There’s something so impressive about bands that play so fast your ears can barely keep up. Hearing a great speed metal or thrash band shredding through a set is an experience like no other. In the studio, all of that agility and technical proficiency can be hard to capture and even harder to mix.
But for mixers that work with these genres, there’s a lot to be said for an equal amount of technical proficiency and speed. The best engineers in this space keep pace with the bands they work with. They edit on the fly and they’re all about getting the raw, unfiltered sound of speed metal as they work.
When you get the perfect pairing of speed metal and speed mixing, you end up with some of the best aggressive music in the industry.
Note for Note
For every minute of music played by a speed metal band, musicians cram in more notes than most other genres play in an entire song. They’re often playing at amazingly high BPMs, which means everyone’s strumming, picking & hitting faster. In the studio, this usually means short bursts of recording to keep stamina and energy high. On stage, it means leaving everything on the stage night after night.
As a result, things can easily get messy when playing speed metal. Strings break and drum sticks splinter. When a band is in the studio, they need to constantly retune & re-string to keep this from affecting their tone.
And in the middle of all of that is the recording engineer at the computer trying to get every last drop of musicality from the band. The engineers on these sessions need to have an acute sense of timing to make sure they’re getting the best takes from artists. They’re hearing things that are off the grid by milliseconds and either nudging them in line or re-tracking as needed.
The job of a speed metal engineer is tireless.
It’s easy to think that these sessions need a ton of editing and mixing work to sound their best, but reality is that overproduction is a real threat to these genres. Everything can be made perfectly aligned, but the fans want artists who can really play their songs.
Overproducing a speed metal song is like over-tuning a pop vocal; nobody wants to listen when it’s obvious that it’s not natural.
Speed metal mixers often find a balance between production quality and effort by forcing themselves to work at the speed of the artists they’re mixing. By setting a short timer and going to work, speed mixers are able to address the big picture issues with a mix without getting lost in the minor details. Instead of spending hours at a time tweaking a single sound, they’re completing entire mixes in under an hour.
Working With A Limit
By limiting the amount of time they’re committing to a mix, these pros often shift their focus to creating clarity between instruments and bus processing. First, they’ll go in and clean up any muddiness or low-end buildup. This makes each instrument clearer and better defined.
From there, they’ll batch things together by routing them to busses or subgroups. By getting all of their guitars into one stereo track and drums into another, these instruments can be compressed together and have their levels adjusted as a group before the master fader.
Take a look at how this approach has benefited mixers like Mendel bij de Leij:
In a matter of MINUTES, Mendel was able to get a massive sounding speed metal mix. It just goes to show that with a bit of programming, some well-recorded parts & a simple session, amazing sounding mixes are completely within reach.
Speedy Signal Chains
Another place where many mixers are able to save a ton of time is with standard signal chain setups. By knowing exactly what plugins are needed in your mixes and the order they’re needed in, you can save a bunch of guesswork as you mix.
With our eBook, Virtual Signal Chain Secrets, we dispel some of the myths around standard signal chains and their presets. Take a look inside some of the most common professional signal chain approaches and see how you can use them to your advantage!