This song was a challenge because of the prominent vocals in the first verse. I had trouble getting the lead vocal to sound the way I wanted. I finally ended up doing the following for the vocals:
- Copied the original track in Cubase to create two duplicate tracks of the lead vocal, compressing them using the VSTDynamics compression plug-in and the “Ballad Lead Vocals” preset (with a few tweaks), adding a bit of the “Hall LFEverb” preset of the RoomWorks reverb plugin, and panning them left and right. With these turned down a bit, they provide a bit of fullness and depth to the lead vocal.
- For the Lead Vocal track itself, I tried to avoid compression but ended up adding a bit, as well as a tweaked plate reverb that emphasized the lower frequencies rather than the high–once again from the build-tin RoomWorks plugin in Cubase.
- For the background vocals, I recorded it twice and panned both tracks left and right–although not full left and right, as I found moving the left side in a bit made it sound a bit fuller. The big trick was adding a filter to cut out the highs of the background vocals during the verses. For this, I fed both backing tracks into a single Group track and applied the Cubase built-in Dual Filter plugin, using the “Backings in the Back” plugin.
- Note that I turned off this filter via an automation setting during the chorus, since I wanted the high vocals to come through sharply. The filter worked best on the lower harmondy background vocals during the verse. It helped to move them into the background so the Lead vocal had prominence.
The piano tracks were fixed primarily by reducing the mid-frequencies via the Cubase built-in EQ. The upgright piano had a lot of muddy middle that I was able to strip out via this EQ.
The kick drum sound was challenging since the Shure mic I used is kind of ill-suited to the task and I only have an 18″ kick on my drum kit. I ended up cutting the EQ everywhere except at around 100hz, adding a bit of compression, via the Isolated Fat BD preset of the VSTDynamics compressor plugin and adding a bit of reverb. In general, though, I tried to bury this a bit in the mix with the Upright Bass HAlionOne sound.
The snare was pretty much untouched and is as live as it gets via the AT4040 mic. My son wasn’t as thrilled with it as I was, but I really like the live sound of it. There’s also no effects on the overheads, which I thought were pretty clear without any processing.
I did feed all four drums tracks into a group track and applied a little of the RoomWorks “DrumShine” preset to brighten things up just a bit.
For the upgright bass track, I added some EQ around 180 and cut everything below that so it would bite a bit through the kick and lower piano registers.