Tag Archives: mixing

Mixing a Big Band CD – Part 1

Back in August of 2007 and January of 2008, a Big Band that I play in recorded two live performances for a “Demo CD”. Well, in the 2 some years since we made the two recordings, the project has become a full-blown album that is currently playing on Jazz Radio stations and available on the iTunes store. This is the multipart story of how I mixed 8 of the 17 songs on the CD.

The original idea was that we wanted more gigs, and that a lot of people wanted to hear the band before booking it, so we needed a “Demo CD”. At the time we had live recordings that I was making using my Rode NT 4, but a lot of them suffered from crowd noise, wind noise, etc. We wanted something a little bit better. So, we hired someone to do a live recording of the band. Each person individually mic’d, etc, etc. The first concert was in August of 2007, part of a Jazz thing the area puts on (though I don’t think they did it this year…..darn economy). It was held at the Blackhawk Auto Museum.

If you have been to the museum, or look at the pictures…..it is a recording person’s nightmare. Marble floors, surfaces where things bounce off of (cars, pillars, people), plus crowd noise. The crowd was there for a night of socializing and stuff, and as the evening went on, the noise became louder and louder (more on that in later). Anyhow, we had the concert, I made a live recording using my gear, and listened to it. Lots of noise, people talking, eating, dropping glasses, etc. Lots of reverb from the room (more like a Batcave to me).

The mix engineer pretty much decided that the session wasn’t going to yield a lot of material. I think he looked at 3 tracks or so. The project pretty much sat in limbo until the next concert where the scene was totally different. An actual performing arts center. A quiet audience. Acoustic grand piano (the Blackhawk gig the piano player used a keyboard). Different lead alto. Different microphones. Pretty much totally the opposite of the first recording session.

In the interval between the two concerts, I won a contest. Yeah. It DOES happen to people. So, suddenly I had stuff that was like…..pro level. Stuff I didn’t now how to use (I was a Digital Performer person since…..forever). And in January of 2008, my trusty old PowerMac Quicksilver 2002 (or my hackintosh, since I upgraded it to dual processor, etc etc) died and I replaced it with a 2008 MacPro Dual Quad-Core. The stars were aligning. In I believe March of 2008 I got to go to a mixing session. I had mentioned to the engineer that I had recently come into a ProTools setup (M-Powered), and if I could maybe get the tracks to the first concert to mess around with to get my feet wet in ProTools and whatnot. He agreed, and during that session in March, I brought a portable drive with me, and he loaded up a blank session (with like 3 edits he did) that was the Blackhawk concert. Something like 18 tracks totaling over 20 gigs of data……

Part two (what I got…..what a mess!) Coming soon.


I have had the pleasure the last few week to work on mixing a big band that I play in. We recorded 20 something tracks at a concert, and I was able to obtain the Pro Tools session, and set off to salvage the recording session. We recorded twice, and supposedly the second session was better, so, they have been mixing that in the studio. However, the vocalist who performs with us did way better the first session. It was a good way to get your feet wet with Pro Tools, and the whole mixing thing. I’ve always wanted to do a big project like this.

After some cutting, balancing, EQing, etc, etc, I had a fairly good mix happening, but it really lacked something. That something was a good reverb. I was using D-Verb, Pro Tools reverb. Not really all the great. Ozone 3 has a great reverb that I have been using (LOVE Ozone 3) on stuff, but it didn’t seem to do the job. What they were using in the studio was Altiverb, an amazing convolution reverb program.

I’m not going to do an in depth review of it, but what I will say is that this program made everything sound better. The right space, and the right amount made all my mixes finally work and pass the test with various band members. It adds that quality to sound that……it is not easily put into works. It’s the gel, it’s the glue, it’s the stuff. The right reverb just makes it work, and Altiverb is that sort of reverb. True, it was a lot of money, but it makes everything sound better. Even midi mockups sound more realistic now.

Highly recommended. 9.5 out of 10. .5 deducted for the use of iLok, which I’m beginning to hate.