And my concept is very simple: Attack the listener from all sides. Let me explain. Music, like so many other art forms, is about contrasts. Weak / strong, dark / light and so on. For something to be experienced as big, something else must be smaller. This is important to remember from time to time. The last thing we want is for it to sound like the music lesson in grade eight where everyone plays at the same time, all the time…
Well, for the sake of simplicity, let’s say that we’re working on a classic rock song with drums, bass, two guitars, lead vocals and choirs. We know that it sounds fat with two guitars playing, distorted bass, slapback delay and record reverb on vocals and a whirl that really slams. But is this really needed all the time? The answer is often no.
If we instead decide to keep the verses reasonably dry and narrow, that is, only one guitar plays, the drums have less compression and reverb, the bass is not distorted and the song has less effects than in the chorus. A little more mono simply! Instead, we choose to pork on with extra everything when the chorus kicks in, and what happens? Well, the listener is attacked from all sides and we get:
A wider soundscape with two guitars panned out to the right and left, instead of just one in the verse. More song tracks are introduced and maybe even the overhangs of the drums are widened and strengthened a bit (if you have now chosen to narrow this down in the verse)
A deeper soundscape: More reverb on vocals, drums, etc., the choir of course also looks in with extra strength and dynamism.
A larger sound picture in terms of frequency: More top and bottom. Maybe you give the song an extra push in the middle register and the bass gets a little more sub and dist / harmonics. All to create the illusion of extra everything.
A stronger sound image: Several instruments play at the same time, which often makes the song feel fatter. However, this does not always have to be the case, sometimes it can also become mushy and then you just have to go back to the drawing board. In addition, it is almost always a good idea to consciously make the verses weaker, not only by playing fewer instruments, but also by using volume. Automate more!
The choirs are not to be forgotten if you work with singing. Sparse in the verses, studs and parts in the choruses. If this is the sound you are looking for.
Think about the rhythm. The verse often feels good playing a slightly simpler accompaniment, while the chorus pushes with fill-ins and extra beats.
Dare to think new. You could ignore all of the above and do just the opposite – A super small chorus with few instruments / elements. Maybe this is exactly what your song needs?
But … Doesn’t the verses sound boring then, maybe you’re wondering? Not necessarily, instead it’s about knowing what’s best for the song. If you have a good foundation to stand on, you can almost always peel off a lot and still capture the listener’s interest.
For what it’s really about is: Contrasts and attack the listener from all sides.
BONUS TIPS: Sometimes it does not help to add things to make the chorus sound fat, then it is better to remove in the verses!
Feel free to ask questions or comment on the article in the comment field below, and we will spin the topic together. Or if you prefer to discuss mixing in the “Mixing and mastering” section of the Studios forum here!
Fredagstipset is a recurring series where Studio writer Jon Rinneby shares tips every Friday in, among other things, recording and mixing. Here you will find all Friday tips.