Valente Bertelli is a recording artist and producer based in Los Angeles. Here, he breaks down the track "It Don't Matter" from his latest album, Music For Rooftops.
“It Don't Matter” is a track that I had lying around for quite a long time. Originally it was mostly soft synths and guitar, but after recording at Aaron Embry's studio (an amazing artist and keyboard player in his own right), it became a bit of a beast of multiple ideas sandwiched together.
I had a clear vision of what I wanted to get out of the track emotionally, but there were too many elements to balance all of it out. To help with some of the finishing mixing issues I was having, I called on the help of three good friends, Joel Newman, Appu Krishnan and Adam Samuels. Here's the finished track.
It Don't Matter
Baking the Backgrounds
For this track, the lead vocal and background vocal compliment each other in a way where they need each other to function. So it was important to pop them out and separate them from each other. Cue the Cooper Time Cube Mk II Delay plug-in!
Whenever I have a track in the mix that I want to showcase, but don't want it to overwhelm, I reach for the Cooper.
Here are the background vocals dry:BG Vox Dry
I wanted the backgrounds as a constantly moving presence. To that end, I added the BOSS® CE-1 Chorus Ensemble plug-in, my favorite chorus.
And here are the backgrounds with UAD plug-ins:BG Vox Wet
I used the Teletronix “Gray” LA-2A from the Teletronix® LA-2A Classic Leveler Collection to gently squeeze the backgrounds and keep them "tidy." The CE-1 also helps deliver a different timbre than the lead vocal, while also giving the part movement.
Lead Vocal Treatment
I wanted to keep the main vocal loud and proud in the middle.
Here is the lead vocal dry:Main Vox Dry
For the background vocals, I kept the same setting on the Cooper throughout, as it only appeared in the choruses.
But for the lead vocal, I automated the Cooper Time Cube’s Panning control. During the intro and chorus, with the Wet/Solo engaged, the panning on each side set to 100%. When the line is repeated, it's at 50%. Eventually, when the backgrounds are gone, I bypassed the Cooper completely. Sidenote: sometimes just turning the Cooper on without doing anything to it can really do wonders for a track!
Here is the lead vocal wet:Main Vox Wet
The vocal was a bit too sibilant, and the Teletronix LA-2A just enhanced that issue, so we put a Precision De-Esser plug-in after the compression — quite unconventional — so we could then EQ things and raise some of the high end without enhancing the sibilance. Therefore, we went for the Harrison® 32C / 32C SE Channel EQ plug-in. The final touches were put on by the 1176 from the 1176 Classic Limiter Plug-In Collection to make it pop even more, and the Neve® 1081 / 1081SE Classic Console EQ plug-ins to make the treble spring out even more. It was all a mostly corrective endeavor, but the emotion in the take was really worth salvaging.
Noise Lead Makeover
I really loved the Noise Lead in this track, but as we were mixing it, it just wasn't popping out. The part brings a bittersweet, off-kilter element to the track that I wanted to have pierce through without becoming harsh.
Here is the part dry:Noise Lead Dry
To the rescue came the Helios™ Type 69 EQ and the Roland CE-1. I think the Helios 10 KHz boost doesn't get enough love for its ability to make something stick out without sounding brittle. In fact, I see it as a different flavor of what a Pultec EQ can do.
And here it is with UAD plug-ins:Noise Lead Wet
I love how the CE-1 can be subtle, but relentless, in its ability to make something pop out of the mix. Whenever I am using chorus, I always think of this analogy: If you have 10 of the same pictures side by side in front of you, but only one of them is gently moving, which one do you look at? Same thing here; just having that element swaying ever so slowly makes it stand out in an unobtrusive way.
Saving the Drums
The drums on this song were quite a problem. We had an amazing drummer, Steve Nistor play on the entire record, but when we got back to my studio to do the mix, it turned out the files for this performance were corrupted, so we had to go back and use the BFD demo drums.
The drum tones soloed were ok, but making them crack and pop out of the mix was not obvious — especially with so many other elements in the mix to compete against. The trick here was getting the details from the main drum track, while getting the compressed aggressiveness from parallel compression.
Here are the drums dry:Drums Dry
I used an LA-2A set with very low peak reduction, just to shave off gently and in a round fashion, the overall peaks here and there. Then went to town with both a Trident® A-Range Classic Console EQ and a Manley® Massive Passive EQ plug-in, to try and squeeze out as much tone as we could out of the "fake" drums. Then in order to emulate somewhat the Andy Johns' trick of compressing the overheads, I squashed the hell out of the parallel compression channel, using an Teletronix® LA-3A Classic Audio Leveler plug-in. I tried several different compressors here, but for some reason the LA-3A unexpectedly was the winner.
Here are the drums with UAD plug-ins:Drums Wet
This was a perfect example of trying things which logically would not be the first weapon of choice, so to speak. You can hear how when the snare starts, there is a massive difference both tonally and presence-wise. Of note, is the fact that the parallel compression track is a lot louder than the original one, however the EQing is on the main track, which is what makes all of it possible.
Visit Valente at https://soundcloud.com/vforvalente.