Mixing and editing

Yesterday I started mixing and editing “Down the Brae / Ballydesmond Polka #2 / Ballydesmond Polka #3,” the most recent track for The Hanshaw Trio‘s home recording, and today I just finished mixing it down.

Mixing involves things like panning, effects, and volume. I set the panning so that the fiddle is 33% to the right, the dulcimer 33% left, and the guitar is centered. Then I add just a hair of reverb to the fiddle.

The interesting part is drawing the volume envelopes. If I had a mixing board, I would move the faders manually; newer boards can record this movement so that mixing can be automated. With the software we’re using, Cakewalk’s Guitar Tracks, I could do the same thing, using the mouse to move the faders and having the program record that movement. However, I find it easier to use their envelope method instead.

You start by creating an envelope, which shows up as a straight line on the track, with a dot (node) at each end. You can then add more nodes and define the movement from one to the next (jump, linear, fast curve, slow curve).

My first task is to mix large chunks, like sections where dulcimer has the melody or sections where the guitar is fingerpicking. Then I may have to make smaller, shorter adjustments like when a particular guitar strum goes over 0 dB (which creates distorted noise), or where the fiddler stepped away from his mic a bit and therefore needs a boost. I think some folks use a tool called compression to deal with the guitar spike problem, but it’s easy enough just to add a dipping node at each spike, so I haven’t explored the compression option.

This particular medley involved editing the best “Down the Brae” take with the best “Ballydesmonds” take. We started the “Ballydesmonds” takes with the last two measures of “Down the Brae”; the overlap gives me more elbow room to find the best editing point. I ended up switching dulcimer tracks at the point where I hit a bass note before starting a set of arpeggios leading into the “Ballydesmonds.” I switched the fiddle and guitar over a bit later after their last “Down the Brae” notes had faded out.

Today’s work involved finishing mixing the individual tracks, and then mixing down the three tracks into a single stereo track, which will later be converted into a WAV file ready to burn onto a CD.

I like this medley. It has a lot of energy and momentum. And I’m especially impressed with the guitar work on this one. Kudos to Craig.