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Author Topic: The Great Mixing Dilemma  (Read 20903 times)

compasspnt

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The Great Mixing Dilemma
« on: March 28, 2005, 11:55:56 pm »

I'm starting this thread because of some interesting posts on the (almost ill-fated) Zoolander thread, some of which I will move here below.

I agree that there often seems to be the need for outside mixing of one's project.  But I've never had it work out to my satisfaction.

Once all of the pre-production, tracking, overdubbing, vocalising, comping, re-overdubbing, re-comping, etc., etc., etc., is finally finished, I almost always just DREAD the mix.  Don't get me wrong, I like the mixing process.  It's just that in many cases, no matter how much I like the music, I've just had enough of it for awhile.  I ALWAYS wish terribly for at least a couple of weeks between finishing recording and starting mixing.  Of course, this is NEVER a possibility.  Everyone is always in too big of a hurry.  So it just starts, and it always gets done, and it's usually pretty good.

Back in the mid-80's I had a conversation with Bob Clearmountain about this when we were both up at Masterdisk with Bob Ludwig one day .  At the time, he was producing several projects, such as Bryan Adams and others, as well as performing his customary mixing for so many.  He agreed that as Producer, it sometimes felt like someone else should mix the project one had spent so long in preparing.  We jokingly said that we would swap...he would mix my productions, and I would mix his.  Now, I am quite sure that Bob really didn't want me mixing his stuff, and was just making an offhand comment...of course, I would much more have welcomed his mixes!  But in the end, even if this small talk had come to more fruition, I doubt that even I would have done it.  Bob has never mixed one of my things, so I can't comment with experience (but I admire his work so very much that I'm sure it would have been great), but I have had several other REALLY-BIG-NAME mixers mix things I tracked and/or produced, and I have never found any of them to be totally satisfactory, according to my vision of what it should have been (and what I believe I would have done myself).

One example of this was several years ago when I engineered all tracking and overdubbing of a very well known group's album.  I had stated at the very beginning that I would love to engineer it, but I would not accept the mixing...why?  Because their previous album had been mixed by Tom L-A, and I thought that it was brilliant (no, I don't like everything he does, in fact I DON'T like a lot of it...but this one was really good, just what the project needed).  It made no sense to me for ANYONE else to mix their new one!  So I made a conscious effort in tracking to just get very good, clean sounds, untreated by effects.  I made sure that there was a perfect set of building blocks there which he could mangle and manipulate in whatever ways he thought best...I believed that this would provide the best album for the group.  But at the end of the day, TLA wanted so much money to do it, the group balked (after throwing up).  I was by then already booked for another project right when this one's tracking finished, so another well known mixer was given the job.  He did absolutely NOTHING at all to the tracks.  No effects, no level changes, no NOTHING; in fact, barely even reverb.  Sounded like faders just set to basic levels, and the tapes copied.  If I had known this, I would have performed many effects and other production values, recorded onto the multi's.  The album was effectively ruined.  The group agreed, and knew all of this, but was so much past the deadlines, and with som much money already spent, they just sadly went with it.  Not a very pretty picture!

Anyway, the upshot of all this is, that I have just decided to always mix my own stuff...it's the only way I think I will get what I want.  But I still sure wish I had that 2 weeks...
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compasspnt

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Re: The Great Mixing Dilemma
« Reply #1 on: March 29, 2005, 12:00:38 am »

drumsound wrote on Sun, 27 March 2005 16:57

I don't even know if I should add to this thread.  There' a lot of things happening and I have thoughts though....

I'm also totally on board with William.  Records should be mixed by the engineer/producer who made them in the first place.  I often know certain things that will happen in a mix well before I'm at that stage.  If I hand the record off, how do I know that those things will happen?  I do commit a lot of things to tape.  I want an odd, pointy guitar, I set up that sound in the room and then record it that way.  But I try to get a good level to tape for S/N ratio even if I know it will be low in the mix.  An outside mixer might crank that part and change the whole feel it was meant to add to the mix.

I like having 24-tracks.  I also like not even using them all.  Unlimited tracks and long record lengths are not helping our industry for the most part.  There are exceptions to the rule of course and I don't think that these things a bad in and of themselves, but I think they help 5-8% of the time and detract 92-98% of the time.  2% of the time they're just right.  

To address J Hall, Ross and others, I also agree that we shouldn't spend our time making broad stroked "this guy sucks" comments, but I have no problem with informed, specific criticisms (of me, my work or choices or of others).


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compasspnt

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Re: The Great Mixing Dilemma
« Reply #2 on: March 29, 2005, 12:03:27 am »

strawberrius wrote on Sun, 27 March 2005 17:36

i have produced/recorded songs mixed by most of the big dogs. in some cases, i chose who would mix and in others, the label chose. you have to remember that not all producers/engineers are even allowed to mix their own records these days (even if they are excellent at it). especially when those records get up into the competitive "million seller" category. but in the last several years i have become real good at printing the sounds and FX that i want in the final mix. there actually is an art to preparing Protools Files for these guys.

for instance, TLA & CLA want essentially "block audio" with no plugins whatsoever.  in JJP's case, he likes to get the PT session as i last had it... plugins/drum samples/unconsolidated fades and all. I'm in the middle of mixing several different artists with clearmountain right now and he is cool enuff to throw in the 5.1 mix at the same time.

i love to mix and essentially do mix every project on ProTools b4 i send it to these guys.  but.....
i must say after working on a grueling album for 3 months, the last thing i want to do is mix it/open up that can of worms.... so i'm all in favor of other people mixing my records.  and all of the above have been excellent at working with me and my mix comments (including a/b'ing to my protools 'ruff' mix). in the end it usually makes for a happier artist, producer & label.

just my 2 cents.

-jrf

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compasspnt

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Re: The Great Mixing Dilemma
« Reply #3 on: March 29, 2005, 12:05:00 am »

Ryan Moore wrote on Mon, 28 March 2005 03:46

FWIW - speaking about outside mixers,
I did once work on a project as a muso where the recording engineer just rocked in getting great sounds, being part of the vibe, being a creative editing hero etc etc & when it came to doing some mixes it was obvious it was just not 'there'..I was surprised by that,
Anyway, a 3rd party was brought in to mix and he did a great job, taking it to the next level..
The orig engineer did the final mastering BTW..
So in that case the tag team approach really did make the trax & album the best it could be..
I do appreciate though that it had a lot to do with this <particular> mixer and his connection to the music and the people doing the project (not meaning croneyism but being on the same 'wavelength'), in short being the perfect man for the job  eg: just hiring in 'a mixer' or sending it to LA to run through 100 compressor channels or whatever would have ruined dinner,,.

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compasspnt

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Re: The Great Mixing Dilemma
« Reply #4 on: March 29, 2005, 12:06:30 am »

steveeastend wrote on Mon, 28 March 2005 07:54



I can second that. I wish there would be more affordable, good guys around my area... Mixing, after months of arranging, playing and producing (because that?s  90% of my job), can be really a hard time. Everyone?s finally happy with the takes, arrangements, sound etc. and than there is this kind of relief from the artists side..... "think we made it, just mix and let go... .. JUST mix it.... I wish it would be that simple....

cheers
steveeastend


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Curve Dominant

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Re: The Great Mixing Dilemma
« Reply #5 on: March 29, 2005, 01:29:58 am »

Terry,

I like to mix.

Don't even ask me why I'm chiming in on this thread. I'm not in the big leagues (yet), so I have absolutely no business chiming in on this thread. I'm just an obscure up-and-comer here in Philly, dicking around in my studio...but I'm up late, and I stumbled upon this thread, so fuck it...here goes:

I like to mix.

I start mixing when tracking starts.

Sometimes, I start mixing BEFORE tracking starts. When I'm sitting around with the artist, with nothing but an acoustic guitar and the lyric sheet, I'm already hearing the mix in my head.

Sometimes I'm hearing the mix BEFORE THAT...I'm hearing the mix before the artist gets to my studio...before he/she even gets up out of bed that morning, I'm hearing the mix.

Often times, I just LOOK at the artist, and I know what the mix should sound like.

Where the hell am I going with this?? OK...here goes:

The Art Of War

"The victorious general wins the battle before stepping upon the battlefield. His victory is predetermined."

Here's another try:

The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People

"Begin with an end in mind."

I'm not trying to preach to you, Terry. You are the master, and I am the student. What I'm trying to say, is that this is the lesson you are trying to teach us. (???)...

stevieeastend

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Re: The Great Mixing Dilemma
« Reply #6 on: March 29, 2005, 09:52:03 am »

Terry,

your story  of your experience with this famous group, which has been put down by this mixer is really a sad one. I really feel sorry for this group. But to be honest, it is so hard for me to image that there are not a bunch of really good guys out there, who will do their job properly to a reasonable price and who do care. If somebody like you, who got a lot of experience and knowledge of the business and great reputation as well is not able to find a mixer, who jumps in, just in case somebody fails or in case you really cannot find any time, how should I can? This sounds like very bad news to me!!!

cheers
steveeastend

henchman

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Re: The Great Mixing Dilemma
« Reply #7 on: March 29, 2005, 10:06:05 am »

I was recently asked to  mix a couple of songs for an artist.
After listenning to the album, I agreed. But only if I would be allowed to remix a third song for free. As I felt that this particular song deserved a better mix.

I hate when a song get's buried becasue of a bad mix.

compasspnt

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Re: The Great Mixing Dilemma
« Reply #8 on: March 29, 2005, 10:18:20 am »

steveeastend wrote on Tue, 29 March 2005 09:52

Terry,

your story  of your experience with this famous group, which has been put down by this mixer is really a sad one. I really feel sorry for this group. But to be honest, it is so hard for me to image that there are not a bunch of really good guys out there, who will do their job properly to a reasonable price and who do care. If somebody like you, who got a lot of experience and knowledge of the business and great reputation as well is not able to find a mixer, who jumps in, just in case somebody fails or in case you really cannot find any time, how should I can?


First of all, the mixer in question did not do a bad job technically...in fact, it was textbook.  What he did not do was special, strange, or inspired things which might have helped make the tracks something more than they were (yes, this can sometimes happen).  That's what  I  knew TLA would have done with this, as he'd done it before.

Secondly, I didn't try to find the mixer, or hire him...it was completely the label and band's doing.

But had I  known all of this in advance, I believe I could have helped the record much more than I did.

Thanks for your posts!
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stevieeastend

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Re: The Great Mixing Dilemma
« Reply #9 on: March 29, 2005, 11:00:25 am »

Hi Terry,

hope my post was not kind of unpolite or something, that?s the last thing I wanted...

But I get you. The only way to have the job done according to the vision is to mix it yourself.  I just don?t want to accept that even on your level it is not possible to just let go.... Actually this has been something I?ve been dreaming of for so long. Just hand it to the mixer and await exactly what I wanted... sweet dream Wink

cheers
steveeastend

henchman

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Re: The Great Mixing Dilemma
« Reply #10 on: March 29, 2005, 11:07:42 am »

Eric Vincent wrote on Tue, 29 March 2005 01:29



Sometimes I'm hearing the mix BEFORE THAT...I'm hearing the mix before the artist gets to my studio...before he/she even gets up out of bed that morning, I'm hearing the mix.

Often times, I just LOOK at the artist, and I know what the mix should sound like.




This is the biggest pile of nonsense I've ever read.

Come back down to planet earth Eric.

Curve Dominant

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Re: The Great Mixing Dilemma
« Reply #11 on: March 29, 2005, 11:34:20 am »

henchman wrote on Tue, 29 March 2005 17:07

Eric Vincent wrote on Tue, 29 March 2005 01:29

Sometimes I'm hearing the mix BEFORE THAT...I'm hearing the mix before the artist gets to my studio...before he/she even gets up out of bed that morning, I'm hearing the mix.

Often times, I just LOOK at the artist, and I know what the mix should sound like.



This is the biggest pile of nonsense I've ever read.

Come back down to planet earth Eric.


And get a job as a post engineer?

NEVER!!!

RMoore

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Re: The Great Mixing Dilemma
« Reply #12 on: March 29, 2005, 05:30:20 pm »

I was at a mastering session today - the ME remarked one tune had a great balance & I had to admit the track had been mixed by an <outside> mixer: Stephen Stanley..

Unlike my special needs mixes Smile

I believe he worked a lot at Compass Point back in the day or was even house engineer (?)...

I will be doing another album mastering session tomorrow with ALL Stephen Stanley mixes...don't anticipate much work needed there (!)..
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J.J. Blair

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Re: The Great Mixing Dilemma
« Reply #13 on: March 29, 2005, 06:40:42 pm »

Terry, I have a suggestion: Send me your tired, poor, muddled tracks yearning to be mixed ... or let me take a swing at one or two to audition for the gig, at least.  

Very Happy

But I understand not wanting to mix and listen to the same fucking song, all day and night, ad nauseum.  I did an interesting thing once with a band; We did four songs then mixed them.  Then we did four more, etc.  Not only did it help in mixing, because I actually remembered certain things I intended to do in the mix, it made the overdub process not seem so assembly line.  I thought it worked quite well.

Mixing is one of those things.  Sometimes it just all falls together so easily, and some mixes are a battle.  And whenever I'm in one of those battles, I am always wishing that somebody else were mixing.  But in the end, if I have enough time to get it to where I want it, I'm ususally happy with the result.  I just never want to hear the damn song again.

And then there's the ultimate pain in the ass ... when somebody shows up with a tape for you to mix with no tones and it was tracked on a different type of machine, and the engineer that you call to ask where the tones are says, "Oh, I didn't print any. Just align it to +6."  Align this, asshole.
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Greg Dixon

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Re: The Great Mixing Dilemma
« Reply #14 on: March 29, 2005, 06:45:02 pm »

Hi Terry,
I actually do, on a lot of albums, take a break before mixing. I just work on the client as we go, explaining that while I'm keen to hear the finished mixes too, I know that they will be better if I have a break from the tracks before I start mixing. In most cases, it's only a few days, but even that helps. As I appear to be nowhere as busy as you and rarely do work for labels, it's probably easier for me to pull off.

I've only had other engineers mix my stuff on a few occasions and I've never been happy with the results either. There was one occasion, a few years back, where I was doing 4 songs, with a regular client, to go on a compilation album. The record label wanted all the tracks mixed by the one person, to bring consistency to the project. The trouble was, that this mixer was an unknown quantity. All we knew, was that they were from interstate and the record company were convinced that this person would do a better job. I managed to convince the client that it was too big a risk to take and he fought really hard, to let them have me mix his tracks. They agreed, as long as the other engineer could be at the mix sessions. The other engineer hated a lot of the sounds we had, especially the electric guitars. Anyway, so we did a compromise mix, which I don't think any of us really liked. A couple of days later, on my own time, I mixed them by myself and we submitted those mixes. No one has ever said anything, but we are so glad we didn't let the other engineer mix. When we got to mastering and heard the other songs, they were terrible. They hadn't been tracked well and the mix was all mids! It's the only time I've appreciated a mastering engineer, having the ability to 're-mix' through M/S type processing. He saved the other tracks, but we still looked great in comparison to the rest of the album. I found out latter, that this engineer had won an engineer of the year award, before they'd moved! Now, if they'd wanted Bob Clearmountain to mix the tracks, cool, as long as I could be there. Very Happy

Greg
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