Mixing Zed Leppelin - Good Times, Bad Times.
So with Immigrant Song under our belts and some really positive feedback from band and peers alike, we set about mixing the next song. Good Times, Bad Times is quite a different sounding song and it became very apparent to us that we really should have adjusted the tone of the guitar and bass to the reference for each song before we hit record, instead of just going for a “Zeppelin” sound. Because the truth of the matter is the Zeppelin sound is more about how they play and the production techniques differ across the recordings. The first album was actually recorded in one studio, but the next few albums were tracked on tour in different spaces and pieced together at the end. So a one sound fits all approach was definitely an oversight.
The Original Good Times, Bad Times by Led Zeppelin (1969).
Upon listening to the original song we noticed the drums did not have the panoramic drum sound of the Glyn Jones Technique and since it was during the sessions for the first Zeppelin album that Glyn Jones discovered the technique it’s no surprise that it’s not used on every song. Obviously, the band probably used many different drum setups over the course of their career. So we approached the drums for the recordings knowing that not every song would have this setup but also knowing it would have been out of the scope of the project to set the mics up for the drums differently on each song, which is why we choose the quintessential method associated with the Zeppelin sound. We managed to get a pretty good overall sound, that worked well for our purposes.
We used very similar settings on the kick to Immigrant Song. EQ to boost the resonance, cut the mud and boost the beater. Compression with a Slow attack and fast release to add punch and a limiter to compress it a bit harder at the last stage and make it feel closer.
EQ Settings on the Kick
Compression Settings on the Kick
Limiter Settings on the Kick
The sound of the snare we had was actually pretty close to this, so it was just some mild EQ to add resonance and presence. We also drove some tape saturation to add a bit of crack to the snare. Adding noise to a snare can really bring it to life.
EQ Settings on the Snare
Tape Saturation on the Snare
The overheads in the original have a lot of sibilances and when Bonzo goes to Bitburg it’s out of control. We did use a High shelf to add some air to the overheads in reference to the original, holding back just a bit because the original was quite over the top.
High Shelf used on Overheads
The bass tone in the original is round and warm but still has enough presence. Our bass sound was strong but thin and kind of 80’s sounding, so after much trial and error with every plugin under the sun, I decided to send the bass through the Neve console to add some warmth. I balanced all 4 mics and the DI and sent them all through one mono channel on the desk. I boosted 180Hz, 330Hz, 2.7 kHz and used an LPF at 7.8kHz to cut off some of the highs. This worked a real treat but was still not it. So we added some compression with a slow attack and a slow release but with a lower threshold make it controlled and round. We also added a bit of saturation to get that bold gritty sound and then tidied it up with a final stage EQ to sit it back in the mix.
Compression used on Bass
Final Stage EQ used on bass
The guitar in the original is quite warm and fuzzy. It's just sitting in the mix nicely, kind of glueing everything together. We had a much stronger trebly guitar sound, which still sounded like Zeppelin, just not this particular song. We didn't really want to replace it with a sound similar to the original, we wanted to add an element of that original vibe to what we already had.
So we choose to run just the DI back through the Neve and overdrive the input gain, plus we rode the EQ in the lows and the highs. We did this while listening to it with and without the mix playing and we ended up with something that sounded weird on its own but really good in the mix and that's really what matters. When this signal was brought up just the right amount with the other guitar tracks we already had, it added just the flavour we were looking for. Once the balance was right we added a final stage EQ to the guitars to sit them in the mix, basically just making small cuts for the vocals to cut through. We also added a bit more saturation to the bus for the rhythm guitars still trying to get more grit. The guitar solo did not need much it sounded pretty raunchy already, we just added some lower mids with a wide boost around 400Hz to make it stick out in the mix.
EQ on Rhythm Guitar Bus
EQ on Lead Guitar Bus
The vocals in this song didn't really require anything drastic. We used the monster compressor and a U67 Emulator to add colour and we just used an HPF on the vocals cutting at 300Hz on the main lower vocal to make them stick out in the mix and cutting at 200Hz on the higher parts to allow the tone of his voice to still sound full on those sections. His voice still sounded quite thin overall so we added 30ms of delay, not to hear a noticeable delay but just to thicken the sound of his voice. In the original song, his voice sounded quite dry but not completely dry.
Virtual Mix Rack on Vocals
EQ on Lower Vocals
EQ on Higher Vocals
The Reverb in the original song was quite natural and we knew we had to be subtle. We used a small room reverb with lots of pre-delay and short decay so that it would sound like it was in a room but would not be excessive. We sent a subtle amount of the snare, overheads and guitar to the verb just to position it in the room but sent a more generous amount of the vocals through which fills the vocal sound out quite nicely.
Tape Saturation Once everything was done I felt as though the vocals still sounded kind of separate from the rest of the mix, in fact, the whole mix wasn't really glued together as well as it could be. It was also much cleaner than the original even though all the elements sounded good I wanted to kind of add a more LoFi vibe to the whole mix. I turned to my good old friend tape saturation. I've been mostly using the Real Tape Saturation which can be quite brittle and I really wanted to add more warmth so I thought I'd try something different, so I tried the Ozone Tape saturation.
I'm not going to claim I'm an expert on using the settings in this particular plugin and this was just a subtle finishing touch so I went through the presets picking ones that suited each element of the mix. I added different settings to the Drums, Bass and Vocals but it was not really adding anything to the guitars so I decided against it. I also had real tape saturation on the master aux right from the start of the mixing process which I had driven slightly and added a bit of noise, This is often the first thing I do so that I am mixing to the saturation and in this case it was obvious right from the start that I would need tape saturation in this mix.
Drum Tape Saturation
Bass Tape Saturation
Vocal Tape Saturation
Master Tape Saturation
In conclusion, this was a difficult song to emulate with the equipment, we currently have available to us. There was so much colour and character in the original and even though on a technical level it was far from perfect but to the ears of generations of Led Zeppelin fans, it is perfect just how it is. It was quite a learning process to emulate the things I love about the mix while making critical decisions on what to tone down and what to reshape. I am really proud of the end result, check it out below...
Zed Leppelin - Good Times, Bad Times Pre-Master (2017).
Tony Hollis - Vocals
Daniel Cox - Guitar
Dean Ristuccia - Bass
Brett Bradley - Drums
Recorded by Shay Jagger, Adam Higginson & Jaxon Arundell
Mixed by Shay Jagger and Adam Higginson