Paul Antonell on Mixing Strings

Recently, Rich Tozzoli mixed a project with Grammy nominated studio owner/engineer Paul Antonell. Recorded mostly at Clubhouse Studios in Rhinebeck, NY, the cut featured cellist /composer Akua Dixons’ string quartet, along with a few special guests. Below we talk to Paul Antonell about how he used the Oxford SuprEsser on different string parts.

Spotlight Paul Antonell Image


The first track we used the SuprEsser on was a pizzicato viola part that Akua wanted to enhance the bass frequencies on. It was sounding a bit thin and brittle compared to the rest of the quartet.  

The SuprEsser  enabled us to open up the Sub Bass Makeup preset in the Bass Treatment folder. With the preset opened, we just grabbed the upper cut-off handle and slid it up to around 250Hz. We adjusted the Threshold and then clicked the Access button to open up some additional dynamic controls. There we set the soft knee to 20dB and adjusted the Ratio to a fairly Gentle Comp. After that, we brought the Trim down about 2dB and pulled the Wet/Dry down to around 90%.We used the Inside button to listen to what was being affected inside the bands. 

This helped us to get our settings and create a big wide sound. We could then listen to the Outside to see what wasn’t being affected, and then of course, switched back to hear the Mix. With just a few tweaks, we took a relatively thin viola part and made it sound almost like a bass. The before and after amazed all of us. To me, it actually sounds like we recorded the track with a different microphone.

We also used SuprEsser on a violin part that was sounding too brittle in certain registers. This time, we went straight to the Inside button to find the offending frequencies, then we isolated them and were quickly able to minimize the harshness by adjusting the frequency handles and threshold. It just worked immediately with no need for other setting adjustments.

The artist, Akua Dixon, who was on hand mixing with us, heard the difference immediately. "SuprEsser eliminated the nasal sound on the violin when they were playing with their bow," she said. "It definitely helped enhance the tone. Also, it just made the viola pizzicato part much more robust. It sounded larger,  and opened up the sound much more beautifully than before.”

I would never have thought to use SuprEsser on string parts like this, but it has so much flexibility, it easily handles multiple jobs. We were able to not only musically tame harsh frequencies on a violin, but we also enhanced the bass frequencies on a viola part. It’s really a great plug-in to have.”


Interview and editorial provided by Rich Tozzoli