There is no right or wrong method of mixing a layered beatbox recording, just good or bad results! Some mix engineers like to start with all the layers or tracks (fader controls) up, turning them down one at a time until the correct balance is achieved. We will call this the top down approach. Some like to start with all the layers or tracks (fader controls) at zero and to bring them up one at a time. We will call this the bottom up approach. Some like to start with the backing track first and others like to start with the lead first. However, most agree that you should mix as a whole - that you should not treat each component separately and hope they all go together! For example, you wouldn’t purchase the carpet, curtains and wallpaper without checking that the colours matched first. In the same way you should constantly check that components fit together every time you make a change.
The Bottom-Up/Lead First Approach
The method we use in this series is the bottom-up/lead first approach because it is simple and helps retain the focus of the beatbox recording. It also flies in the face of the temptation to start with the drums (beatbox backing - i.e. the bit we like to focus on) and work your way up through the frequency spectrum! This approach mixes the components in the following order:
- Lead (e.g. Singing or MCing
- Bass (e.g. vocal bass)
- Drums (e.g. beatboxing)
- Rhythm (e.g. chumming)
- Incidentals (e.g. vocal scratching)
You start with all the layers or fader controls down and bring up the lead component. You mix the lead component, then bring up the bass component. You may SOLO the bass component temporarily whilst treating but make sure it sits with the lead part before moving on to the percussion component. Bring up the percussion component, and so on… The reason for mixing in this order is that the lead component should be the focus of the track and should sound stunning in its own right. The vocal bass is mixed next as it holds the bottom end together and often gives the track its groove and feel. The bass also has its own frequency range that is usually separate from that of the lead. The beatbox drums are mixed next as they complement the bass component without interfering. They too have their own specific frequency range. The rhythm component such as humming can be slotted between the bass and lead parts and the incidental parts such as scratching can be tailored to fit in any gaps. The order for treating each component depends on the sound being treated, but for a typical mono part you would choose the following order:
- Registal Placement (set the frequency spectrum of the component within the mix)
- Depth (place the component front to back within the mix)
- Width (place the component within the stereo field)
In the next part we find out how this is done!