards.
The hand claps on this sound perfect.
Thanks, as I recall there were two women, Flora Purim, and her daughter Diana, in one of the iso booths, clapping along. I do not recall any overdubs on this one. All live. They start the hand claps, and after a while everyone else cued into what they were doing, in the main tracking room. We had several ambient mics (U47s and U87s) above the fray, capturing all of it. Sounds cool.
Realizing vibratory excursions from a paper widget.

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