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When the client asks...."why doesn't my mix sound like the pros"?
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ryst
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13th November 2007
Old 13th November 2007
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When the client asks...."why doesn't my mix sound like the pros"?

Lately I have been getting a lot of tracks to mix that are recorded poorly and the client gets disappointed when the final mix doesn't sound as good as a modern cd. I personally think most modern cd's sound like ass but that's besides the point.

They don't seem to understand the "garbage in, garbage out" philosophy. They don't understand why their $100 signal chain doesn't compare to the pro's $10,000 signal chain. They don't understand that a good recording is actually necessary.


I was thinking of making a list of answers to this question and giving it to clients when they get disappointed with the final product. I don't want to offend anyone but when i try to be honest, they seem to get upset with me. What's the best way to approach this?
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13th November 2007
Old 13th November 2007
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When a guitarist tells me he wants to sound like James Taylor, I tell him to go spend $10,000 on a nice acoustic guitar, then go take lessons from James himself for 10 years or so, then come back and we'll make you sound like James Taylor. Moral of the story, the instrument and the performance is key.
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13th November 2007
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First of all, I wouldn't try to explain this to a client who has a poor understanding of the businss and what it takes to get a decent product. And as a disclaimer I have heard some stuff recorded in a garage with a handfull of 57's on a Mackie that stood up to most modern stuff these days (a tribute to the guy who did it). But here's one approach:

3 weeks at studios $52,500.00

3 weeks with tracking and mixing your album $31,500.00

3 weeks with producing your album $42,000.00

Having master your album $25,000.00

Having to recoup all this and more before making a dime

Not making excuses why your album sounds like a demo PRICELESS!
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13th November 2007
Old 13th November 2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CompEq View Post
3 weeks at studios $52,500.00

3 weeks with tracking and mixing your album $31,500.00

3 weeks with producing your album $42,000.00

Having master your album $25,000.00

Having to recoup all this and more before making a dime

Not making excuses why your album sounds like a demo PRICELESS!
You're my personal hero.
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13th November 2007
Old 13th November 2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ryst View Post
What's the best way to approach this?
How about you just pass on the gig all together?

You should know right away if a mix job will be trouble or not. You meet the client, they talk about their expectations and play their stuff.

Right away you should be able to hear if you can deliver on their expectations or are they realistic. If so you take it and accept the truth that you have agreed to deliver with no excuses.

If its unrealistic you give them your best educated opinion on what's needed or realistic, pass on it and its up to them to go further or find someone else.

Either way its your choice.
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13th November 2007
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When the client asks...."why doesn't my mix sound like the pros"?

then its to late already
Dan
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14th November 2007
Old 14th November 2007
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Are your clients pros?

sorry, had to do it.

I would tell them the explanation takes about 3 days, at my standard day rate. The explanation will be complete with examples, and we'll bring some pro's in to show them how it's done.


jeez, I just can't stop it. Sorry, it's a tough question, with a tough answer.
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14th November 2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thethrillfactor View Post
How about you just pass on the gig all together?
Maybe it's because I've gotten busier, but I've been doing that alot more lately.
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14th November 2007
Old 14th November 2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CompEq View Post
First of all, I wouldn't try to explain this to a client who has a poor understanding of the businss and what it takes to get a decent product. And as a disclaimer I have heard some stuff recorded in a garage with a handfull of 57's on a Mackie that stood up to most modern stuff these days (a tribute to the guy who did it). But here's one approach:

3 weeks at studios $52,500.00

3 weeks with tracking and mixing your album $31,500.00

3 weeks with producing your album $42,000.00

Having master your album $25,000.00

Having to recoup all this and more before making a dime

Not making excuses why your album sounds like a demo PRICELESS!
THIS is awesome.
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14th November 2007
Old 14th November 2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ryst View Post
Lately I have been getting a lot of tracks to mix that are recorded poorly and the client gets disappointed when the final mix doesn't sound as good as a modern cd. I personally think most modern cd's sound like ass but that's besides the point.
maybe the fact that you do not like the way contemporary releases sound is not besides the point at all. Do your clients like the sound of modern CDs?
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ryst
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14th November 2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thethrillfactor View Post
How about you just pass on the gig all together?

You should know right away if a mix job will be trouble or not. You meet the client, they talk about their expectations and play their stuff.

Right away you should be able to hear if you can deliver on their expectations or are they realistic. If so you take it and accept the truth that you have agreed to deliver with no excuses.

If its unrealistic you give them your best educated opinion on what's needed or realistic, pass on it and its up to them to go further or find someone else.

Either way its your choice.
Very good point. The guy was in a hurry and I just tried to help him out. Yeah, I should pass those on in the future. Live and learn.
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14th November 2007
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I wish I had some answer, but hell, I need to up my post count....

If someone truly is mystified why their extremely simple, amateurish tracks don't sound like they've come out of a million dollar studio, I don't think there's any way to open their eyes.

I have run into this attitude before, time and again, and I never know what to say.

Other than-- it's a big part of the aesthetic of recording to mask every last bit of the artifice of it all, and leave the illusion that what you're hearing is just the spontaneous flowing of the artist's inspiration. That just... happened, you know?
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ryst
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14th November 2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rcm View Post
maybe the fact that you do not like the way contemporary releases sound is not besides the point at all. Do your clients like the sound of modern CDs?
I knew someone would bring this up. I don't mind the modern sound....It's only the over compressed and overly bright stuff I don't like (isn't that pretty much the modern sound?). Which I hear a lot. But I do whatever the client wants. But I have been told by a few professional mastering engineers to leave the high end EQing to them. So I tend to be conservative. But if the client wants that from me, I have no problem giving it to them. I have done it plenty times before.

I try and do whatever the client wants me to do to make them happy with the end result. I just did a country mix that had a much more aggressively eq'ed and compressed sound than I normally do because he wanted it to sound like what's on the radio. So I did what he asked and he loved it.

My main issue is explaining to a recent client (and other clients at times) that his song cannot sound like a "pro" track because it doesn't have any resemblance to a "pro" track in any way. Even the song he chose to compare it to was ridiculous. But yet he was still disappointed in me for not being able to deliver what he wanted.
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14th November 2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan View Post
Are your clients pros?

sorry, had to do it.

I would tell them the explanation takes about 3 days, at my standard day rate. The explanation will be complete with examples, and we'll bring some pro's in to show them how it's done.


jeez, I just can't stop it. Sorry, it's a tough question, with a tough answer.
The ones that aren't think they are.....maybe that's the problem.
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14th November 2007
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Originally Posted by moracspace View Post
Tell em to eat a bag a dicks and move on.
HAHAHAHA. :D
excellent. very professional.
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14th November 2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CompEq View Post
First of all, I wouldn't try to explain this to a client who has a poor understanding of the businss and what it takes to get a decent product. And as a disclaimer I have heard some stuff recorded in a garage with a handfull of 57's on a Mackie that stood up to most modern stuff these days (a tribute to the guy who did it). But here's one approach:

3 weeks at studios $52,500.00

3 weeks with tracking and mixing your album $31,500.00

3 weeks with producing your album $42,000.00

Having master your album $25,000.00

Having to recoup all this and more before making a dime

Not making excuses why your album sounds like a demo PRICELESS!
nice.

this is reality.

if you want your album to sound like "sea change" or some such.......make sure you are very talented with a great group of players with great instruments.....then make sure there is 150k to spend on the album.
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Thats what im talking about ! Keem`em comming!!!
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14th November 2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thethrillfactor View Post
You meet the client, they talk about their expectations and play their stuff.

Right away you should be able to hear if you can deliver on their expectations or are they realistic. If so you take it and accept the truth that you have agreed to deliver with no excuses.

If its unrealistic you give them your best educated opinion on what's needed or realistic, pass on it and its up to them to go further or find someone else.
Wow. Why didn't I think of that, oh so many times...
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14th November 2007
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What I've done is politely explain in simple terms that while the mix is an important part of the recording process, it isn't where all the magic happens. They must understand that the tracking and arranging process is MORE important than all the crap you do at the end.

What I then do is play them something that I did from the ground up (hopefully in a similar style to what they are doing) so that they can see that I am capable of delivering the sound they want. At that point, most rational people understand that the problem is not me after all, it's the fault of the last person to work on it.

Now, if the artist is the one that tracked it, it's a little more touchy but you can still explain to them in a tactful way that there is a reason why we audio engineers have so much equiptment and not just an mbox in a bedroom. Sometimes you need to explain to them, despite what the guy at guitar center told them simply to make a sale, that there is value in a good recording studio with a competent engineer.

-Aaron
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14th November 2007
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Originally Posted by ryst View Post
. But I have been told by a few professional mastering engineers to leave the high end EQing to them.
If he told me how to mix a record i would find a new ME

course if you have been told that by a "Few MEs" then maybe there hearing something your not

.
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14th November 2007
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Originally Posted by ryst View Post
I don't want to offend anyone but when i try to be honest, they seem to get upset with me. What's the best way to approach this?
I would play them something that i mixed that sounded great, doesn't even need to be the same style but it would help

then you can start to explain how it all starts at the beginning,.... song, arrangement, ect..

and how much time it took to record, mix and master what you just played them



ryst
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14th November 2007
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Originally Posted by stevep View Post
If he told me how to mix a record i would fine a new ME

course if you have been told that by a "Few MEs" then maybe there hearing something your not

.
No, it's not that drastic. They basically don't want overly bright mixes that they have to fight with. I don't disagree. Digital eq's can sound harsh on the high end even in small amounts. I don't give them dull mixes. They just aren't quite as bright as mastered stuff. I would much rather have them add the final "air" anyway. It's good to have a fresh set of ears making those decisions.
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14th November 2007
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From the artists's perspective, it's a good question to ask.

More and more music is being tracked by artists in their bedrooms (at least overdubs) and then being sent out to be mixed. (It's just a fact of life now)

If I were exclusively an engineer, I'd specialize in tracking drums and mixing and make sure the people who were tracking the rest (generally the artists) had a better idea how to record the other stuff (I know some of you even offer classes/seminars which is pretty progressive).

This way, you get better sounding tracks to mix (hopefully) and it makes everyone look and sound better.

Of course, I agree with the "garbage in, garbage out" idea as well...if the material and arrangements are bad, it's never gonna sound good...even if you've got all the sweet gear we all love.
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14th November 2007
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Ok,.. we all work different )) i do agree that the me can add that extra fairy dust to a record... LoL

when a mix leaves here i want it to sound finished, so the ME says cool,.. this is ready. all i need to do is maybe 1db here or there to match the other songs on the record. It doesn't happen all the time but thats what i strive for

i always attend mastering if its a project im involved with so my mixes wont end up a square wave



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14th November 2007
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Originally Posted by stevep View Post
Ok,.. we all work different )) i do agree that the me can add that extra fairy dust to a record... LoL

when a mix leaves here i want it to sound finished, so the ME says cool,.. this is ready. all i need to do is maybe 1db here or there to match the other songs on the record. It doesn't happen all the time but thats what i strive for

i always attend mastering if its a project im involved with so my mixes wont end up a square wave



Oh yeah. I am always at the mastering session too. I strive for the same thing as you....but on my own rock music, I have to justify spending $150 an hour with the ME somehow, right?
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This might work:


Hand the client a 'prosumer' video camera and tell him
to go shoot some clips that look 'just like' Spiderman 3.
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I've had clients that have had some pretty high expectations for their albums-- Saying they want their mixes to sound like Perfect Circle/Tool. I tell them "I'll do my best to come close, but in the end, it's still going to sound like you." Then I point out the differences in guitar&bass amps, vocal style, musical style. I explain that all of that stuff really does add up. Most people will understand when you lay it all out for them. If I ever get somebody truly hardcore about sounding like someone else, I'll do some research and give him a laundry list of gear to rent/purchase and tell him "LET'S DO IT!"
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Originally Posted by DontLetMeDrown View Post
I've had clients that have had some pretty high expectations for their albums-- Saying they want their mixes to sound like Perfect Circle/Tool.
My usual response is "The job of being 'Tool' is already taken" and say I will try to get them to sound like the absolute best version of themselves possible.
Sometimes they get it, sometimes not.

Of course, I am in NJ so there are more bands trying to sound like Disturbed rather than Tool.
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Originally Posted by 5down1up View Post
When the client asks...."why doesn't my mix sound like the pros"?

then its to late already
uh huh

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I've run across this in the past (but not lately, thank the powers that be), and I never pulled any punches - some of them even thanked me (later...much later).

I'd say "The reason your mix doesn't sound pro, is bacause your songwriting, arranging, singing and playing are amateur, and it was recorded on lousy gear in a crappy room by someone who hadn't even the basic concepts of gain staging, mic choice & positioning, dynamic range, or a thousand other things that need to be considered when tracking. "
Or something very close to that. For the truely clueless I would tell them to record ALL their rehersals with a cheap cassette or boom-box, and when they really thought the results sounded pro level, bring them to me for a critical listen - and I'd tell 'em what they needed to listen for (they always brought in stuff with serious intonation problems, parts not solidified - i.e. the bass/gtr/whoever never played the same thing twice in successive verses, choruses etc.)

Enthusiasm & energy are good [We F***in' Rock!], but it needs substance to back it up. There are 1000 wannabes for every true talent. Part of the problem is a generation (or even 2) that have been raised in the climate of "You're special, you can be anything you want if you just try" - Entitlement is the new black, nobody's "bad" at anything, they're just misunderstood.
So sorry sunshine; 90% of everything is crap, and you haven't found your way to the other 10.

Scott
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