Mix Notes for ‘Up North’

This is getting into the weeds a bit, but some of you might enjoy stuff like this so I’m posting it here. As you know, we’re currently in the mixing stage of the “Up North” album process. If I wrote the whole process out — conception to where we’re at right now — into steps, it’d look like this:

STEP 1: Write songs
STEP 2: Record work tape versions of songs (iPhone voice memo)
STEP 3: Record demo versions of songs (guitar/vocal, very little production)
STEP 4: Record studio version of songs with production (fully realized sonic version of what I’ve been hearing in my head)
STEP 5: Send rough mix of song for reference to mixing engineer along with all audio files per song
STEP 6: Mixing engineer (David Welsh) mixes first round (_MIX_A) of each song and sends to Aaron and Heidi for notes
STEP 7: Aaron and Heidi compare notes and send back to David
STEP 8: David sends Aaron and Heidi second round of mixes (_MIX_B)
STEP 9: Repeat STEP 7 and 8

With Dave and Heidi’s permission I’m showing you our email thread:


Dave, you’re simply the best. Overall, everything is feeling very close. A few things here and there. Read below and let me know if I need to clarify anything. Happy to chat on the phone if need be.
In no particular order…
  • Kick feels a little fat/big in the beginning. Maybe roll it off until after Chorus 1 when drums come in full.
  • In Verse 2 (“Hello, daughter…”) can you make the high gang vox more reverb and a la Longer Boats” by Cat Stevens?
  • The ride cymbal in Chorus 2 sticks out to me. Can you automate the volume so it dips a little until instruments are back in full?
  • Love the airy pads you added, but can you hide them in the mix just a little more? Maybe down 2 to 3 db. Cut them out completely when the lyric hits “And when it’s time to go, you take the long…” and then back in for instrumental.
  • Can you try cut the drum reverb/slap delay when Verse 1 hits? Just for Verse 1. Or perhaps just a little less obvious, so it doesn’t compete with the vocal. I like it otherwise. Super cool move on your part!
  • Wondering if the vocal reverb should also be automated on the quieter parts. Not completely sure, but might be worth a try. Thinking Verse 1, Chorus 1, Bridge, and Down Chorus after Bridge turn down the reverb a a couple dbs.
  • Love how you’ve been keeping all the weird things (me setting down the drum sticks at the end, etc.).
  • Could you make the bass guitar a little more 60’s pick style sounding? Especially in the verses. Less warmth. Prob up a little in volume, too.
  • Chorus 1 gang vox up a couple abs
  • Very last chorus, automated the volume of that bendy electric, so it doesn’t tire the ear after a few patterns. Probably just down a bit in volume.
  • Very last chorus, that sparkly arpeggiated electric guitar, not sure if it’s even needed. Might just be a tone thing. Can you work some magic on it?
  • Love how it ends!
  • Just a hair less slap reverb on the vocal, just a couple dbs
  • Harmony vocals could come up a couple dbs
  • crunching feet in snow sample, I’m debating whether it needs to be in there. It actually is my Red Wing boots in the Beltrami snow the last time I was up there, but…
  • Love it.
  • I like the distortion on the overall mix, but maybe just a hair less.
  • You’re the man!
  • Main acoustic guitar at beginning feels just a bit sharp, tonally. Maybe
  • LALALAs could come down a couple dbs in the beginning and a few more dbs in Chorus 1 so they don’t compete with the vocal.
  • I’m thinking the reverb length could be shortened or just turned down in the verses, bridge, down-chorus
  • a few places the lead vocal get lost just a bit, but that might all be fixed with automating the bgvs or boosting the lead vocal a tad here and there
  • Love what you’ve done!
  • Vocal could come down just a hair in Verse 1
  • Let’s rethink the approach on this one. It needs to feel more enclosed, warm sounding. Think three-quarters enclosed teacup saucers. Dave, have you ever ridden a tilt-a-whirl? Practically speaking, probably lose the slap delay/reverb for starters.
  • Maybe we even mess with chain compression to make the whole thing to 3/4 dance and spin, toward the end.
  • can you take the kick out when the first “unspoken request” is sung? I missed that.
  • Automate the organ a bit from “…so if you really must, call up the Lord…” so the organ doesn’t compete too much with vocal.
  • Love how you treated this one!

And just like that, revisions.

I had spent a day or two wrangling a few of the vocal tones into the same pen already, so these tweaks were fairly quick to achieve. I think I knocked everything out, so have a listen.
Of note:
– Deer Hunting got an overall polish. That was one that I just felt I didn’t totally get my hands around the first go around, but I think it’s playing nicely with the other songs, now.
– Tilt-A-Whirl. We were both thinking the same thing re: the vocal approach, so I dried it out and warmed it up just a touch and I think it matches the mood much better now. The ending, then, I pushed further in the direction that I think some of your synth and guitar work was leading. I wanted to play around with a real pulsing element…hence a mellow drum pattern. Let me know if you dig it.
That said, proud of you, man. You made a damn good record.
LOVE ALL OF IT! Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, good grief. Up North by David Welsh is what I’m calling the album. So good, man. Thanks for taking such great care of these songs. All the parts feel way more three dimensional, living, breathing. I await your masterclass.

Next steps:
1. Aaron makes sure Heidi doesn’t have any notes.
2. Dave prints
a) main mix
b) instrumental
c) acappella
3. Aaron cues Brian.
4. Aaron decides track order (open to suggestions).
5. Dave sends Brian all files.


That plan sounds like a plan. When I get the quadruple thumbs up, I’ll print those additional versions.
Do me a favor: before we sign off, can you listen to “The Amway Years” and tell me if that synth bass is just a bit too present for you? I listened at a relatively low volume through most of them in the car after school drop off today and that was the only sonic bit I questioned. It’s definitely adds weight when it comes in, which I like; I just can’t tell if it’s too much. If it doesn’t bug you, though, then we’re good!
Amway Years: No, synth bass doesn’t bother me. I wouldn’t mess with it.

Tilt-A-Whirl: here are Heidi’s notes. I think they’re pretty spot on, but not sure how close you can get to them. She LOVES every other mix, but isn’t sold yet on this one. See what you think.
Love the opening (first minute) nailed it
When second verse comes in around :53/ :54 there should be a bit of a shift in the mix. Make it less tinny and distant. A little bit Bigger, smoother, closer
1:40 right direction but even more ethereal
1:51 can back off a little like that but don’t take away the ethereal quality
Should pick up and intensify at between 2 & 2:14 like you’re holding the right pedal down on the piano the whole time
Like the ride is going faster and faster and you’re getting dizzier and dizzier and you’re falling more and more in love and you’re almost intoxicated with that person
2:14/15 a little overwhelmed by electric
Make sense?

Heidi with the win for most poetic mix notes!

I’ll see what I can do.

Ha, truth!