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Iesu Faban: A Christmas Chorale - Production and Mix

In this week's offering, I'm going to look at the mix and production processes behind 'Iesu Faban'. Mary has told us how she set about recording and arranging the track. After she had recorded and comped her parts, she sent them over to me for the next stage of recording. This meant recording Jessica's alto parts, then sending everything over to Morgan in NYC for him to record tenor and bass.
Jess and Morgan told us more about singing in Welsh here.

Jessica singing vocals

Jess set about tracking the alto parts with her usual efficiency, despite singing in a language she hadn't really spoken since her Uni days!

After Jess had tracked her vocals, I did a quick comp, then sent the session over to Morgan. He did his bit beautifully and then sent his tracks back.
After we'd collated it all together, Mary locked herself away in her studio and painstakingly edited the takes for correct pronunciation, comped everything and sent it over to me for final mix down.

At mixdown, I had a session containing all the vocals and hums. In all, this was three tracks per voice for the lyrical vocals, and the same amount of the hums - so 18 tracks in all.
So for instance, Mary's soprano section was her singing the track three times, and accompanying hums, sung three times. This multiple singing gives depth and richness to the track. I made a few edits and tidied up a few breaths and edit points, then it was time to get stuck in. Vocal stripes in Pro Tools

I set Mary's soprano parts as the highest point in the track, as this was where the melody of the song was. In these first mixes, I had panned the tenor and bass to the left, and the alto to the right.

I didn't do very much in the way of EQ and compression on this track. I tried to keep the track quite dynamic, and I didn't want the compression to squash everything too much. I cut a bit of bottom end rumble from the tracks where necessary, and added a bit of sparkle and air on the EQ.

I made a few EQ cuts on each voice to help them sit together coherently. One of the interesting points is that Mary, Jess and Morgan have really similar sounding voices. I wanted to make the most of this to create a warm layer to envelop you as you listen, bringing about the joy of Christmas!

I also wanted to ensure each voice had its place in the mix, without distracting or detracting from the others.

The vocals are very close and intimate, so we wanted to give a bit of ambience to them. I did this by trying a few reverbs to see which worked the best. In the end, it was a Waves IR reverb - I tried to get the impression of space, but nothing that would make it sound alien or out of context when you listen. I was hoping to add to that warm layering by having a sound that washes over you.

I split the bass and tenor to sit either side of Mary's soprano - the tenor is over to the left with the bass just to the right of the soprano, and with the altos out on the right. I rejigged the levels, and used level automation on the odd syllable here and there. I did this to make sure each word was legible, while keeping the general dynamics of the performance.

Once everyone was happy with the mix, it was off to the genius of Donal at Hafod Mastering. We didn't know, but 'Iesu Faban' is Donal's favourite carol, so I guess that mitigates having to master a carol in October. Mind you, there have been mince pies on sale since September!

I've waxed lyrical about Donal before, but it is great to have such an asset in our team, a sympathetic, extra level of quality control.

It has been a lot of work, and a long road, but I think it's worth it, and I really hope you do too.

Enjoy the track, and a very Merry Christmas to you!

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Christian Thomas is Production Director at Space Studios. He likes mince pies a lot.

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