Mastering Spotlight: Funkasutra
Hey folks, it's Rob again from the Studio.
This blog is all about passing on my experiences to you and telling you about interesting situations in my everyday life in music production. I want to give you a little insight into the craft to hopefully help you understand it better and maybe get something out of it for your productions. So with this entry, I'm going to start a spotlight series for unusually cool or interesting jobs.
The band "Funkasutra" is from Switzerland and they make what I would consider dirty, maybe "sexy" funk. A little bit of electronics, but mostly real instruments and real musicians. They gave me three tracks for a new release called "Push'n Pull".
Something I always do before even touching a knob is listen to the material, get a feel for it and maybe an idea of where I want it to be when it's done. With this one, I wanted a dry, well articulated sound with a good amount of bass and a little "dirt". Since the mixes were already good, my job was merely polish and optimize.
I could walk you through the entire process, but rather than doing that, I'd like to focus on one particular step, which was an interesting one for me.
Even though the 3 tracks wouldn't be released on CD, I still wanted them to sound like they fit together, so that means I don't want to have major color changes throughout the songs.
That went pretty well for the most part, but one of the 3 tracks had a distinct lack of bass. It was the kind of lack where you couldn't just fix it with a shelving EQ, or any EQ for that matter, because there was nothing to boost. The question was: "How do I generate bass when there is none?"
I know that I can "generate" or rather suggest bass frequencies using the tape simulation on the Crane Song HEDD. It usually rounds up everything that's there and makes it more spacious towards the bottom.
Comparable in job, yet very different in sound, I can use the Tegeler EQP-1. Just by incorporating it into the signal flow, it opens up the bass towards to bottom and makes it richer. The sound is much tighter though, not as round as the Crane Song.
I could try and beat the odds and EQ my way out of it with any number of tools..
Well, none of that worked. It sounded either unbalanced, too muddy or not deep enough for me to like it. The thing that did it in the end was the Vari Tube Compressor, which I didn't expect. Somewhat like the Crane Song, the VTC adds bass when engaged (even when not compressing at all) and it also sounds rather round. However, the effect of the VTC is usually more subtle in that than the Crane Song and EQP-1.
The effect was almost unbelievable. It magically made low end appear where I needed it and in tandem with the EQP-1, the bass got really full, but not too rough or muddy.
I've tried achieving the same result with only digital tools, however there's no emulation of the device that I used, so I could only approximate it with plugins that are somewhat similar to the hardware. I didn't manage to do it quite that well, but I wouldn't be surprised if the right plugin emulation of a piece of hardware could produce a similar result.
This case is a great example of the "character" of a piece of hardware. I find myself using the VTC not as a compressor but a "sound shaping device" more and more.
All in all that tells us that we should sometimes look outside the box for a solution and we should never stop pushing our tools and finding out more of what they can do.
P.S.: You can listen to the songs here