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Anatomy of a Mix – “What A Wonderful World” by Esperanza Spalding

84th Academy Awards Album – Celebrate The Music

This is one of my favorite mixes that I’ve done. Hans Zimmer composed the music for the 84th Annual Oscar awards in 2012. I was honored to be part of the mixing team that one an Emmy for “Outstanding Sound Mixing” that year,

The In Memoriam, was going to be “What A Wonderful World”, my favorite song of all time!  Needless to say, I wanted in on that one. I’m not sure if Esperanza ended up picking the song or if she was just chosen to sing it. Either way, it’s one of my proudest moments.

Nick Glennie-Smith did the most beautiful vocal arrangement for the song I’ve ever heard. We recorded the choir at RCP one night and I started the mix the next day. To say there were a few tracks is an understatement. We recorded all of the parts separately, multiple times so I could have control in the mix. There are so many intricate parts to Nick’s arrangement that I didn’t want anything to get hidden. The interplay between the sopranos, altos and tenors is something that should be taught in an arranging vocals class 101. As well as live choir, there are programmed voices which were done just to add a different quality to the sound, so it didn’t sound too perfect and well… choir-like. If you listen closely you can hear something that sounds like an odd vocal echo in the background. Those are the tucked in programmed bgv’s. Very cool idea on HZ’s part I thought.

Mixing Esperanza’s vocal was pretty easy. No tuning or timing involved. The track she sent us from New York was pretty amazing. I recall just putting her lead vocal through an LA-2A, for sonics more than compression, and used a bit of Waves REQ 6 to brighten her up.

My only direction from Hans was to make it sound like the ocean.  No problem!

Sonically, the ocean equals filters and flanging in my vocabulary. Or at least it did that night.

For the choir, I had a lot of fun. I arranged all of the sections, sopranos, altos, tenors and basses into their own groups, than ran each group into it’s own set of a Sound Toys Filter Freak, Waves Flanger, and REQ 6.Than I automated the filter frequency, the flanger mix control and the highs and lows of the EQ of each set and rode them each differently to get this kind of wave like motion to happen. You can really hear it during the breakdown section when it’s just choir and no lead vocal, my favorite part.

It was a long 2 day mix, automating every vocal part separately, plus each filter separately so that you could hear each and every note clearly, but man it made the emotion just ooze out of the choir. That’s what mixing is to me, just amplifying the emotion. If you do that, you have a great mix!

If you’d like to hear the mix in it’s entirety, buy it here on  iTunes. It’s certainly worth the .99 cents!

Here is a link to Esperanza’s live performance the night of the Oscars. 

Feel free to post a question and I’ll be happy to answer it for you.

Stay Thirsty my friends!


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