Mix Reflection: 4 Track Acoustic Ballad

It is not often that I receive a session with only four tracks (though this is great for file transfers). At first glance, I thought this will be so much simpler than a large session – however four tracks means that all for tracks are extremely exposed and need to be perfected and blended well to make the mix happening.

The session consisted of a single mono acoustic guitar track, two stereo synth string tracks for texture, and a lead vocal. On the strings, I simply used a tool to get some more stereo width out of the tracks and cut a few mid frequencies while boosting some air.

On the guitar track, I first send the track to an aux which contained a doubler with some small delays in left and right channels with a very slow LFO. I blended this in with the original to just give it a bit more thickness and depth. I then used some fairchild style compression to alter the tone a bit but then used a transient tool to enhance the picking of the guitar. Then boosted some air and finger noises for added clarity.

The vocal track was well sung and recorded, no tuning was needed. I wanted the vocal to be intimate and to allow the listener to hear every breathe and nuance of the voice. I first compressed with la-2a style compression, almost used more as a leveler. I then used a tube styler compressor to manage more of the dynamic fluctuations, but it was not working hard. For eq, I filtered out some of the low end, slightly cut some low mids, and then boosted the airiness in the voice.

To help bring all of these elements together I used various reverbs. One Hall reverb was used to put everything in the same room so to speak. Then the vocals were sent to a plate and another hall with varying time and frequency response to give some great depth and thickness to the voice.

On the master, used a Neve style console emulation to get a nice warm tone followed by two stages of very soft compression. Some small eq cuts where made in and some top end was boosted for shininess. Final limiting was very minimal and only began to kick in at the loudest section.

A nice tune by a Finnish artist “Moon Windigo.”