On April Fool’s Day, musicians everywhere gleefully plan novel ways to torture their hapless bandmates. Nothing presents a better opportunity for nurturing your dark side than your band’s critical mixdown session.
Every musician is concerned about how his or her performance and track will sound in the final mix. But invariably, someone won’t be able to attend the mix session to help guide the process to a flattering finished product. This presents a golden opportunity for you, the mix engineer, to prey on the absentee’s worst fears.
Create two mixes. Mix A will be the real mix: your best effort toward a sonic masterpiece and not what your absentee bandmate will hear. Mix B will be your prank mix, the one in which you purposefully destroy all positive attributes of your absentee bandmate’s track while making everything else sound great. At your following band meeting (on April Fool’s Day, of course), playback Mix B and watch the horror spread like wildfire across the face of your punk’d bandmate.
Of course, we at Electronic Musician would be remiss if we didn’t provide technical tips for demolishing your bandmate’s finest performance. Read on.
Bankrupt the Money Track If your lead singer can’t attend the mixdown session, they become your victim. Slap Celemony Melodyne Editor on their track, and use the pitch tool to drag every single note in their track either sharp or flat. Spare nothing; every single note should be noticeably out-of-tune by the time you’re finished. On playback at your next band meeting, enjoy the deepening look of panic on your lead singer’s face as their sabotaged vocal track lurches into the spotlight.
Melodyne Editor can also be used to deepsix your fiddle player’s masterly track in absentia. Plunge the pitch modulation and pitchdrift tools to completely flat-line all vibrato and every gliss in their virtuoso performance. In short, make the fiddle sound like an organ.
Let’s say you guys are a rock band and your guitarist played a soaring solo à la Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour. Too bad he can’t make the mixdown session! Activate the SPL Transient Designer plug-in at the start of his solo, and nosedive the sustain control to its absolute lowest setting to reduce every note to a split-second duration whimper (see screenshot above). On playback at your band meeting, you’ll relish the intensifying look of terror on your six-stringer’s face when his rock star moment of glory arrives.
If country music is your band’s forte, rerecord the electric guitar track through a wah-wah pedal while the guitarist is away. This effect sounds especially impressive on a chicken-pickin’ solo. Fast and erratic pedal movements work best and lend an unshakeable air of anti-street cred.
Shatter the Foundation If your drummer can’t make the mixdown session, copy an overly simple bar of drumming from an outtake and paste it so it repeats throughout the entire song. (Feel free to move the kick and snare hits around a little so that they become painfully off-beat.) When your drummer hears the mix, he’ll surely freak out and ask what happened to all of his track’s fills, rolls, flams and hi-hat work. Tell him you thought it sounded too busy.
I would offer more tips, but I’m occupied at the moment drowning a bass guitarist’s track in a humongous cathedral reverb. Oh yeah, he’s gonna love that!
Michael Cooper (myspace.com/michaelcooperrecording) was a formerly respected mix and mastering engineer whose career ended on April Fool’s Day.