XMAS MIX CONTEST 2015 Production Documentary

Here, you can find some info about the recordings of the contest song and a few suggestions by Jochen concerning the mix.

Clicking the pic will open the full view.



This year we used our Schoeps V4 U vocal mic (small diaphragm condenser) for both lead and backing vocals in a distance of some 20-30 cm.

Especially the spectral range from 2 to 20 kHz sounds pretty relaxed with this mic. During the verses, a (dynamic) reduction of the low mids makes more sense to me than an exaggerated addition of high frequencies. Thus the vocals also benefit from a louder and less “skewed” sound in the higher range.



We wanted the drumsound to be big and massive, so we combined various room mics in different spots.
These were the drum microphones:

  • bassdrum inside: Audix D6
  • bassdrum outside: Coles 4038
  • snare top: Shure SM 57
  • snare bottom: AKG C414
  • toms: Shure KSM 27
  • hihat: Shure KSM 141
  • ride: Shure KSM 141
  • overheads: Royer R121
  • room AB: Bruel&Kjaer 4010
  • room boom: AKG C414
  • room far: AEA A840

Maybe you don’t want to use all the recorded drum tracks for your mix, but especially overheads and room mics call for some experimentation. Effect compression, sidechain gating and stout-hearted equalizing can be great fun and make for an interesting depth of the mix.
In the end, I decided to use additional bassdrum and snare samples – but I assume, the mix can also work fine without triggering.



The bass guitar (a Sandberg California 5-string) was recorded via an Aguilar TLC Compressor direcctly into an RME Fireface UCX.

Distorting or even re-amping the pure DI signal can add more character and spectral stability. Anyone who likes (just as me) can take the bass out of the center with a slight stereo modulation..


Electric guitarsIMG_0243

All the electric guitars were played by Jochen Sachse with a Clapton Strat Custom using the bridge pickup. In use were also a Crybaby wah-wah, a Boogie Mark V tube amp and a 1×12″ Boogie Thiele Cabinet with a Rode NTR ribbon mic.

To create different tracks for different song parts makes sound shaping a lot easier: all necessary settings can be accomplished wihout automation. Using wider pannings in the chorus parts makes for the desired width and clearness.



Acoustic guitar

For the acoustic guitar (Gibson Super Jumbo 200 EC) we used the convenient DPA d:vote 4099 miniuature mic.

This clip-on mic sounds great and is wonderfully straightforward. There’s not much to do in the mix – only in the verses, it seemed a bit bright to me, what I corrected with a light 6 dB high-cut.


Mandolin (Gibson A-5):Mandoline xmas Warten

Like in the vocal recordings, we used the Schoeps V4 U here.

I deliberately did not use the DPA clip-on mic as for the acoustic guitar in order to gain a completely different colour. The mandolin is obviously a counterpart to the Super Jumbo – together they perfectly complement the electric guitars. To bring them forward and – if necessary – to place them in the background, you might want to use the automation …



For the piano recordings we used our Steinway Grand with two AKG C414 (cardioids).

To a sound that has grown over hundreds of years, there is not much to add.
The piano has an important line in the second verse. In order to make the Steinway heard, I had to resort to some exceptional means in this spot. For me, the guitars are the main instruments and were of more importance in the songwriting process. But of course you can see that in a different way. ;-)





As it is seemly for a Hammond organ, we connected it to a Leslie 122 RV rotary speaker cabinet which forms the sound essentially. Both bass and treble rotor were recorded with AKG C414.

As a rule, a Hammond needs space, in your room as well as in a mix. If you want to have the introducing slide loud in your mix, you have to put the level down afterwards and only put the organ in front if it serves the song.



This was a job for the AEA A840 ribbon mic. We wanted a spatial sound and recorded in the Big Room with a distance of appr. 2-3 m.

Okay, I must admit – this sound came out special. When Fabian and me recorded the violin, we moved the mic away from the violin for a more balanced instrument sound. This resulted also in a much more ambient sound. Make the best of it  – you won’ t need much FX.
I see the violin behind the vocals, but in the instrumental parts it’s almost a solo instrument. Of course, it should not make the guitars sound too small.



The harmonium was recorded in the Big Room as well. We wanted it to sound wide, so we went for an AB setup with two Bruel&Kjaer 4010 omnidirectional mics.

When I decided to use no synths on this recording, I quickly came upon the harmonium – there are only few “organic” alternatives to a synth pad. We recorded a wide stereo signal, nonetheless I reduced the center by a few dB in the chorus and post-chorus parts. Thus it has a better “window” in the mix and doesn’t clash with other instruments.



Sleigh bells

This year, we recorded all instruments except for the sleigh bells. Being short of sledge dogs, we used the sleigh bell library by Sonokinetic.

All the different sleigh bell sounds are on one track. So maybe you have to cut it in suitable slices for a precise sound shaping. I used a dynamic EQ for that – it had a lot to do, but made the sound less sharp and agressive. Which one, is a secret … ;-)

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