Mixing Zed Leppelin - What is and what should never be
This was a slightly more obscure choice and was not originally intended as one of the main songs to do, but it has actually turned out the best. I think this song suits tony’s voice the best of all these songs and the band played this song with a good bluesy swagger. It was also a song that while the raw take already sounded fantastic, the song itself has all sorts of effects and panning that we wanted to try and emulate.
The Original What is and What Should Never be, by Led Zeppelin (1970).
For the drums, we did start by importing the settings from the last song so some of these settings are identical. However, we did not do this blindly and we removed anything we didn't need.
The kick in this song is not a prominent feature. It’s there, it doesn’t sound bad, but it isn't punchy or driving the song like some of the other songs. So With similar settings to the other songs, the kick did not sound right for this song. I actually listened to the original and compared it to ours with no kick at all and it sounded way closer, I did use the kick but, with EQ and no other effects. I just bought the fader up till it added something to the overheads.
The snare, on the other hand, is right up there in the mix and has a huge crack to it. We managed to achieve this simply with EQ and tape saturation. The overheads were left pretty natural with just a little bit of room reverb added and we used some compression on the drum bus.
EQ used on Kick
EQ used on Snare
Snare Tape Saturation
Drum Bus Compression
The bass sound we had recorded for this song fit quite well, we didn't do a whole lot to it we basically just levelled the mics using more of the SM57 and MD421 with a smaller amount of the room mic. We choose not to use the D112 or the DI as they were not adding the tone the song needed and we had everything we need with just a careful balance of 3 mics. We used an HPF cut at 150Hz just to let the kick breath.
The guitar sound we had recorded for this song was really similar in the softer parts and in the heavier parts we had a very similar tone but with a lot less grit. We actually really liked the tone we achieved on this one and felt it suited the song and Tony's voice really well so we decided to leave it as is and then add more grit at the end of the song for some added dynamics.
As with all these songs, we had double-tracked the guitars but in this song rather than balancing the mics evenly and panning the 2 takes left and right we made a different blend of the microphones for left and right. We also automated the guitars to come down a bit in the interlude to add to the dynamics so the end part would be really big sounding.
Now the vocals for this song were one area we really had to play around with effects and get it just right and while the other elements of the song seemed to just fall into place this was an area we had to revisit. Thankfully on one of the last mixing sessions, I had for this song my lecturer Rose Parker popped her head into the studio and gave me some much-needed advice explaining how the controls on the Reel Tape Flanger actually work. From using tape delay I understood what the feedback and flutter controls did, but I didn't fully grasp the rate and depth. She explained that the rate controlled the pitch of the oscillator, in this case, 0.5Hz - 5Hz which in turn controls the speed of the delay and the depth controls the amount of modulation over time or how much you are changing the signal. In this case, I wanted a slow but dramatic effect so I set a slow rate and high depth. I also played with the wet/dry mix which controls how much of the original signal you hear compared to the affected signal. You need to hear both so you can hear the movement in the sound so I started on 50% but after tweaking it I set it at 40% wet as this is were it seemed to sound right, which makes a lot of sense for a vocal to hear a little bit more of the original sound.
EQ used on Vocals
Flanger used on Vocals
Here is a couple of articles that furthered my research on using flanger
When I'd first started working on this sound and couldn't get exactly what I wanted I had tried using a mooger fooger phaser which was just set on a preset called your sister is pretty. It added some presence to the voice and a bit more phasing I had it muted while I tweaked the Flanger but I turned it back on and actually really liked what it added to the sound so I decided to keep it. There was some mild EQ and Compression on the vocals and in this case even though I had the monster Compressor and U67 on the individual channels I also added a group bus compressor to the vocal bus just to saturate the vocals and kind of glue them together.
Phaser used on Vocals
This is where things got really interesting, at the end of the song there's a section where the guitar riff just jumps from left to right and the vocal does also in a less extreme manner. At first I tried to do this by cutting the clips and then with automation but it was tedious, time-consuming and didn't sound right so I ended up sending the signal to the desk and manually panning it on the pan knobs and recording my live performance back into ProTools this was really quick and easy and only took a few attempts, plus it sounded heaps better. This is where as an engineer having a bit of rhythm goes a long way. This really added to the dynamics and the drama at the end of the song.
Reverb For the reverb, we used a medium room with a lot of pre-delay 80ms which created a big space between the sound and the reverberation we used a moderate amount of decay. This created a kind of rhythmic swell which I really liked. We EQ'd the reverb to cut the lows and bring up a bit of the presence around 4Khz.
EQ used on Reverb
In conclusion, I'm really glad we had the opportunity to record and mix this song as it was a really good learning experience trying to emulate the production values in this song. It has real natural dynamics with enhanced stereo effects. It was the song that the band performed the best and it was an absolute pleasure to mix. Check out our mix below.
Zed Leppelin - What is and what shall never be
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