Sixty Years – Recording/Mixing Details

This was written on the piano, and is all built around the opening piano riff.

Piano: Used my go-to Yamaha S90ES Piano patch in Halion Sonic SE software synth that comes with Cubase 6. Originally had a long piano intro, but canned that later for the shorter, more standard intro. Then, realized that a old-time radio effect might be nice in the intro, and I found the “Telephone” patch from the CEQ-30 reverb plugin. I made some modifications to it for the vocal and piano tracks in the intro.

I also panned the piano hard right and the vocal hard left during the intro to mimic a mono recording. Then, when the bass and drums come in, I reset all the panning and EQ settings back to normal as the telephone effect was dropped. For this, the Cubase automation tracks came in very handy.

Drums: Recorded live using my usual mic setup. Took lots of practice to get this part down and it’s still far from perfect, but thanks to some tweaking in cubase to bring the piano, bass, and drums into line, I think it came out okay. Based on how much fun it was to play, record, and mix, I’ll take it.

Bass: I tried recording my bass guitar, via a mic and amp, but ended up going with a MIDI patch. I picked the Halion SE “Acoustic Bass VX” patch, since it seemed to cut through the low registers of the piano nicely and I liked the “fretless” sound on this song.

Lead Vocal: Recorded using my AT4040 mic. Did a lot of experimenting on the lead vocal effects. Ended up going with some very subtle additions, such as a little compression, using the VSTDynamics plugin and edits to the plugin’s “Ballad Lead Vocals” patch. Also added just a touch of delay, using the “Sweet Vocal Delay” patch in the StereoDelay plugin, but it’s just a touch. And finally used the RoomWorks reverb plugin to add some reverb, based on some modifications to the “Plate Bright” patch.

Electric Guitar Lead: Had a really good time with this one. This is my G&L AT Classic played through my Fender Blues amp, with no effects pedals whatsoever. I found some nice settings on the amp itself and then used to mics to record it. My new SM57 parked directly in front of the speaker and on of my CAD CM217 condenser mics about three feet away and four feet off the ground to give some ambience. When I mixed and panned them, I thought the effect was really nice.

I then added a bit of compression to the main track (the SM57 track), using the Multiband Compressor plugin. This was my first time using a multi-band compressor and I found this really powerful. I only use it during the solo bits. For the rhythm parts, I disabled the compression, as well as the second CM217 ambient track. The rhythm kind of recedes into the left can during the verses, and then re-emerges during the solo bits.

Strings: I used a couple sets of HalionOne and Halion SE patches for these. First, a set of tracks that use the “Chamber Strings” patch. I use these on the bridge in an attempt to get a big, airy feeling. During the verse, I used a “Solo Violin” patch to climb up behind and add some texture to the verse. Later, I also added a “String Trio” patch to double up the strings toward the end of the song.

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