I just finished mixing a song that may have quite possibly been the worst song I've ever recorded. I'll keep names aside to protect the innocent (or guilty depending on how you look at it). I found this song to be incredibly hard to mix. I mean that I intended to make a quick pass at mixing this song. (I'm mixing in the box). So anyway, I just wanted to take 15 minutes and get a decent balance so that I could come in later and really kick ass on it.
Well, it took me about an hour and a half to get levels balanced. Why? Well, I really don't know. I can tell you a few of my guesses though.
The chorus didn't hit.
This is a hard rock song I'm mixing. Generally, the choruses should hit. This doesn't necessarily require the quiet to loud thing I was raised on, but it means that there should be some sort of emotional something that sticks out a little more in the choruses. This song just didn't escalate in any way. I found myself trying to somehow create this energy boost with little success. There are certainly mixing tricks that can increase the energy of a chorus but no one them seam to work.
There were no big drum fills going into the choruses.
This is another thing that nearly every great song has. There is some sort of rythmic
something that happens that tells your ears to listen up because something great is about to happen. I hear a lot of drummers talk about playing interesting parts. I have never really understood what an "interesting" drum part is, but I know when a song isn't interesting and it often has to do with drums not doing simple, but BIG fills at the right times.
Examples: Sweet Child Of Mine - Guns N Roses. Listen to what the drums are playing going into chorus. It's about as simple as you can get, but it is one HUGE fill (in my opinion). Imagine if that song had just sort of went into the chorus without that big fill. Not the same!
On the other side of the coin, there are electronic styles of music that use looping quite a bit. These styles have found other ways to let the listener know a song is transitioning into a more intense part of the song. My point is that big drum fills are not exactly required for every song in every genre.
The song didn't flow or drive.
When I was mixing this song, I didn't feel like the verse flowed in the chorus or the chorus flowed into the next part. It was just like a bunch of parts were assembled that barely fit each other. I guess this is a function of the emotional impact of the song. Without a strong emotional energy in a song, why would a person give a damn if the song moves to the next part. In my opinion, songs should be like the old cartoon cliché. You hop on a horse or llama's back with a carrot dangling from a string in front of it's face. This makes the horse or llama move forward and sort of creates that driving effect I was referring to.
I didn't sing along.
I've caught myself singing along to just about any great song. This doesn't mean the song has to be a vocal dominated song either. People sing along to Master of Puppets all the time and it is definitely not a vocal dominated song. It's a metal guitar song. So, regardless of the genre, you and everyone within hearing distance should be singing along. If they are not...the song probably sucks.
The song was way longer than it needed to be.
I'm not against long songs. I love all sorts of long songs. However, a song needs to be long because it's going to so many different places that it needs a long time to cover all of these basis. I have no problem with that. However, there is simply no reason to make a 4 minute song 8 minutes. People can always listen to it twice if it's that big of deal.
I just wanted to share a few tips so maybe someone won't have to mix your crappy songs.