I have a recording where I have two pine two by fours banged together to make a beat. The sound is really nice, and fits the musical style, but it is hard to get that nice sound through. How can I get the listener to notice that the sound is actually wood, and maybe even that it is pine, in a busy sound picture? (“Sound picture” is a direct translation from Norwegian)
There’s a bunch of possibilities, and it really boils down to personal taste. And without hearing it, it’s really hard to say. That said, here are a few ideas:
Load a graphic eq plugin for the wood track. With that track soloed, move up and down the frequencies and drastically exaggerate each slider one at a time until you find the frequency range(s) that are most powerful and/or the sound you want to hear most from the wood. Once you’ve identified that, you can accentuate those frequencies on the wood track and back them off on whatever other tracks might be competing. (There are also 1,001 ways to do this, depending on how you’re routing things with busses, etc.)
You can also try compressing other non-wood parts of the mix so that when the 2x4’s smack together they “jump” out above that compression level. I would try to find the tracks that are most competing with the wood and direct them into a bus before the master. On that bus apply the compression. Use “too much” compression to hear what that sounds like, you probably want to stay away from that end of things.
Alternatively, compressing the wood sound could even it out enough so that the listener knows it’s wood (as you say you want to communicate).
You could get other instruments “out of the way” by panning them left and right more extremely and keeping the wood more centered. Or, you could put the wood off to the left or right where it might be more alone… OR (this is something I like to do with snares or high frequencies) you can send the wood block to two separate busses, one panned fully left and the other fully right. Add delay to one of the busses (~2-4ms) and now you’ll have a nice 3-d “clack” that will stand out.
Reverb, just experiment.
Try a wee bit of distortion, something with a “bit crusher” setting. I don’t know exactly what that is, but for percussive sounds it can really make a “ping” (like that of wood blocks) stand way out.
Any combination of these suggestions could work too (and adds to the fun). What is it that you don’t like about the sound when you simply increase the level of the wood track?
Wow, that was fast, and the detail of the answer shows me I have so much to learn.
Simply increasing the level makes the attack to prominent, exaggerating frequencies removed the wood quality. Your suggestions gave me a lot of inspiration, so I’ll go right back to my studio to experiment, and I hope to be back with a link to to listen to soon.
Try panning and e-qing other instruments, especially cut a bit on the same frequencies that other instruments share with those pine blocks, that way you let the pine wood naturally pop out in the mix if you really want to preserve the natural sound of those wood blocks.