May 21, 2010, 15:55

In Part I of this series I described the tracking process behind the 1st of twelve production music tracks produced for our Free Music collection. Uber-guitarist Brad Long and I met every Friday at his home studio (Logic 8 running on a MacBook pro) with one creative goal: Write music tracks that belong in a video. And more importantly, enjoy the process! At some sessions we talked endlessly about relationships, money, and the meaning of life while simultaneously laying down instrument parts sanctioned by a system of grunts and nods. Twenty minutes later we’d realize something cool had been created while we weren’t even paying attention.

This week I’ll focus on the mixing process for that 1st track, which has now been appropriately titled “Personal Hygiene”.

The Great Wide Bass

Years ago acclaimed recording engineer Russ Fowler (Rage Against the Machine, John Mayer) imparted to me the importance of widening the bass in a mix. “You want to create a nice, warm bed of low frequencies that the other instruments can sit in. I like to make sure the bass is spread nicely across the stereo field, but that means you may need to cut out some 2K [with an EQ]. 2K is the frequency where the human ear is most sensitive so you want to let the bass fill out every frequency except that one. Save that space for the other instruments.”

Here’s a sample of this track’s bass part (originally played by me using a preset patch on my Roland Fantom X6) as it originally sounded:


And here’s the same part treated with Russ Fowler’s “widening” technique via chorus and EQ:


Nice, huh? Now onto the drums….

New York Drum Compression

I first heard the term “New York Compression” from Mike Hines (guitarist Randall Bramblett and one of the most popular musicians in the catalog), but was already familiar with the basic technique of “parallel” drum mixing through conversations with producer Paul Lipscomb. Parallel compression is when you have several channels of your drum mix playing simultaneously, but each with strong and distinct effects (one dry, one with compression, one with reverb and one with a transient modifier).

Here’s a sample of this track’s drum part (performed on a Fibes kit by Kevin “Pony” Caldwell and augmented with a quarter note kick drum loop from Logic) as it originally sounded:


And here’s the same drum track where the drum mix is playing out of two channels, one of which contains a TON of compression:


I hear a big difference.

Put it all together and I now had this solid rhythm track on which to lay my guitars and vocals:


In my next installment of this blog series I’ll talk about how I mixed in the upper frequency instruments and how this royalty-free production music track was mastered. Stay tuned.


Mike Bielenberg is a professional musician and co-founder of, a production music marketplace where media producers and business owners can license high-quality, affordable music from a online community of musicians.

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