Sweethearts – Hurt And High (Production Process)

Hi everyone!

A track I recorded, mixed and mastered with Hull band Sweethearts was released on the 11th February called Hurt And High. I thought it would be a good idea to talk about my production process for it since I haven’t done a post like this for a while, so lets get into it.

The reference tracks they sent me were all 80’s/90’s punk/noise rock/post-hardcore songs, as well as some lo-fi tracks and Proto-punk songs which gave me an idea of the production process I would undertake. The track itself is a 1 and a half minute belter which gives you no room to breathe, just how I like it.

Recording Techniques

Like always we started with the drums. The track is at 140bpm, and they gave me a demo of it for Danny to drum along to. The micing techniques I used were; an inside and outside kick mic (sm57 inside pointing to the beater head, and a D112 on the outside picking up the sub frequencies), top and bottom of the snare (57 on top pointing towards the centre of the snare and away from the hi-hat to reduce bleed, and an AKG C1000S underneath pointing towards the centre, the same distance away as the top mic to keep them in phase with each other), AKG P4’s on both toms pointing towards the centre of them, 2x AKG p170’s as overhead mics in an ORTF position (placed in the centre of the kit at an angle of 110 degrees away from each other), and 3 room mics (2 Rode NT1A’s in stereo in the room and an Audio Technica AT2020 placed outside the room to get a bigger drum sound). This is a typical mic setup I use for music in a punk style. The kick and snare techniques mean I can get clarity and a lot of body as well for them drums in particular. The overhead technique I used, I like because I think it gives a clear representation of what the drummer hears when playing, and I usually prefer that sound because I like the listener to feel like they’re in the room with the band. Finally I used the room mic techniques because the stereo room mics create a wide stereo room sound, and the the mic outside the room brings an extra thickness to the room sound without sounding messy (I’ll talk more about this in the mixing stage).

Next were the guitars. For bass I used a DI, a D112 and P170 (both about 6″ to a foot away from the centre of the amps speaker) and finally an NT1a as a room mic. For the guitars I used the same technique but without a DI and a 57 instead of a D112. I used these techniques again because for this style of music its a favourite of mine. The dynamic and condenser mics mean I can blend between the dark and bright mics creating a tone that is most similar to the sound of the amp in the room, and the room mic means I can get the same effect as being in the room with the band. The extra DI on the bass means I can add extra sub frequencies if needed in the mix, as sometimes these can be lost using just the mic’s.

Finally for the vocals I used an NT1a and 57, as well as a room mic. The Nt1a picks up the full range of frequencies produced by the voice, and the 57 I used as a ‘character’ mic, to create a more lo-fi sound, blending this with the NT1a in the mixing process to create a clear yet gritty vocal production. The room mic I used again to create the effect of being in the room with the band.


Recording Process

After recording the drums using the techniques mentioned above, we recorded bass. Josh recorded the bass in the live room, the bass track itself is distorted all the way through. Whilst he was in the room he did some vocal ad libs picked up by the room mic (such as the “1, 2, 3, 4” at the start of the track). Next was Toby to record guitar. First he recorded the main guitar parts using his amp which he plays with live, which we then doubled. Then we recorded from the second chorus to the end of the track using a Vox AC30 and a fuzz pedal (RML Electron Fuzz) to thicken up the guitars to give the chorus more impact, which we also doubled. Lastly, we recorded feedback from the guitar amp which lasted the full track (you can hear this clearly as it starts the track), we did this to create a feeling of tension throughout the full track. The last thing we recorded was the vocals. This didn’t take long as Niall wanted to not overthink it (and not blow his voice out as it is a strenuous song to perform vocally) creating a very raw performance. We did about 5 takes of the full song (doing chorus’s and verses separate) and only kept 3 of them.



When mixing the drums I wanted to keep them sounding pretty live and roomy, as mentioned before, to give an effect of being in the room with the band, therefore I chose not to gate the kick and snare, as well as not over compressing or eq’ing each drum, only taking out problematic frequencies and boosting the fundamental frequencies of each drum and adding some high mids and high end frequencies for clarity and to beef them up. I panned the drums as if the listener is the drummer, so overheads hard left and right, stereo room mics 3/4’s each way and the close mic’d drums individually to match if you were the drummer (for eg. snare slightly to the left, low tom half way to the right). Level wise I brought up each close mic’d drum with the room mics to balance a roomy drum sound, whilst still getting the clarity of each drum hit to not make it sound too messy. I only added the outside kick mic and under snare mic to boost both drums, leaving the inside kick and top snare mics as the main sound of each drum. The main drum room sound was the stereo mics, adding the outside room mic just to boost the room sound, not as the main sound. I also delayed the room mics by 18ms to reduce any phasing issues. Lastly I added a tape saturation drum bus as an effect to give the track a more lo-fi sound and adding a bit more aggression to the drum sound.

For the bass, I decided the DI wasn’t needed in the end as the mics were picking up enough low end, I blended the mics to create a similar sound to the amp in the room, only eq’ing out some problematic frequencies. For the room mic added a low and a high pass filter to take out the sub and high end frequencies as they wasn’t needed for the room sound, and boosted some low mids to give it more body. I also added a slight stereo room reverb to the room mic just to widen the stereo image. Finally I sent all the mics to a Bass bus and compressed it not too much, just enough bring down some of the bits that were too present in the mix, and added a slight side chain with the kick, just so the kick could punch through some more.

For the guitars I used very similar techniques to the bass. I blended the mics and only eq’d some harsh frequencies out, and used the same technique with the room mic whilst compressing it a little. For the fuzz guitars, as the main guitars were pretty mid frequency heavy, I decided to work round this by mid scooping the fuzz guitars to sit underneath the main guitars, yet thickening them up. For the feedback guitar, I added a low and high pass filter and boosted the mids deliberately to give it a thinner sound as I didn’t want it overpowering the other guitars, I also added a slight delay to it to give it a more atmospheric sound. For all the guitars I also added high pass filters under 100Hz as these were useless frequencies that would have just made the mix muddier. As for panning, the main guitars I almost hard panned left and right (with the room mics not so much hard panned), and the fuzz guitars were halfway hard panned, creating a nice stereo image. Lastly, for the feedback guitar, I used a binaural pan, giving it an effect of moving around you. I automated this throughout the full track just to give it a sense of unease, sometimes barely audible, then sometimes feeling like it comes right up to your ear from behind you, adding to the tension.

Finally the vocals. I eq’d the NT1a by reducing around 500Hz a little and adding some high end a low mids, whilst adding a high pass filter at about 100Hz, this produced a nice clear vocal sound. I then backed that up with the 57, which I had a distorted megaphone effect to it, creating a clear yet aggressive and lo-fi vocal production. Overall I compressed them to keep their dynamics while still making every word audible, automating the vocal level during the second verse as the vocals get almost whispered. I didn’t want to over compress the vocals as I think sometimes that squashes the frequencies of the voice too much, giving a very thin sounding vocal production. Niall wanted a very doubled sounding vocal production, so I kept the best vocal performance in the middle, and the the other two I panned a 1/3 left and right, and only had them 3dB less then the main vocal, creating the very doubled sounding vocal production Niall wanted, with a nice stereo image too. For the room mics I panned one in the centre, and the other two hard left and right to add to the stereo image, plus taking out a lot of low end, using them as a nice natural room reverb. Lastly I added a bright slap back echo to all the vocals, just to add to the lo-fi feel of the track, and to make the vocals less dry, making them sit in the mix better.

In conclusion, I thought I achieved the production sound I aimed for for this track, and what the band wanted by showing me their reference tracks. The track has a very roomy sound (because of all the room mics used) creating that effect of being in the room with the band, whilst still keeping it sounding raw and punchy and not messy, giving it that retro/punk sound we were both aiming for.



For the mastering process I started with the initial EQ, comparing the track to some of the reference tracks provided. Using a mid/side eq, I used a brick wall high pass filter at 30Hz for the mid to take out some unwanted sub frequency rumble, and for the sides I used a brick wall high pass filter at 65Hz to take out unwanted sub frequencies, also reducing 120Hz by 1.4dB and adding a 1dB shelf at 8kHz, tightening the overall eq of the track and reducing some muddiness.

Next I added some tape saturation by 4dB adding some harmonics emphasis to the low and high end frequencies adding more punch and clarity. I then added a stereo imager, making the sub frequencies more mono, and widening the low and high mids, and high end. This made everything sit a bit better in the mix, giving everything its own individual space, without creating unwanted rumble when using sub speakers. I added only slight compression to each frequency band next to tighten them up. Then on a post-eq I added another brick wall high pass filter at 30Hz, reduced at around 150Hz by 1dB, and added 0.5dB at 500Hz and a 0.5dB shelf at 5kHz, all because of the extra boosts and cuts created by the tape saturation, stereo imager and dynamic eq compressor. All these techniques added to the final mix by cleaning it up and adding extra clarity when listening to it across different speaker systems.

Finally for the limiting, I had fast attack and releases to reduce a pumping sound, and I added emphasis to the transients to keep the sound of the dynamics when making it louder. I tried not to limit it too much because I wanted the track to keep its dynamic range, and not have too much distortion which tends to make it sound harsh and messy, however I still made it loud enough to sound professional. I gave the band a CD master and a Streaming Master, limiting the CD master more than the Streaming one because todays streaming services reduce the volume of overly compressed masters to protect peoples hearing, which means a less compressed master has more dynamic range whilst still sounding as loud as over compressed and ‘louder’ masters. I think this is a good thing because over compressed masters tend to sound less thick and rich than less compressed ones as the frequencies aren’t squashed together as much, making a much more enjoyable listening experience.


Last Notes

Thanks for reading this in depth analyses of my production process on the Sweethearts “Hurt And High” track, and I hope you’ve found it an interesting read. If you have any queries about this blog post, or any enquiries in general, feel free to comment or send me an email. Thanks – Nick

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