Academy Dashboard › Forum › Collaboration - Competition › Competitions (Mixing, Songwriting, etc.) › 'It sounds like what?' Reference Set May Mixing Challenge › Reply To: 'It sounds like what?' Reference Set May Mixing Challenge
Maybe it'll help to run you what I did and some of my though processes? I wanted to treat this more like a client gig, so started with some advice from a mastering engineer I used for references. He'd ask for three references - something it's supposed to sound like, something you like, something you've been listening too.
All in all I want to make the song more itself, within the imagined constraints of trying to get a break-out hit with a alt/pop-rock vibe, rather than necessarily sound like something in particular.
To role-play the band, I started on spotify and went through the album version to figure out how it sounded, then did similar artists and their other tracks. OK, this track is quite different and I can't picture it as country rock in my head. I'm placing more as a svengali's attempt at a break-out track, so I need to get more pop in referencing.
Now I need to cover off a few things: what are some tracks that are pop, but a bit alt, maybe some rock vibe. Don't want 5SOS, they're too punky and young. I need these for overall sonic character - something to mix to so it'll sit well on the radio. OK, that gives me Whatever It Takes, Dusk Till Dawn, Pompeii. Also, I like them enough it's not going to grate. I'm going to chuck in Florence+Machine as a personal favourite, it has great fullness and balance, even if it's not a real target.
Next up we need some genre ideas. Well, already got Bastille, it feels like a close modern fit, maybe I want something between them and Maximo Park and The National. Bastille have a very sweet sound, but lack Maximo's edge. National are super dark but have these driving drums that fit with the vibe I'm feeling.
Now we've covered audience and genre, what are some gaps in the EP version I feel I want to fill? The guitars are a bit soft (texturally) and they hide some of the rhythmic texture and drive. Some of the transitions between parts are a bit smeary and loose emotive impact. Vocal are up a bit too high. There I have a hit list of big things I want to beat (as Warren puts it 🙂 ).
We've got a lot of that covered, but let's add in a couple more detail references. Bandages has this crazy energy in the chorus, really cuts through but is not tiring, maybe will work with the sample HH track. Vision Bell gets intense in the top end but never overwhelming, and the cymbals peaking through is icing on the cake. Good reference for how to keep the top end I already like in the original. My Shadow as a massive emotional intensity to it. When I look at what bothers me about what I want to fix it's not the purely technical side so mach as that they hide some of the emotion I feel inside the song. This is an inspiration to break that out from under the covers.