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Author Topic: Mixing Approach.  (Read 9167 times)

rush909

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Mixing Approach.
« on: March 11, 2005, 08:58:27 am »

Hey Terry... when mixing a record, do you use any spectrum analyzers to see what's going on in each instrument and try to make room for stuff accross the EQ bands or do you do it all by ear and feel... I am looking for tips that will allow me to create more space in my mixes and better seperation of elements...  

also on a related note, can you disucss a little your approach to mixing... ie: do you get the drums sounding hot first, then build it from there or do you get the vocal right first, then move on to other elements, etc... or do you put it all up and get a levels first and then start isolating instruments one at a time...

thanks!

r.
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compasspnt

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Re: Mixing Approach.
« Reply #1 on: March 11, 2005, 09:49:37 am »

rush909 wrote on Fri, 11 March 2005 08:58

Hey Terry...


Hey!

Quote:

...when mixing a record, do you use any spectrum analyzers to see what's going on in each instrument and try to make room for stuff across the EQ bands or do you do it all by ear and feel... I am looking for tips that will allow me to create more space in my mixes and better separation of elements...


I don't use a spectrum analyzer..tried that years ago, and it didn't really tell me much I wanted to know.  I basically do it all by "ear and feel," by careful examination of each track, trying always to keep it in a musical perspective primarily, and a technical one secondarily.  Certainly each instrument needs it's own "space," whether that be equalisation-wise, or position-wise.  (For many years I refused to admit that there were any panning positions other than the three "cardinal points" of left, right, and centre, but recently I have actually started panning in between a bit...but I feel like a sell-out.)  You do have to be very aware of any buildup of certain frequencies which may overpower a mix, especially those dreaded low-mids in the 200-350 range.  But for me, it all just comes down to an overall sense of musicality and "feel."  I actually use very little equalisation or compression in a mix, especially if mixing my own things, as I have always made a conscious effort in tracking to mic properly.  But at times something will come in which does need a lot of changing work.

Quote:

...also on a related note, can you discuss a little your approach to mixing... ie: do you get the drums sounding hot first, then build it from there or do you get the vocal right first, then move on to other elements, etc... or do you put it all up and get a levels first and then start isolating instruments one at a time...




For a long long time I would always start with the drums and bass, and get those happening first, then go to the other instrumental track instruments one at a time, soloing each, then integrating into the track as a whole.  I would always save the vocal(s) for the last.  But in the last few years, I have started by first putting up everything and getting a quick, basic rough mix, and then going back to building from there.  As much as I always enjoyed my previous method, I now believe that the newer way gives me a better overall sense of the song before I start tweaking things.  Drums especially may sound great by themselves, but can be very different when mixed in with the other elements of a song.  Once the rough is pretty good, I will usually go back to the drums first with everything else muted, but not make any major changes which would negate the validity of the rough.  I will then bring in the bass in the same manner, followed by other instrumentation, and once that is pretty solid, will return to the vocals, including fine tuning lead vocal levels to be sure everything is audible and sounds balanced within itself.

I will discuss my approach to stereo buss compression in another thread question in this forum, so no need to do it here as well.

Also, I will add the "Famous 15 Minute Deaf Mix" story below, as that relates well to the mixing situation.

Hope this answers some of your questions,

Thanks for asking.

Terry
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Lee Tyler

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Re: Mixing Approach.
« Reply #2 on: March 11, 2005, 11:34:56 pm »

Terry be sayin':

Quote:

For a long long time I would always start with the drums and bass, and get those happening first, then go to the other instrumental track instruments one at a time, soloing each, then integrating into the track as a whole. I would always save the vocal(s) for the last. But in the last few years, I have started by first putting up everything and getting a quick, basic rough mix, and then going back to building from there. As much as I always enjoyed my previous method, I now believe that the newer way gives me a better overall sense of the song before I start tweaking things. Drums especially may sound great by themselves, but can be very different when mixed in with the other elements of a song. Once the rough is pretty good, I will usually go back to the drums first with everything else muted, but not make any major changes which would negate the validity of the rough. I will then bring in the bass in the same manner, followed by other instrumentation, and once that is pretty solid, will return to the vocals, including fine tuning lead vocal levels to be sure everything is audible and sounds balanced within itself.



Interesting evolution Terry, as I agree that this "initial global audio visibility" model is what I do as well, and I am a nobody. Nice to know my M.O. mirrors yours. I may be on the right track with my technique. Thanks for sharing all the goodies!  Razz   ---Lee
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maxim

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Re: Mixing Approach.
« Reply #3 on: March 12, 2005, 01:05:48 am »

terry said:

"I actually use very little equalisation or compression in a mix, especially if mixing my own things, as I have always made a conscious effort in tracking to mic properly"

you said you always compress di bass and vocal to tape

do you eq also?

which trax (as a rule)?

or are you saying that you can avoid eq altogether?

how do you avoid the lo-mid buildup during tracking? using distance? omnis?

have your methods changed with digital?

i'll stop now
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Gordon Rice

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Re: Mixing Approach.
« Reply #4 on: March 14, 2005, 10:14:13 am »

Hmm--changes happening 'round here these days, partially as a result of reading this thread.

I spent the weekend reworking a song I tracked and mixed in a huge hurry last October.  Original tracking and mixing were here at Sigma, but I don't have a control room here yet (we're under extensive renovation/reconstruction) so I found myself fixing the (nightmare) drums (strange that a downtempo 12/8 is more likely to make a drummer play inaccurately than something faster and more difficult, but there it is) and remixing the whole thing on my personal ProTools LE rig.  I did have and use outboard 'verb and compression on the lead vocal; my system would have choked if I hadn't.

Anyway, once I got the bass and drums working I never hit a solo button--on the theory that it's better to fit something in EQ, compression and level-wise if one is listening to it in context.

It worked!  I was able to check the mix in another area studio yesterday and am absolutely stunned.  I didn't buy that system to mix on and it's certainly not in an ideal room (hell, it's in my bedroom!), but I managed to create a mix that has good frequency balance and more front-to-back depth than I've managed in a while.

I think I'm liking this "no (or almost-no) solo" thing.  Thanks, Terry and everybody else, for your thoughts which seem to have reminded me that everything has a context and removing it from that context is nearly always a mistake.

--gmr
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compasspnt

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Re: Mixing Approach.
« Reply #5 on: March 14, 2005, 04:43:51 pm »

What a great post Gordon.  This is exciting.  I hope it continues to work for you!  Let us all know.

Best regards,

Terry
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Curve Dominant

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Re: Mixing Approach.
« Reply #6 on: March 14, 2005, 09:39:37 pm »

I usually solo a track to find out what's WRONG with it. I can't always discern that when it's in the mix. Does anyone else do this?

I've had, say, acoustic guitar tracks, and no amount of toying with the mix position got them to sit right. So I solo it, EQ it, un-solo it and AH!! THERE it is.

I can understand being wary of  "solo abuse." But it's possible to listen to a track solo'd and still "hear" the mix in your head as you tweak the solo'd track, no?

I also like using the mute button on a track to tell me what it's doing to the mix, or what it's not doing.

To me, solo and mute are handy LITTLE tools for fine-tweaking a mix.

I think it was Dave Pensado who said, "There are 52 cards in a deck, and you want to be able to play with all of them."

I've gone through my "No Reverb" phase, and my "No Mixbus Compression" phase, and every time I make these "rules" for myself, I ended up going back on them, because there's always that occasion where one of those 52 cards is the trick that makes the mix work.

Can I get a witness?

J.J. Blair

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Re: Mixing Approach.
« Reply #7 on: March 14, 2005, 11:14:01 pm »

Here's one thing to do, especially with all these goddamn spatializers and psychoacoustic pieces of crap that everybody is into: Always check your mix in mono.  You'd be surprised how much some of that stuff gets out of phase when you start farting around with tricky imaging.
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drumsound

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Re: Mixing Approach.
« Reply #8 on: March 15, 2005, 03:23:33 am »

I do a lot of the mix in mono, including panning.  I rarely use solo, unless I'm stumped like Eric said.
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Norwood

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Re: Mixing Approach.
« Reply #9 on: March 15, 2005, 02:36:20 pm »

drumsound wrote on Tue, 15 March 2005 00:23

I do a lot of the mix in mono, including panning.  I rarely use solo, unless I'm stumped like Eric said.


How the crap do you pan in mono?  Wouldn't it just sound like you're pulling the fader down?
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compasspnt

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Re: Mixing Approach.
« Reply #10 on: March 15, 2005, 06:35:23 pm »

BY THE WAY

I should have mentioned before (and I am sure this will elicit howls of rage from many) in discussing my mixing approach, that my number one rule is:

ONLY MAKE ONE MIX, AND MAKE THAT THE RIGHT ONE.

No vocal up mixes.

No vocal down mixes.

No alternate-decide-later mixes.

Beatles didn't do it...I don't do it.

Be a man, and do a man's mix.


I have mixed for clients, of course, who demanded multiple mixes.  In that case, you really need to follow their wishes, unless you can talk them out of it.  I worked a few years back mixing for a well known artiste who wanted every kind of "this up" and "that up" and "this down" and "that down" mix you can imagine, in every possible combination.  For an entire album, the average number of mixes per song was 19.

This meant also that, although I put the MAIN, BEST (in my opinion) mix to 1/2", that he took all 19-ish mixes on DAT (!) to master from.  And he edited, and edited, and edited between them...you should have heard the phone call from the mastering engineer later, as we comiserated!
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CCC

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Re: Mixing Approach.
« Reply #11 on: March 15, 2005, 07:32:23 pm »

Norwood wrote on Tue, 15 March 2005 19:36

drumsound wrote on Tue, 15 March 2005 00:23

I do a lot of the mix in mono, including panning.  I rarely use solo, unless I'm stumped like Eric said.


How the crap do you pan in mono?  Wouldn't it just sound like you're pulling the fader down?


This reminds me of a funny story. A very fine engineer, in his younger days, reportedly was under the mistaken impression that using the front/back panner on a quad buss console, while mixing in stereo, helped him to make certain elements sit "back" in the mix. It's anyone's guess what he thought the front/back panner did exactly....suffice it to say that panning to the rear, when mixing in stereo, just makes it quieter....which might be construed as pushing something "back" in the mix, I guess Smile
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Curve Dominant

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Re: Mixing Approach.
« Reply #12 on: March 15, 2005, 07:54:58 pm »

compasspnt wrote on Tue, 15 March 2005 23:35

BY THE WAY

I should have mentioned before (and I am sure this will elicit howls of rage from many) in discussing my mixing approach, that my number one rule is:

ONLY MAKE ONE MIX, AND MAKE THAT THE RIGHT ONE.

No vocal up mixes.

No vocal down mixes.

No alternate-decide-later mixes.

Beatles didn't do it...I don't do it.

Be a man, and do a man's mix.


YEAH, BABY!!!

You're the top, Terry!

Ozzy

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Re: Mixing Approach.
« Reply #13 on: March 16, 2005, 04:22:00 am »

Don't think that's true about the Beatles. George Martin did do two track masters of the mono mixes, backing track one side, vocals the other, so it could be rebalanced in mastering. Strictly speaking I suppose this was stems. These were never intended for stereo release but eventually were!
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cgc

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Re: Mixing Approach.
« Reply #14 on: March 16, 2005, 07:38:14 am »

John Sorensen wrote on Tue, 15 March 2005 18:32


This reminds me of a funny story. A very fine engineer, in his younger days, reportedly was under the mistaken impression that using the front/back panner on a quad buss console, while mixing in stereo, helped him to make certain elements sit "back" in the mix. It's anyone's guess what he thought the front/back panner did exactly....suffice it to say that panning to the rear, when mixing in stereo, just makes it quieter....which might be construed as pushing something "back" in the mix, I guess Smile


Feeding the rear channels into a stereo reverb could work really well.  If I had access to a quad board I would like to try that myself.  
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CCC

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Re: Mixing Approach.
« Reply #15 on: March 16, 2005, 08:37:37 am »

cgc wrote on Wed, 16 March 2005 12:38

John Sorensen wrote on Tue, 15 March 2005 18:32


This reminds me of a funny story. A very fine engineer, in his younger days, reportedly was under the mistaken impression that using the front/back panner on a quad buss console, while mixing in stereo, helped him to make certain elements sit "back" in the mix. It's anyone's guess what he thought the front/back panner did exactly....suffice it to say that panning to the rear, when mixing in stereo, just makes it quieter....which might be construed as pushing something "back" in the mix, I guess Smile


Feeding the rear channels into a stereo reverb could work really well.  If I had access to a quad board I would like to try that myself.  


Sure - it would be a post fader/post pan stereo reverb send - something you could accomplish by sending lower faders to a pair of multibusses as well and patching those up to a reverb. As you realize, of course, this wasn't my initial point - it was that the use of the rears when mixing in stereo merely attenuates the signals you are panning to the rear, which the gentleman I mentioned did not understand. He's apparently quite a good engineer nowadays, or so they tell me, notwithstanding that little faux pas.....
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Gordon Rice

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Re: Mixing Approach.
« Reply #16 on: March 16, 2005, 09:24:39 am »

compasspnt wrote on Tue, 15 March 2005 18:35

BY THE WAY

I should have mentioned before (and I am sure this will elicit howls of rage from many) in discussing my mixing approach, that my number one rule is:

ONLY MAKE ONE MIX, AND MAKE THAT THE RIGHT ONE.

No vocal up mixes.

No vocal down mixes.

No alternate-decide-later mixes.

Beatles didn't do it...I don't do it.

Be a man, and do a man's mix.


YES YES YES!  Make a commitment!!


Quote:

I have mixed for clients, of course, who demanded multiple mixes.  In that case, you really need to follow their wishes, unless you can talk them out of it.  I worked a few years back mixing for a well known artiste who wanted every kind of "this up" and "that up" and "this down" and "that down" mix you can imagine, in every possible combination.  For an entire album, the average number of mixes per song was 19.


I once worked on a mix that was to be used in a film; producers wanted so many "this up, that down, that out" versions that it took us nearly eight hours and 10 reels of half-inch just to print the bloody thing!  Yeesh!!

Quote:

This meant also that, although I put the MAIN, BEST (in my opinion) mix to 1/2", that he took all 19-ish mixes on DAT (!) to master from.  And he edited, and edited, and edited between them...you should have heard the phone call from the mastering engineer later, as we comiserated!


That's the thing, though--all too often it's the *client* who's afraid to make a commitment.

--gmr
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compasspnt

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Re: Mixing Approach.
« Reply #17 on: March 16, 2005, 01:55:58 pm »

Austin Ince wrote on Wed, 16 March 2005 04:22

Don't think that's true about the Beatles. George Martin did do two track masters of the mono mixes, backing track one side, vocals the other, so it could be rebalanced in mastering. Strictly speaking I suppose this was stems. These were never intended for stereo release but eventually were!


If this is so, I stand corrected.  Thank you!

However, it won't change my philosophy one iota...if they didn't commit, then it was their problem...
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Tomas Danko

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Re: Mixing Approach.
« Reply #18 on: March 16, 2005, 02:32:32 pm »

compasspnt wrote on Wed, 16 March 2005 18:55

Austin Ince wrote on Wed, 16 March 2005 04:22

Don't think that's true about the Beatles. George Martin did do two track masters of the mono mixes, backing track one side, vocals the other, so it could be rebalanced in mastering. Strictly speaking I suppose this was stems. These were never intended for stereo release but eventually were!


If this is so, I stand corrected.  Thank you!

However, it won't change my philosophy one iota...if they didn't commit, then it was their problem...


Darn it, now that I know they didn't commit it's like all the cred and respect went out the window as far as I'm concerned with these guys called the Beatles. It's outrageous, and no two ways about it!

....or, not really. Very Happy

Cheers,

Tomas Danko - who also is committing to commitment. And final mixes.
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Tomás Mulcahy

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Re: Mixing Approach.
« Reply #19 on: March 16, 2005, 03:43:03 pm »

compasspnt wrote on Wed, 16 March 2005 18:55

Austin Ince wrote on Wed, 16 March 2005 04:22

Don't think that's true about the Beatles. George Martin did do two track masters of the mono mixes, backing track one side, vocals the other, so it could be rebalanced in mastering. Strictly speaking I suppose this was stems. These were never intended for stereo release but eventually were!


If this is so, I stand corrected.  Thank you!

This is most definitely not true! George used the stereo machines as a 2 track multitrack, allowing the Beatles to first get the backing track down and then do the vocals later. In the 1970s Capitol (EMI USA) issued these masters in "stereo" without consulting George Martin or any Beatle.

AFAIK the "2 track as multitrack" approach ceased for the "Rubber Soul" sessions when they got the Studer 4 track machines.

And just to prove that I an not making this up, George Martin writes about this in his book "All you need is ears".

Those Capitol issued LPs are highly valued in some circles because it's the closest you'll get to hearing a Beatles master tape...

compasspnt

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Re: Mixing Approach.
« Reply #20 on: March 16, 2005, 04:06:33 pm »

Thanks Tomas,

I didn't think this was true, but far be it from me to disagree when I am not 100% sure about something.

I cannot imagine GM or GE or any of The Beatles going upstairs to mastering with a two track, and mixing it there!!!!

Now as for Capitol's Beatle mastering, NOTHING WOULD EVER SURPRISE ME.  What a travesty.
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Ozzy

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Re: Mixing Approach.
« Reply #21 on: March 17, 2005, 02:36:23 am »

That's true about the Capital reissuses. But I wonder how they got hold of the 2 track masters in the first place. I imagine they were sent to mastering instead of a mono master? Was this a mistake or didn't a mono master exist? I don't know.

I wouldn't put my house on this to be true but I was told it by reliable sources at Abbey Road. I'll check the details with them when I'm there tomorrow and report back their version of events.

By the way I'm with you on the one version of the mix Terry.
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Tomás Mulcahy

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Re: Mixing Approach.
« Reply #22 on: March 17, 2005, 12:52:20 pm »

Easy- the tapes belonged to Capitol/ EMI! Not to the Beatles.

In fact, in the 1960s, they liberally varispeeded and added reverb/ echo to those 2 track tapes when mixing to mono for the US releases. Hence the latest Beatles re-issue box set of US releases. They sound horrible! Nothing is sacred to these people!

BTW, shouldn't we be calling them "session tapes" and not "master tapes"?

wwittman

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Re: Mixing Approach.
« Reply #23 on: March 17, 2005, 01:21:08 pm »

Quote:

(For many years I refused to admit that there were any panning positions other than the three "cardinal points" of left, right, and centre, but recently I have actually started panning in between a bit...but I feel like a sell-out.)


I just read this.

You SHOULD feel like a sell-out!  {g}

I almost never put anything anywhere other than L-R or centre.
It's unnatural.
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Bob Olhsson

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Re: Mixing Approach.
« Reply #24 on: March 17, 2005, 03:24:51 pm »

wwittman wrote on Thu, 17 March 2005 12:21


I almost never put anything anywhere other than L-R or centre.
It's unnatural.
The deep dark secret is that, at least in pop music, mono won the battle between mono and stereo.

Did somebody say "quad" or "5.1 surround?"

right...

Ozzy

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Re: Mixing Approach.
« Reply #25 on: March 17, 2005, 04:57:55 pm »

I think 2 track masters for a mono cut will do me?
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Re: Mixing Approach.
« Reply #26 on: March 18, 2005, 11:17:19 am »

Austin Ince wrote on Thu, 17 March 2005 21:57

I think 2 track masters for a mono cut will do me?

That definition only applies if those sessions were intended for stereo release... which is the point we are arguing! I contend that they weren't.

No Beatle ever attended a stereo mix down, because the mono mix was the important one. Which proves Bob O is right once again (isn't he always!).

I will have to buy Sir Martin's book again, my copy is missing.

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Re: Mixing Approach.
« Reply #27 on: March 18, 2005, 11:38:38 am »

Most important is the fact that the production choices and decisions were made for mono. Early stereo mixes were made by comparing everything to the mono master and trying to match the balance. The only exception to this was classical which was recorded live and frequently with another recording team at the same time in the early days. A singular exception to this was the recordings done here in Nashville at RCA where they went against company policy and recorded stereo with the mono made by summing the channels.

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Re: Mixing Approach.
« Reply #28 on: March 18, 2005, 11:54:18 am »

We agree that these tapes weren't intended for stereo release. I wonder how they ended up being used as such?

Yes I know they spent the time mixing the stereo and nobody really bothered about the stereo mixes.

For what reason did the split track exist?

I don't know? I'll ask Alan Rouse at Abbey Road, who knows more than anyone on this.

I could be wrong.

Regards
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Re: Mixing Approach.
« Reply #29 on: March 18, 2005, 02:20:46 pm »

Two track was all they had available. Abey Road was always very far behind in adopting the new technologies. Sir Martin discusses this whole issue in his book! He also explains how to varispeed in semitones Smile

I'd be interested in what your friend has to say though.
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