"Completely Free"


This song is by a cool metal band from San Diego called Mandala. They had me mix this song back in the spring of 2016. They recorded themselves at home using a basic eight channel Focusrite interface and Audix drum mic kit. The raw tracks were actually pretty good quality for the way they were recorded, but for the really aggressive modern metal sound they are going for the tracks needed a lot of work. The biggest things that needed to be addressed were the guitar and drum tones which needed to feel a lot bigger, heavier, and more in-your-face. The kick and snare definitely needed more power, the cymbals were a bit thin, and the toms needed a lot more definition and energy. The raw vocals felt a little small as well. Because they were recorded on a dynamic mic in a small dry space, they needed to be brightened up, have some of the mud removed, and be given some extra size with some subtle reverbs. In addition, like most home recordings, I felt everything needed to be "glued" together a bit and to be given a sense that they're all playing together in the same space rather than recorded separately which gives the song a more powerful feel.

Here's a section of the song the way it was before mixing, and the same section after mixing: (listen with headphones or good speakers if possible)


In addition to the big picture things that needed to be addressed, there were also a couple parts of the songs that I was able to be more creative with effects to make the song really feel polished and professional. 

First is a clip from the intro of the song which starts out with a single guitar before adding additional parts and building up. In the raw tracks the solo guitar felt pretty small so I knew I wanted to make it a little thicker and clearer, but also give it some interesting effects to give it a cooler sense of space to help it stand alone. In addition, when the other parts enter I wanted to make it feel bigger and more balanced. The original tracks only had one take of the rhythm guitar so I needed to add a doubled part so that the stereo image could be more balanced. Finally, I wanted to make sure that each time more instrumentation was added it felt like the power and volume was building.

Here's a clip from the intro before and after mixing:


Finally, there's an instrumental break towards the end of the song that felt a little empty to me. Like the intro, there's one guitar that is playing a riff that feels a little small that needed to be enhanced. It is accompanied by a couple sustained chords from the rhythm guitar, and again there was only one take of it so I knew I wanted to do something to add some balance in the stereo field. However, unlike the intro, I didn't want to double that guitar because I wanted the energy in the instrumental section to come down a little bit so that when the next section of the song came in I could create impact by adding more parts back into the instrumentation. It's much easier to make something seem big if it is preceded by something small. So in this section I used some interesting panning to create space, balance, and a different feel than the rest of the song. Another issue with this section was the sustained chords which ended just a little bit too early and left a couple little gaps that made it feel a little empty, so I had to use a combination of stretching and effects to make those chords feel longer and to create a bed of sound for the lead guitar. Finally, there is some cymbal work on the drums and a fill before the full band re-enters that needed a little enhancement to really shine.

Here's the instrumental section before and after mixing:


Of course home recordings always have their limitations, and the final product could have been even better if it was recorded here, but overall the band and I were super happy with how this came out. It's great to be able to take something that was done with a pretty basic recording set up and make it sound professional. If you liked the song please take a minute to check out and "like" Mandala's Facebook page and maybe check out some of their shows around San Diego.  



-Peter Duff

Head Engineer