North To Alaska – ‘All The Same’
As part of one of the assessments I sat a few weeks ago in my Production & Professional Practice module I have produced a mix of ‘All the Same’ by the band North to Alaska. Initially it was an in-class task but as I spent some time on it I decided to use it as part of my production presentation. With just the original raw audio files to work with it was a case of importing them all into a new Pro Tools session and making a start. Here is the finished article, whether you wish to listen while you read or read afterwards:
The first port of call was to try and make sense of the tracks, so all tracks were renamed to something which I found easier to use – kick, snare, toms etc – rather than audio tracks numbered from ‘1’ to infinity. So that I could begin routing the tracks to aux subs I firstly grouped them into their instrument types, mainly drums, guitar riff, power chords, guitar left, guitar right, guitar solo and vocals. Once these were established I then began routing the outputs of each track to similarly named stereo aux tracks via stereo busses.
With all of my routing and track titles as I wanted, I then set about turning the session into something sonically pleasing.
The drums were the tracks that I tackled first. The sound of the kit when soloed was already sounding good before any tweaking took place. So apart from some mild compression on the kick, EQ to boost the low-mids and some surgical EQ to dampen the ring from the snare drum not a lot needed done. The main production components for the drums were the addition of a sine wave, side-chained to the kick drum to give it more punch due to the song being so guitar-heavy and potentially lost underneath them. A mono bus to a new aux track and a gate to control the signal generator from the kick put this in place.
I also used parallel compression on the kit. From listening to the song though, it was clear that the level of cymbal ‘wash’ meant that only kick and snare should be routed to the compressed track. Anything else would muddy the sound a little. So the kick and two snare tracks were stereo bussed to a new aux track and a heavy amount of compression applied.
To give you an idea of the enhanced sound the parallel compression creates here are two short examples:
With the drums sitting nicely I turned my attention to the guitars. I added a chorus effect to the opening guitar riff and also fed the second guitar through a guitar amp plug in and smothered it in reverb to make it sit back in the mix and sound a bit less like a DI. The chorus guitars were causing most of the problem in the mix as they were simply too overpowering and producing troubling overtones. This was resolved with some very aggressive EQ-ing to settle them down which produced a very altered but tasteful sound. As there were four tracks of guitars and their respective DI signals I created a 2+2 set up – two guitars plus their DIs going left and the same on the right – and panned them around the stereo field.
I used a similar technique when mixing the vocals. The chorus features four separate takes, all usable, so I panned them around the stereo field to widen the chorus a little. The verse had two vocal tracks and were panned hard left and hard right, ensuring compatibility with mono-testing. Compression was added to bring all the vocals forward in the mix with the verse benefitting from slightly more compression for effect.
The closing sections which feature the guitar solo were also causing frequency issues with the vocal part. The guitar solo needed EQ-ing to allow space in the mix for the vocals without the two battling for space.
With all individual sub groups mixed, the stems were then adjusted according to preference. The main consideration in the session was not to allow the guitars to control the mix during the chorus and still allow the drums and vocals to punch through. I feel this was achieved although in hindsight the track maybe feels slightly more ‘pop’ than ‘rock’. It was my intention to have it this way as an experiment in keeping heavy guitars at bay.