Learn how to make cutting-edge House and Tech House with our 3 month online Production Certificate taught by Ben Remember & Jon Kong.
Since the days of his impressive album exclusives and the inaugural Run Away EP on Toolroom, BR has had 8 more releases that have hit or near hit top of the Beatport charts. All of which involved a massive amount of production, engineering and mixing knowledge, all stemming from Ben himself straight out of his Bristol studio.
His unmistakable production talent has consistently shone through over the years, and it was only a matter of time before he became a key member of the label and the Toolroom Academy.
Ben’s latest release ‘Bubieno’ offers 2 trademark slabs of chunky tech house that quite officially teared up summer-2018’s festivals and dancefloors aplenty! He has kindly offered us his time to walk us through the organisation and group mixing of the B-side ‘Mino’.
The best place to start is by looking at how Mino was organized. On the face of it this seems super simple or obvious and, in many ways, it is, but it’s as important as it is simple. It really helps with the mental battle of staying in control of a project, it’s all a part of the creative process. Having your project set up and organized in a clear and well thought out way will really help in keeping you focused on your songs which will really help in getting the project finished and keeping that ” I don’t know what to do next in this song” feeling at bay! If I have a mess of channels, all the same colour, not named properly and in any old order, I find it really hard to complete the project or to know what to do after the breakdown or to realize if the arrangement of the song is working, I just feel a bit lost. It’s a pure mental battle, so keeping things in order really helps me finish projects. So, let’s look at how I did that for Mino. I worked on my drums first, then my bass followed by instruments, vocals and finally EFX. Keeping things in order and in line with the following colours (yep, in every project).
You can see here how this all looks. Having my project set up in this way means I know where everything is and what every sound on each channel is. Giving me total freedom to be creative and in control. This system then extends to my group/buss channels, which we will look at next.
Now onto bussing all these channels into groups. Grouping channels means we can add plugins to the groups for final mixing and levelling rather than constantly tweaking each individual channel. Let us start by looking at how I grouped and bussed all my channels. The term ‘group channel’ is a channel that has multiple other channels sent to it, we refer to sending channels to groups as bussing. Using the colour method shown above, I make a group channel for Kicks, Percussions, Claps, Snares, Bass, Instruments, Vocals and Efx.
Here, you can see how my group channels are arranged, coloured and named. These 10 channels are my group channels.
You’ll notice that the Drums have an extra group channel, named ‘Drums’. The reason for this is because the drums are made up of several more parts that need individual attention (i.e. my kick and hats groups need to be processed differently) than the other groups. We can see here that all 3 of the kicks (main kick, kick layer and hi pass kick) are bussed to a kick group and then that group is bussed to the Drum group. We can see that same process for all the drums parts. This allows me to add EQ, compression, saturation or whatever plugins I want to each group before bussing them over to the main drum group for final mix work.
Here, you can see how I bussed the kicks from the original 3 channels, into the kick group and then finally into the Drum group. I also buss the 3 basslines into 1 bass group, 5 Instruments into 1 instruments group, all vocals into 1 vocal group and 8 efx into 1 efx group. Here’s how that works for the kick, moving from right to left, as it’s done on the mixer in Cubase.
Now we will look at each group channel and what plugins I used. You’ll notice I have a console one, at the top of the plugin list on each group channel. In some cases, this is the only plugin used. The console one by ‘soft tube’ is an Envelope shaper, EQ, Compression and Drive unit modelled on the SSL4000 desk. Starting with the drums….
Console one EQ. you can see a cut at about 30hz, a slight dip at 200 and a boost around 10k. Pretty standard looking eq for my drum buss.
Virtual Tape by slate digital
To add some worth, i just pushed the input until i got a warmer sound.
Decapitator by Sound Toys
This is actually turned off as i didn’t end up using it
Endless Smile by Dada Life
I use this to add extra little reverb, filter and dealy efx to my drums. It’s fantastic on Breakdowns.
Vertigo vsc2 by UAD
I use the compressor a lot. Ratio of 8 with a fast release and slow attack. Works a treat!
Console one. Pushing a touch of punch into the envelope shaper and then some quite dramatic EQing. Loads of muddy 200-500hz removed and a slight bump at 100hz, finally a dipped out at 10k. I pushed the drive on the output to get some more life from the kick. notice there is no compression on this kick group. I’m a big believer in using plugins when they are needed and not just because you can! I relied on the drum group compression for control with Mino. (this isn’t always the case)
Console one. Literally just EQing going on here. lots of low-end mud removed but a lot of the warmer life of the bongos push in as well as the tops to help them all stand out in the overall mix.
Console one. Another very simple group channel (often simple means cleaner, I rely on my sound choices when building the song over fixing issues with plugins). Some quite strong work on the envelope shaper and then mud removal on the EQ. Again, no Compression was needed, the drum buss compression is doing the work for me.
Console one. The snare had very little low end, so I was pretty safe here. Bit of a boost at the 250-300hz area and then a boost in the tops. I then loaded in a DBX160 by UAD into the Compression section, this has to be the best compressor to add bite or snap into any sound!! A bit of drive on the way out for good measure.
Console one. Just a simple bit of EQ’ing for the Hats. A lot of the legwork and tiding up was done of the individual hat channels, so these setting are to brighten the whole group up a touch, before bussing to the drums group.
Console one EQ. The bassline on Mino is made up from 3 sounds, so once these were sounding right I bussed all 3 to the Bass Group. I just needed to make sure they all worked together without carrying too much muddiness. So as you can see there is a sharp dip at 100hz *remember I boosted at 100hz with my kick. The group also needed some hiss removed in the top end.
Virtual Tape by Slate Digital
Just pushing the input until I’m almost in the Red, to add that warmth
Mono Plugin by Stienburg
Making sure my bass is in mono (some of the sampling I did for the basslines were in stereo)
Endless Smile by Dada Life
The same idea as the drums buss, I use this to add some efx to the bassline automating fills, breakdowns and anywhere it sounds cool.
1167 fet compressor by UAD
My favourite Compressor for basslines. A soft ratio of 4 with middle setting on attack and release. I find this one of the best compressors for playing about with. It’s not doing anything dramatic, but it glues the 3 sounds together and adds some life.
Console one EQ.Lots of sampling random sounds on this record, so I needed to remove a fair bit of noise from the top end. I did a bit of this to taste on each channel but then this extra EQ’ing on the group. It looks more dramatic than it sounds (I left out 1 or two of the trumpet sounds from this group as it sounded better that way).
1167 compressor by UAD
Subtle setting again with the 1176 on the instruments group. Just to glue and add some life to the group. This use of a compressor is much more about subtle use. Getting lots of subtle things right in a mix makes a much bigger impact that overworking your plugins.
Console one EQ. The vocal is an odd one that had loads of noise in the bottom end, so as you can see I needed to remove a lot as well as a harsh spike at about 1.5khz. But that was about it for the Eqing on the group. Again some more work was done to individual tracks (but not a lot) so on the group bus I am only tiding up some final frequencies before the Compressor.
The Legendary Teletronix LA-2A by UAD
I love this compressor for vocals. Very simple input and output controls. I balanced these until I had about -5db of gain reduction.
Console one. A super simple group with one. As you can imagine a lot of the work is on the individual tracks, so here I’m simply keeping the low end safe, by removing everything from under 100hz and then some light compression, just in case any of the peeks got out of hand in the build-ups.
And that brings us to the end of how I ”group mixed” Mino on Toolroom. I find this technique massively helpful for the final mix stage of a song. Not only can I do all these extra EQ and plugin works to all of the sounds but it also means I can balance my track via these 10 channels, which I find feels much less fiddly and far more ‘fun’, which at the end of the day is what it’s all about.
Having spent 10 years perfecting his craft before getting his big break, Ben Remember is well aware of the work new producers must put in before they get recognition – and as such, he is the perfect person to teach the Production Certificate.
The Production Certificate is our online course devised by Ben Remember and the senior music team at Toolroom Records.
To read the full curriculum and to gain more information on the 3-month online programme, follow this link.