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the myth of brilliantly mixed music
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#31
1st May 2012
Old 1st May 2012
  #31
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Refer to Jason's post.
#32
1st May 2012
Old 1st May 2012
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Trevor Horn said he didn't like working with great songs. He said he could do much more with (ok) songs.
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#33
1st May 2012
Old 1st May 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jasonwagner View Post
If you don't feel mixing is an art form, then I think you are doing it wrong.
So, a great tracking engineer hands you superb tracks from a great performer that only need to have the faders pushed up to just about sound like a great record. What "art form" are you practicing in that case?

The bad assumption here in Disneyland is that everything that sounds good always actually requires a mix engineer to really "intervene" to make that happen.

I wonder where that idea came from?

Sure it often does require some skill to put things together... especially in modern pop. Sometimes, not so much. All music isn't top 40 pop.

P.S. I actually don't agree with the OP's titled premise in full as I've heard relative crap spun into something quite listenable by very talented people...so it's not a myth. But again, not all mixes actually need that.
#34
1st May 2012
Old 1st May 2012
  #34
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Miharbi View Post
What a Harvard student (vs, say, a Uconn or Clemson student) pays a premium for is not educational benefits.
Hahaha, are you serious? There are a LOT more benefits coming from Harvard than Uconn or Clemson, even though they are all highly ranked. Which I don't think was your intention, using all highly ranked schools, considering you compared $50 wine to $300 wine.
#35
1st May 2012
Old 1st May 2012
  #35
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lawrence View Post
And off we go into Disneyland.

Look, I have utmost respect for great engineers. I wish I was as good as they are. I'm not and probably never will be. But that only means that they have great skill and great talent, it doesn't make them "artists".

If so, then every professional video editor is an artist, every great lawyer, every mechanic who can do more with less tools, and better, then most. The performers are the artists, we engineers are technicians.

Context is really crucial here guys. It's maybe too common to call great skill an artform, when it literally isn't the case in all cases, only where (imo) the person actually created the art.
Exactly! I cringe whenever I read a post on this forum where engineers refer to themselves as "artists", and talk about their "creative decisions" and putting their imprint on the music. Unless you're also hired as a producer, that isn't your place. Your job is to help the artists achieve their creative vision to the best of your ability, not to substitute it with your own. Frankly, if your mixes are instantly recognizable as yours regardless of who you mix, then you aren't doing your job.

Engineers are not artists; they are the facilitators of artists. Which is certainly a worthy occupation that requires a degree of skill, but at the same time they shouldn't overestimate their place and start thinking they are more important than the musicians they serve.
#36
1st May 2012
Old 1st May 2012
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skrillex has proved conclusively that mixing is obsolete. you insert 6 synth washes, and then just pan everything either hard left (dinosaur sounds, screaming, etc), hard right (already overcompressed guitars, bank vault door slams, lead licks played backwards, etc), or center (bass, kick, loops, rap vocal, narratives, etc), and then compress it so that dynamic range does not exceed 1 dB, then fix master level at -0.0001dB, and upload it to itunes. bingo. any 10 year old with an ipad can do it.
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#37
1st May 2012
Old 1st May 2012
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I think the underline issue of "what is the song?" comes into play here.

If indeed mixing is not important, and it is all about the playing performance, then why isn't every song recorded on a zoom and shipped out to the CD pressers?

If the song is just a serious of instruments playing together, than this should be the case today.

However, is the song not so much about the playing performance, as it is about the sonic experience of the song as a whole on the listener?

A song can contain emotions and feelings within it that the original artists do not realise are there. It takes a certain type of interpretation to determine the intended feeling that is in the song, and imho this is what the expert mixer does for the song. Sometimes its as easy as hearing the metal screamer...erm....scream to know that it is an angry song. But maybe the song has a great bass part that deserves to be in the song more. But maybe it adds to much of a funk flavour to it and should rightly be cut for the songs sake. But then you notice that the drummer plays too much double kick....

The list goes on, but my point is that the master mixer can hear the potential of a song much better than the normal mixer can and they can make your song sing out much more than a normal mixer ever could. It's their choices and experience that do this, and that is something that no plugin can ever accomplish...

...
Unless it is self aware like Skynet or something!

But if mixing was just a technical job flow then plugins like EZ mix would be putting engineers out of a job all the time with it's presets...

My €0.02....fwiw....
#38
1st May 2012
Old 1st May 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dean Roddey View Post
To be fair though, people who are perceived to be at the top of the game probably also get to start with vastly better raw materials than most anyone around here will. I don't know to what degree that Andy Wallace is renowned for taking crap and turning it onto gold. Maybe that's something he does all the time. So I'm not trying to make a specific point about him.

But it is true that the chef at the top end restraurant gets to work with the best possible ingredients. Even if he were only equal in actual skill to someone less well known, he'd start off with an advantage. And of course there's also the fact that if you are working with popular bands who are well known, everyone WANTS to like your work already. As compared to the unknown mixing the unknown or semi-known band for whom everyone actually critiques the work without any aura around it, and there's no hesitation to be pretty brutal about it. The same thing happens at the artist level. The well known artist with the wierd voice is unique and special, whereas the guy here on Gearslutz with the weird voice posting the stuff he recorded himself is just wierd.

When folks around here go through, say, one of those Shaking Through threads, listening to what other folks here have done with those tracks, they are probably listening to them with a 'prove it' attitude and looking for things that aren't 'right' in their opinion, because they know the person who did the mix is just another person here. If some well known mixers anonymously posted their own stuff there, they might get similar reactions as compared to if they posted it openly (assuming their style isn't so obviously recognizable that they can't get away with being anonymous or something.)

Anyhoo, I'm not particularly taking sides in this argument, just pointing out some possible factors to consider.
Great post.
#39
1st May 2012
Old 1st May 2012
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Quote:
Question: Why even post stuff like this? Have a lot of time on your hands?
[/QUOTE]

It's quite a bit better food for thought than yet another preamp thread, imo.
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#40
1st May 2012
Old 1st May 2012
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So now the thread veered off into the definition of art and we even got a Skrillex dis in there! I think to really make it perfect you guys need to find a way to shoehorn a mac/pc debate into the discussion somehow.
#41
1st May 2012
Old 1st May 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Miharbi View Post
For most products and services, the law of diminishing returns applies. A $300 bottle of wine isn't much, if any, better than a $50 bottle of wine...
Well, I was with you until I saw this statement.

Clearly, you haven't gotten out much to wine tastings!

#42
1st May 2012
Old 1st May 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nsilva View Post
Hahaha, are you serious? There are a LOT more benefits coming from Harvard than Uconn or Clemson, even though they are all highly ranked. Which I don't think was your intention, using all highly ranked schools, considering you compared $50 wine to $300 wine.
I've had a $7 bottle of wine that blew the doors of a $500 bottle of wine. I feel it's simply a matter of one's own taste. LOL! Sorry.... terrible pun.

I like the OP post, it reminds me of the power of the placebo effect.

And to be honest, I've never tasted the $600 difference between bottles of wine. And to even be more honest, I've had $600 GLASSES of wine, and after drinking that fine glass of wine, thought my host must simply have more money than he knew what to do with, cause it wasn't "that" much better than the $7 BoTTLE. Ah... yes, the good ol' placebo effect...

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#43
1st May 2012
Old 1st May 2012
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Some artists make pencil doodles that capture the worlds imagination.
Some artists spend years making photo-realistic landscapes with expensive paints and brushes - and maybe their labour of love hangs unseen in an attic.
Some artists get lucky with a Polaroid camera and sell their photo for $1000000's.
Some artists Photoshop everything and give it away free.
Some artists spend $1000000's making a movie that flops.

It's all art - commercial success is something else.

Who cares how you make music - I like what I like, regardless. Skrillex sounds great to me. The Beatles sound great to me.

Both The Beatles and Skrillex make their music appear to be effortless. Anyone who knows the truth about how their music is made knows that there is much more to it.

Somebody with talent and ears and an aesthetic vision mixes the music - making them technically the mix engineer.

In my subjective opinion it takes a great idiot to deny the skill and artistic decisions involved in mixing a song that captures the imagination of the public.

I see a lot of people who spend most of their cash tracking in a good studio, but leave the mix decisions to an engineer with tunnel vision and dubious taste. Their choice. I don't like the end result myself.

I do not agree that a great song will succeed despite poor engineering or mixing. There are many, many examples of the exact same song being covered by many capable bands or artists, but only one version really succeeds.

A mixer who isn't an artist can turn gold into crap.
A mixer who IS an artist can turn crap into gold. (Even if he has to sample replace 99%).
#44
1st May 2012
Old 1st May 2012
  #44
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I think the George Michael "Faith" album is brilliant mixing, still holds up and is pleasing to my ears even now. That one took 6 weeks to mix on a 16bit fairlight digital system.

I think "Louie Louie" by the Kingsmen is brilliant mixing, holds up, and is exciting to listen to even now. That one took 20 minutes to mix on a noisy old console and mono tape machine.

I can't imagine either of those being created any other way or sounding any other way.

What was the question?
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#45
1st May 2012
Old 1st May 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ttown23 View Post
Well, I was with you until I saw this statement.

Clearly, you haven't gotten out much to wine tastings!


LOL! We posted at the same time, with completely different views on the wine subject. Oh, your avatar is one of my favorite records btw.

steely
#46
2nd May 2012
Old 2nd May 2012
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If all you are doing is pushing faders up, then I wouldn't call that mixing, just balancing sounds.

Mixing involves choosing what is the highlight of any point in a song. How are you going to highlight it. Finding interesting transitions and deciding how to emphasize them. Making all your verbs, delays and any time based effect move with the rhythm of the song. In some cases dropping parts that don't work. Much more than just pushing faders. And IMO, very artful.

If musicians didn't want these things out of mix engineers they wouldn't hire and pay for specific mixers mixes.
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#47
2nd May 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by steelyfan View Post
LOL! We posted at the same time, with completely different views on the wine subject. Oh, your avatar is one of my favorite records btw.

steely
Hahaha yeah... and all I can say is: give me 12 cases of the 7 dollar bottle!

Every once in a while someone ID's my avatar- no disagreement there!!!

Remember, good mixing is not a myth, I've seen it! Oh, wait, wrong movie...
#48
2nd May 2012
Old 2nd May 2012
  #48
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drumdrum View Post
I think the underline issue of "what is the song?" comes into play here.

If indeed mixing is not important, and it is all about the playing performance, then why isn't every song recorded on a zoom and shipped out to the CD pressers?

If the song is just a serious of instruments playing together, than this should be the case today.

However, is the song not so much about the playing performance, as it is about the sonic experience of the song as a whole on the listener?
I don't think anybody is saying that the sonic quality is not important - only that it is not nearly as important as the performance itself. And there have been enough beloved albums recorded on four-track tape decks by the artists at home to back this up.


Quote:
A song can contain emotions and feelings within it that the original artists do not realise are there. It takes a certain type of interpretation to determine the intended feeling that is in the song, and imho this is what the expert mixer does for the song. Sometimes its as easy as hearing the metal screamer...erm....scream to know that it is an angry song. But maybe the song has a great bass part that deserves to be in the song more. But maybe it adds to much of a funk flavour to it and should rightly be cut for the songs sake. But then you notice that the drummer plays too much double kick....
This is all true, but that is the job of the producer, not the engineer. And if there is no designated producer on a particular project, then these decisions should fall to the artists themselves - especially if they're the ones funding the project in the first place. There's nothing wrong with pointing things like that out and making suggestions, but an engineer should not be making decisions about how he thinks the song should sound. In the end, it's the musicians who are on the line for how the song turns out, and if they want that funk flavor or that double kick in the song then the engineer needs to respect that.

Granted, things can be different when you're talking about a situation where a label is funding the project and has final say on creative matters, but even then it is still the job of the mixer to give the person with final creative authority what he wants. If the person with that authority is willing to give the mixer freedom to do as he sees fit, then so be it, but if not the mixer has to respect the wishes of the guy that hired him.
#49
2nd May 2012
Old 2nd May 2012
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[QUOTE]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kiwi View Post
Who cares how you make music - I like what I like, regardless. Skrillex sounds great to me. The Beatles sound great to me.

Both The Beatles and Skrillex make their music appear to be effortless. Anyone who knows the truth about how their music is made knows that there is much more to it.
Another great post, and I think that might be the OP point as well, that between The Beatles and Skrillex, the sound of the mixes are light years apart, but Skillex could be mixed like The Beatles and The Beatles mixed like Skrillex, and because of the quality of the music, nobody would really be up in airs about "the mix". The music comes through regardless.

However, I prefer the sound of a Beatles albulm. I actually like Skrillex's music for the most part, but those mixes are a bit loud and pumped up for my own taste.

steely
#50
2nd May 2012
Old 2nd May 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lawrence View Post
If so, then every professional video editor is an artist, every great lawyer, every mechanic who can do more with less tools, and better, then most. The performers are the artists, we engineers are technicians.
Probably best to leave professional video and film editing out of the conversation. The art of film editing has little to nothing in common with mixing a song. Different processes, disciplines and purposes. Different world. The industry stopped tagging editors as technicians in the 1930's.

As far as mixing music, I pretty much agree. I truly believe that there's one basic way to mix any given song, within a small envelope of variable parameters. The bass is either right or not; vocals are too loud, can't be heard or they're right in the pocket, and a guitar solo jumps out too far, it's lost, or it's correct. Variation within that envelope won't make or break a production, and won't even be noticed by 99% of listeners. Get too far out of the envelope, and it's a bad mix.

Art can come into the picture when something was recorded poorly, and the engineer has to step in and do massive repair, but I'd say the engineer is venturing far from engineering territory and deep into production there. IMO, a producer is an artist, and shouldn't even be bothered with technicalities. That would be like asking a film director what to do about a dirty camera lens.

The deal here is that I believe most people who haunt this place are the whole show. They write, produce, perform, engineer. They are artists. Good or bad artists is another issue altogether, and one best left to individual opinion.
#51
2nd May 2012
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The OP is full of wrong.
#52
2nd May 2012
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I would like to elaborate on the 'artistic' angle a bit more.

Myself, I am not really an audio engineer, nor do I really care to be. All of my interest in gear, techniques, etc. comes from a desire to realize what's in my mind. This is where 'better' is not neccesarily better, i.e., sometimes things that are totally 'wrong' are the things that are good for the mix.

I feel that mixing is by far the hardest part of recording for me. Perhaps because I am not an engineer, but I think there's more to it than that. I believe that mixing is a performance, and it's just as important (probably more so) to record a good performance here as it is any of the other ingredients that combine to create the final product. I tend to go for the emotional impact over the technical result.

Mixing also reveals 'the moment of truth' - whether or not the track makes it or turns on just right. This is a scary moment for me.

I'm sure a lot of engineers hear a final mix and say, "I could have done better". But they may not realize what went into it and why things were as they are. Being baffled by mix decisions is part of the mystique and charm in some of the best recordings.

To me, it's sort of like the stereo remix of 'Pet Sounds'. Ignoring the stereo/mono aspect, there is something about that original mono mix that cannot be replicated. The remix was done by a very talented engineer and could even be called technically 'flawless'. But it's not as good as the original mix (in my opinion), warts and all. That original mix has all of the emotional elements of the time period wrapped up in it and it just works.

Additionally, I personally feel that it's a mistake to consider 'the mix' to be a separate entity as the recording process itself. Up until the '70s, there was no specific 'mix engineer' per se, mixing was done in sections as the recording progressed, and the 'final mix' was generally called something like the 'dubdown', etc. -- it was simply the last step in the recording process.

In a nutshell: whatever we deem to be 'mixing' is going to vary from situation to situation. Just as some projects don't need a singer, some don't need a mixer. But in some cases, the mixer is integral to the final result.
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#53
2nd May 2012
Old 2nd May 2012
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Comes down to this though...

Your average Joe.... Give them a bedroom recording version of a good song, and before the verse even hits, they have already made up their mind that:
1- the artists are amateurs,
2- because of point one, they are now automatically at a disadvantage to a similar band but who are perceived to be a professional band.

so in order to be taken as seriously, the recording needs to be on level.

Ok, that point is established.

But here comes my next point....

The mixers greatest weapon is the mute button. 90% of the time what a track needs is less cluttered parts. Now, a mixer can't be required to run every little decision through the producer. But if the mixer is working on a project at the level where a producer is involved, chances are that the mixer was pre selected because of their skill. In this case there is a certain amount of trust involved with the mixer and any good producer will let the mixer get on with their job and not "back seat mix" the whole process.

anyways, that is what the mix notes process is for, when you are showing your mix to the artist and producer.

I think this topic is very interesting, but there are too many parameters involved for there to be 1 absolute answer...
#54
2nd May 2012
Old 2nd May 2012
  #54
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Pretty funny stuff here guys. Here's my observations :

A. If you're an amateur, or just starting out, or new to mixing and you are MIXING yourself, then the mix is not that important.....

Until :

B. You're the client and/or a professional with a job to do. THEN for some strange reason, the mix becomes FREAKING important.





Funny how that works isn't it? I'm going to point all my clients to this thread when they demand excellence from me.
#55
2nd May 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drumdrum View Post
Comes down to this though...

Your average Joe.... Give them a bedroom recording version of a good song, and before the verse even hits, they have already made up their mind that:
1- the artists are amateurs,
2- because of point one, they are now automatically at a disadvantage to a similar band but who are perceived to be a professional band.

so in order to be taken as seriously, the recording needs to be on level.
But what if the 'bedroom recording' vibe is more appropriate for the music? Daniel Johnston just doesn't sound right with a 'professional' sheen.
#56
2nd May 2012
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Mixing is providing both a service and an art. There is a practical side and an artistic side. To downplay the artistic side of a brilliant mixer is to not understand the 10,000 hours the mixer has put in to become a great mixer, and clearly that is not all technical experience. Mixers can be brilliant just like a lawyer can be brilliant in the court room. Both are providing a service, yet what separates them from others is their artistic part of the equation. It's just not what they say or do, but it's how they do it.
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#57
2nd May 2012
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P.S. What Dr. Bill said...
#58
2nd May 2012
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This thread is amazing. Sure, just walk on here and tell me my 12 years of work and improvement don't mean anything. That I had no reason to keep improving after 6 years because of diminishing returns.

Truth is, if you work with me on a live show, there is a difference. And I know the returns are not diminishing because I can see where I still have to grow. And I keep growing. Stagnation is not imminent.
It is the same thing in the studio with top studio guys.
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#59
2nd May 2012
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  #59
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Quote:
Originally Posted by donnylang View Post
But what if the 'bedroom recording' vibe is more appropriate for the music? Daniel Johnston just doesn't sound right with a 'professional' sheen.
Some could argue that Daniel Johnston doesn't sound right period.
#60
2nd May 2012
Old 2nd May 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drumdrum View Post
Comes down to this though...

Your average Joe.... Give them a bedroom recording version of a good song, and before the verse even hits, they have already made up their mind that:
1- the artists are amateurs,
2- because of point one, they are now automatically at a disadvantage to a similar band but who are perceived to be a professional band.
History proves you wrong on this point.
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