Login / Register
 
the myth of brilliantly mixed music
New Reply
Subscribe
#61
2nd May 2012
Old 2nd May 2012
  #61
Lives for gear
 
Joined: Mar 2005
Posts: 950

Winey is offline
Quote:
Originally Posted by guid0 View Post
Some could argue that Daniel Johnston doesn't sound right period.
Sometimes either you get it or you don't.
#62
2nd May 2012
Old 2nd May 2012
  #62
Lives for gear
 
timtoonz's Avatar
 
Joined: Sep 2003
Location: Mr. & Mississauga
Posts: 1,224

timtoonz is offline
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.

It's a common use of the language to call great skill art, but in this case (because it involves an actual art form, music?) people seem to take it too literally.



ANYTHING, mixing, painting, writing, mechanics, CAN be ART or simply CRAFT. They're not the same.

Best definition I ever heard is that ART is when you say what you want to say, and CRAFT is when somebody else pays you to say what they want to say. So if CLA merely mixes to give you what you want, then he's an excellent craftsman -- which is a damn fine thing in and of itself. If he goes further to bring his own vision of what pop songs can be into it, and adds his own new layer of meaning to your tune, then he's an artist.

Making records is usually a collaborative art. That usually means there are more than a few artists involved.

Or making records can be all about putting out a product, dictated by the marketing department's specifications. Then you need a bunch of skilled craftsmen.

Almost anything can be an art... in the hands of an artist with something to say.
__________________
"I'll play it and tell you what it is later" Miles
#63
2nd May 2012
Old 2nd May 2012
  #63
Gear Head
 
Joined: Apr 2009
Location: Marlborough, MA
Posts: 58

centsmin is offline
This says it all. In the creative fields, you pay for someone's sense of style.
the more capable a person is of rendering that style in a way that resonates with the target Market, the better they are. "Technically competent" and "Hot" have never been the same thing. If you just want to be technically competent, there will be a never ending deluge of crappy band demos for you to mix as long and your price is cheap enough. That's really no reason for you to think "Hey, I'm almost as good as JJP...."

Quote:
Originally Posted by Enlightened Hand View Post
I think you pay for the mix engineer's style, ear and particular mix presentation.

Some of those qualities when rendered in a mix are very popular and hard to get just anywhere, so you pay for whoever can consistently do it the way you like it. Doesn't mean you won't run into a situation with a well known mixer that for whatever reason doesn't gel with your project. Doesn't mean that when that happens that high dollar mix engineers are all hype either.

Could it be cheaper overall? Probably, but very few mix engineers are getting rich doing it, even those with names. So perhaps, given the level of revenue a hit album can generate, it's appropriate to cough up a few tens of kilobucks so they can continue doing what they do and be around for us to enjoy.

Is that diminishing returns? Only if you don't value what the engineer has to offer. Some do and some don't. Fortunately there's a price range for all. Bedroom warrior and small time rogue included.
#64
2nd May 2012
Old 2nd May 2012
  #64
Lives for gear
 
steveschizoid's Avatar
 
Joined: Dec 2007
Location: Columbus, Ohio
Posts: 2,331

steveschizoid is offline
Quote:
Originally Posted by Slipperman View Post
The myth of brilliant internot commentary.

"Out, dunghill! darst thou brave a nobleman?"


SM.
"Thou art A murderer!"

(To bad this thread didn't notice)

Quote:
Originally Posted by TimS View Post
You are absolutely correct; unfortunately you are posting this on a forum where far too many members think that their contribution is more important than the work of the artists themselves. So I wouldn't expect many people here to agree with you.
A fascinating debate technique you've just used here.

You've implied that anyone who disagrees with your opinion must believe a pretty much self evident absurdity (that their work as an audio engineer is more important than the musical substance over which they labor), then pointed out how ridiculous that stance would have to be.

It's like you set up a STRAW MAN and knocked it right over, and the fact (of the straw man in tatters at your feet) becomes a prima facie rebuttal to anyone who might presume to take exception to your opinion.

BRILLIANT!

NEVER SEEN THAT BRFORE!
Quote:
Originally Posted by drBill View Post
Feel free to believe that bad mixing techniques, crappy converters, cheap microphones, zero experience, and bedroom studio's are as good as the traditional alternatives. If that makes you sleep better and feel less insecure, embrace it.

Meanwhile, real artists, engineers, producers strive for the absolute BEST they can do, and will be pulling forward to the front. Choose which paradigm you want to live in and go.

Carry on.
Werd.

Quote:
Originally Posted by thenoodle View Post
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?
I read Andy Summers' book a few years ago. During the making of Zenyatta Mondatta I guess there was a lot of pressure to follow up Regatta De Blanc, and the night before they had to wrap it up and head back out on the road, they weren't really liking the mixes and decided to tear it all down and remix the entire record from scratch. I seem to remember reading that it was an all hands on the mixing board sort of thing.

That's some testicular fortitude if you ask me, but, , it didn't matter anyway, right? I'm sure those guys and their neurotic perfectionism had nothing to do with their genius or sucess. Any plumber with an ear for music could've done fine.

It sure would be interesting to hear the mixes they discarded though.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cheebs Goat View Post
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.
.
"He not busy born is busy dying."
__________________
Andy Sartain

(new web site coming soon)
Quote:
Originally Posted by u b k View Post
.....Along with a link to one or three of their own mixes that demonstrate what the poster is claiming. Otherwise, they're just blowin' smoke out their @ss and asking me to breathe deep.
#65
2nd May 2012
Old 2nd May 2012
  #65
Geariophile
 
Karloff70's Avatar
 
Joined: Oct 2006
Location: london
Posts: 13,329

Karloff70 is offline
What a threads' worth of wisdom.
#66
2nd May 2012
Old 2nd May 2012
  #66
Lives for gear
 
doorknocker's Avatar
 
Joined: Nov 2002
Location: Basel, Switzerland
Posts: 6,653

doorknocker is offline
Quote:
Originally Posted by Miharbi View Post
Factors that support this view -
Also called 'my opinion'.

But re-reading your OP I agree with what you say. The problem is rather the term 'artist' which I generally could do without. A musician can be as much or as little of an artist as a mixing engineer - or a carpenter for that matter.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Miharbi View Post
1) Music is an art. So that we must always consider the possibility that what sounds like a poor mixing choice was merely an unusual artistic choice - and the possibility that a mixing miscalculation can be seen as a happy artistic accident.
Mixing is also an art.

Take Rudy Van Gelder: His most famous recordings were done live in a very controlled studio setting. But he became famous for 'his sound' which was a combination of his gear, recording setup and musical choices how to translate the music to the recording medium.

It went FAR beyond just capturing what's there and a good example is his piano sound. A lot of people didn't like it, I assume many musicians he recorded among them. Personally I like it very much because it focuses on the harmonic 'glow' of the instrument and less on the airy atmosphere. Compare Miles Davis' Columbia records with the Prestige sessions. A very different sound, I can't say one is better than the other but it was a matter of decisions being made: where to record, what mics to use, how to balance it, etc, etc.

Mixing is part of that process. In those days it was hardly ever mentioned or credited except for 'balance engineer' but that only meant that the person doing the mix was already making 'artistic' choices in the tracking process.

RVG called himself the 'messenger' of the artists he recorded. I think it was more than that because he did things according to his own taste and ears which seemed to work well for a long time but hardly was a mere 'service' to the artist or label.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Miharbi View Post
2) Even the horrible fidelity of Skip James's early recordings isn't enough to stop us from enjoying those recordings. The point is, when we listen to music, we listen to the substance - the arrangement, the performance, rhythm, lyrics, melody, chords - not the mix. As long as the mix is ~good enough~, we quickly forget about it.
In the case of Skip James it probably adds to the mystery and nostalgia of the experience. Although it 'just happened' at the time due to primitive recording equipment and more importantly, detoriation of the records the recordings survived on, chances are that we might even prefer it to a hypothetical 'pristine' recording of the same perfromances.

The hiss and crackling and the extremely low fidelity become artistic means because you 'judge' those recordings against modern ones with all the historic baggage entering your mind. Partly that's because other more recent artist made recordings that attempt to capture the 'authenticity' of older recordings by using the coloration of old equipment and by consciously going for a less than perfect production approach. It has nothing to do with how the music sounded back then in the room but rather about the aura of sepia glow, faded memories, etc

Quote:
Originally Posted by Miharbi View Post
3) Playback systems for recorded music vary so widely that the purity of a finely wrought mix doesn't translate to the real world anyway. Digital file compression takes its toll too.
That's exactly why the 'artistic' side is so important. Mixing is rarely about making it as pristine and 'pure' as possible but rather about the impact and mood of the music. A great mix feels great, even if it may not sound spectacular. That can very well be a mere 'accident' like it may be true for 'Louie Louie' or 'Pipeline' but mostly it is a combination of the song, performance and engineering/mixing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Miharbi View Post
(Same approach goes for gear, too, I'd say. Mics, preamps, converters - above a certain threshold, there's difference, but no better and no worse. And it's a lower threshold than we might think.)

Thoughts?
Better or worse are not the key here I think. Rather it's about enhancing something and making decisions to do so which is purely a subjective choice. Making a decision can very well mean 'leave it alone' - it's as much of a creative/artistic choice as 'let's try 1176 #11 in the third rack to the left.'
__________________
How to make a small fortune in the music business? Start with a large one.

http://www.doorknocker.ch/
#67
2nd May 2012
Old 2nd May 2012
  #67
Lives for gear
 
The Listener's Avatar
 
Joined: Oct 2006
Location: Europe
Posts: 1,858

The Listener is offline
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. You can only make a sofa so comfortable. What a Harvard student (vs, say, a Uconn or Clemson student) pays a premium for is not educational benefits. A Bic writes just as well as an expensive pen. You don't gain much by getting the priciest candle on the market. And so on.

I get suspicious when I hear talk of "great" or "brilliant" mixing engineers, and people venerating the renowned ones as if what they had was some kind of rare talent. It's a skill, to be sure, and a craft, and it takes a fair bit of artistic sensitivity. But it's closer to, say, illustrating as a vocation than other endeavors where "great" and "brilliant" might be more apt descriptors. Give 100 experienced illustrators the task of drawing a bear, and you'll probably get 100 well-drawn bears. Some of the bears might suit your tastes better than others, but all the illustrators probably would've been equal to the task, and it would make little sense to try to rank the bears in terms of quality. Same with mixing, I think. Mixing has quickly diminishing returns. It's a skill measured by competence more than by ingenuity. There are definitely bad mixes to be heard out there, but above a certain threshold, virtually all better/worse distinctions disappear. And that threshold is lower than we might think.

Factors that support this view -

1) Music is an art. So that we must always consider the possibility that what sounds like a poor mixing choice was merely an unusual artistic choice - and the possibility that a mixing miscalculation can be seen as a happy artistic accident.

2) The mix is a type of medium, and we soon forget about the medium. Two minutes into a great movie, you've already forgotten about what TV or device you're watching it on. Color film was a fine innovation, but did anyone care that "Casablanca" lacked color? Even the horrible fidelity of Skip James's early recordings isn't enough to stop us from enjoying those recordings. The point is, when we listen to music, we listen to the substance - the arrangement, the performance, rhythm, lyrics, melody, chords - not the mix. As long as the mix is ~good enough~, we quickly forget about it.

3) Playback systems for recorded music vary so widely that the purity of a finely wrought mix doesn't translate to the real world anyway. Digital file compression takes its toll too.

(Same approach goes for gear, too, I'd say. Mics, preamps, converters - above a certain threshold, there's difference, but no better and no worse. And it's a lower threshold than we might think.)

Thoughts?
You're wrong.

There are great artists and craftsmen in all the fields. No myth. Some people just have friggin' amazing skills.

If you forget about technical details while enjoying a particular piece of art it means it was well done.

If a song sounds great on all the different systems - it was mixed really well. If it seems to be "larger than life" even on a crappy mono speaker in the toilet, after 128kps mp3 compression, at low resolution on Youtube, etc. but absolutely kills when you put it on a proper hi-fi system - it is a sign that you are witnessing a "brilliant" mix.

The skill and imagination of such artists is even more evident when listening to very busy mixes with a lot going on and yet being clear, smooth, engaging, etc.
Hey, maybe you are that amazing, too, and don't understand what all the fuss is about, since you can do it consistently, too, and it seems "normal" to you, not something extraordinary that should cost that much. Maybe you can reconsider your rates.
__________________
"The first question I ask myself when something doesn't seem to be beautiful is why do I think it's not beautiful. And very shortly you discover that there is no reason."

John Cage

http://elmutante.bandcamp.com/album/...of-kindness-ep

http://worldhappinessmusic.bandcamp.com/
#68
2nd May 2012
Old 2nd May 2012
  #68
Lives for gear
 
Joined: Feb 2010

jasonwagner is offline
“A man who works with his hands is a laborer; a man who works with his hands and his brain is a craftsman; but a man who works with his hands and his brain and his heart is an artist”
-Louis Nizer

Mix with your heart!
__________________
www.sonicconscious.com
nas
#69
2nd May 2012
Old 2nd May 2012
  #69
nas
Lives for gear
 
nas's Avatar
 
Joined: Jul 2008
Location: Jordan
Posts: 1,011

nas is offline
Quote:
Originally Posted by jasonwagner View Post
“A man who works with his hands is a laborer; a man who works with his hands and his brain is a craftsman; but a man who works with his hands and his brain and his heart is an artist”
-Louis Nizer

Mix with your heart!
My brother gave me a plaque with those exact words for my birthday. It's hanging in my studio... a great inspiration and applies to whatever I'm doing... composing, tracking, mixing. I have a tremendous amount of respect for those who live life this way in everything they do - no matter how seemingly technical or mechanical something may seem, there are those who take it to the next level and really do put their hearts into it. Those are the kind of people I want mixing and mastering my music... and the kind of people I want to be around.
__________________
cheers,
nas


I've been imitated so well I've heard people copy my mistakes.

-- Jimi Hendrix
#70
2nd May 2012
Old 2nd May 2012
  #70
Lives for gear
 
cowboycoalminer's Avatar
 
Joined: Sep 2010
Location: I was country, when country wasn't cool
Posts: 2,936

cowboycoalminer is offline
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lawrence View Post
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.
Good post. Mixing is not an art, it is a learned skill or trade. There are levels of skill between mix engineers same as any other profession in the world. To say a mixer is an artist is a stretch. Engineers create nothing but are simply part of the process of creation. Artists create something out of thin air. Can a mixer say that?
#71
2nd May 2012
Old 2nd May 2012
  #71
Lives for gear
 
cowboycoalminer's Avatar
 
Joined: Sep 2010
Location: I was country, when country wasn't cool
Posts: 2,936

cowboycoalminer is offline
Quote:
Originally Posted by br3music View Post
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.
That's like saying a laborer on a construction crew is an artist because he has spent 10,000 hours with a shovel in his hand. I've seen some damn fine shovelers but none of them were born skilled with the tool. You use the word artist very loosely here.

Ask an artist how they created a song. Ask them how they fashioned a particular groove. Ask one how they came up with the lyrics. Any artists who reads this will know the answer to those questions. They cant tell you. Art comes and artists don't know why. It just comes somewhat like a gift from who knows where?

I will say this, those that are not artists are the lucky ones. It's a tormented way to live.
#72
2nd May 2012
Old 2nd May 2012
  #72
Lives for gear
 
Joined: Mar 2010
Posts: 1,395

Cheebs Goat is offline
Quote:
Originally Posted by cowboycoalminer View Post
Good post. Mixing is not an art, it is a learned skill or trade. There are levels of skill between mix engineers same as any other profession in the world. To say a mixer is an artist is a stretch. Engineers create nothing but are simply part of the process of creation. Artists create something out of thin air. Can a mixer say that?
This whole side discussion is beside the point and really meaningless in the context of the original post.

Whether it is art or not has no bearing on the possibility of a small percentage of mixers rising above the rest to be great.

Whether it is art or not has no bearing on if there is indeed a benefit to using a mixer who has risen above the rest.

It's just another straw man.

Kinda' silly to say a mixer can't be great. Kinda' silly to say there isn't a noticeable benefit to using a great mixer over an average mixer. Kinda' hard to argue that it all doesn't matter.

Much easier to argue over whether mixing is art or not and silently imply that whether it matters or not depends on whether it is art or not.

Argue if it is art or not all you want, just without this hidden subtext where it "proves" that mixing doesn't matter if it is not art.
__________________
- Mike Tate
Live sound guy
Wilmington De
#73
2nd May 2012
Old 2nd May 2012
  #73
Gear nut
 
MoneySound's Avatar
 
Joined: Feb 2010
Posts: 149

MoneySound is offline
Quote:
Originally Posted by cowboycoalminer View Post
Good post. Mixing is not an art, it is a learned skill or trade. There are levels of skill between mix engineers same as any other profession in the world. To say a mixer is an artist is a stretch. Engineers create nothing but are simply part of the process of creation. Artists create something out of thin air. Can a mixer say that?
A mixer can create a gated reverb, a perfectly timed delay, a wet vocal, a dry vocal etc., etc. These are creative decisions. Many incredible recordings have resulted from a sound that an engineer created and a musician then applied. Thus, art based on a creative endeavor from the 'technician'.

Going back to the OP, brilliance & greatness can exist amongst mixers as with winemakers, pen manufacturers, etc. What Separates the brilliant from the 'good enough' is creative decisions and taking a risk based on a unique vision or insight. I would not hesitate to call a sublime pen design 'art'; the same goes for a mix which blows my mind.
A 'brilliant' mixer is one who can do with the raw materials, what no one else can do. These people exist and I would certainly call them artists.
#74
2nd May 2012
Old 2nd May 2012
  #74
Lives for gear
 
doorknocker's Avatar
 
Joined: Nov 2002
Location: Basel, Switzerland
Posts: 6,653

doorknocker is offline
Quote:
Originally Posted by MoneySound View Post
A 'brilliant' mixer is one who can do with the raw materials, what no one else can do. These people exist and I would certainly call them artists.
3 words: Lee Scratch Perry.
#75
2nd May 2012
Old 2nd May 2012
  #75
Geariophile
 
Karloff70's Avatar
 
Joined: Oct 2006
Location: london
Posts: 13,329

Karloff70 is offline
Quote:
Originally Posted by cowboycoalminer View Post
Mixing is not an art
If you really think that, may people only ever serve you up mediocre 'workmanship-like' mixes of your stuff, for you do not deserve any artful ones.
#76
2nd May 2012
Old 2nd May 2012
  #76
Lives for gear
 
DaveE's Avatar
 
Joined: Apr 2010
Location: USA
Posts: 1,358
My Recordings/Credits

DaveE is offline
client: "you didn't add any delay/reverb/fx?"

mixer: "Whoa! Holdup there buddy! I'm not here to make artistic decisions for you, I'm just a technician!"
#77
2nd May 2012
Old 2nd May 2012
  #77
Geariophile
 
Karloff70's Avatar
 
Joined: Oct 2006
Location: london
Posts: 13,329

Karloff70 is offline
Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveE View Post
client: "you didn't add any delay/reverb/fx?"

mixer: "Whoa! Holdup there buddy! I'm not here to make artistic decisions for you, I'm just a technician!"
LOL
#78
2nd May 2012
Old 2nd May 2012
  #78
Lives for gear
 
cowboycoalminer's Avatar
 
Joined: Sep 2010
Location: I was country, when country wasn't cool
Posts: 2,936

cowboycoalminer is offline
Quote:
Originally Posted by Karloff70 View Post
If you really think that, may people only ever serve you up mediocre 'workmanship-like' mixes of your stuff, for you do not deserve any artful ones.
You have every right to believe that. Curious to know who I'm replying to though. Would it be too much to ask for you to serve up one of your artful mixes for me to have a listen? You seem to have me at disadvantage. Thanks.
#79
2nd May 2012
Old 2nd May 2012
  #79
Geariophile
 
Karloff70's Avatar
 
Joined: Oct 2006
Location: london
Posts: 13,329

Karloff70 is offline
Quote:
Originally Posted by cowboycoalminer View Post
You have every right to believe that. Curious to know who I'm replying to though. Would it be too much to ask for you to serve up one of your artful mixes for me to have a listen? You seem to have me at disadvantage. Thanks.
In that case I shall choose to remain steadfast in my beliefs. Thank you for affording me such freedom.

As far as my own artful mixes I'll keep my trousers on, thanks. I have no inclination to get my c**k out just for you to exclaim "See, that's not artful!"....

The only way I may have you at a disadvantage is in so much that I have gleaned there is plenty of artfulness in mixing and you have yet to come to this conclusion. But still, you may of course remain in your belief for the duration should you so choose.
#80
2nd May 2012
Old 2nd May 2012
  #80
Lives for gear
 
initialsBB's Avatar
 
Joined: Oct 2002
Location: LA
Posts: 3,547

initialsBB is offline
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cheebs Goat View Post
This whole side discussion is beside the point and really meaningless in the context of the original post.

Whether it is art or not has no bearing on the possibility of a small percentage of mixers rising above the rest to be great.

Whether it is art or not has no bearing on if there is indeed a benefit to using a mixer who has risen above the rest.

It's just another straw man.
^^^^^^^^^
#81
2nd May 2012
Old 2nd May 2012
  #81
Lives for gear
 
herecomesyourman's Avatar
 
Joined: May 2007
Location: Phoenix AZ.
Posts: 3,420

herecomesyourman is offline
The threshold is far higher than you realize.

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. You can only make a sofa so comfortable. What a Harvard student (vs, say, a Uconn or Clemson student) pays a premium for is not educational benefits. A Bic writes just as well as an expensive pen. You don't gain much by getting the priciest candle on the market. And so on.

I get suspicious when I hear talk of "great" or "brilliant" mixing engineers, and people venerating the renowned ones as if what they had was some kind of rare talent. It's a skill, to be sure, and a craft, and it takes a fair bit of artistic sensitivity. But it's closer to, say, illustrating as a vocation than other endeavors where "great" and "brilliant" might be more apt descriptors. Give 100 experienced illustrators the task of drawing a bear, and you'll probably get 100 well-drawn bears. Some of the bears might suit your tastes better than others, but all the illustrators probably would've been equal to the task, and it would make little sense to try to rank the bears in terms of quality. Same with mixing, I think. Mixing has quickly diminishing returns. It's a skill measured by competence more than by ingenuity. There are definitely bad mixes to be heard out there, but above a certain threshold, virtually all better/worse distinctions disappear. And that threshold is lower than we might think.

Factors that support this view -

1) Music is an art. So that we must always consider the possibility that what sounds like a poor mixing choice was merely an unusual artistic choice - and the possibility that a mixing miscalculation can be seen as a happy artistic accident.

2) The mix is a type of medium, and we soon forget about the medium. Two minutes into a great movie, you've already forgotten about what TV or device you're watching it on. Color film was a fine innovation, but did anyone care that "Casablanca" lacked color? Even the horrible fidelity of Skip James's early recordings isn't enough to stop us from enjoying those recordings. The point is, when we listen to music, we listen to the substance - the arrangement, the performance, rhythm, lyrics, melody, chords - not the mix. As long as the mix is ~good enough~, we quickly forget about it.



3) Playback systems for recorded music vary so widely that the purity of a finely wrought mix doesn't translate to the real world anyway. Digital file compression takes its toll too.

(Same approach goes for gear, too, I'd say. Mics, preamps, converters - above a certain threshold, there's difference, but no better and no worse. And it's a lower threshold than we might think.)

Thoughts?

I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to disagree with this post on several levels.

But I want to start backward as to why, so we'll start with crushing your third point.


03. 128KBITS, PLAYBACK SYSTEMS AND OTHER GEAR:

There is a reason why professional mixing and mastering engineers use multiple systems and sets of speakers in order to reference a mix.

If you can get a "picture" (image) to translate over and over, despite differences in a wide range of systems, your "Photo" (mix) will reproduce much more accurately no matter what hyping is occurring due to differences in speaker technology, make and model.

I mix with three sets of speakers, near-fields with a sub, mid fields and some shitty computer speakers with a sub lately. Only when I feel I'm generally getting the same vibe out of all three and that no matter how high I turn up my treble on my computer speakers that things still feel musical, only then mind you, is when I take my mix through my stereo, cell phone via MP3, my car and my computer speakers in my lap top.

When I know a master feels accurate on all systems. I push bass in the car all the way up until it's unmusical, go back and tune my bass until it finally feels musical in the car no matter how hard I push things...and after that I know I'm done because I'll have measured RMS and Peak Volume levels to make sure I'm within the parameters of broadcasting standards without crushing things to a terrible and over-limited volume levels clipping digital zero that the CD's of the previous decade were essentially forced into by people following crappy trends.

As for preamps, mics, and other gear, there are certainly better builds, models and makes that many feel stand the test of time, and clones and so forth that get you close if not essentially there.

But then there's terrible sub-par pieces of plastic that really have no business near a real recording.

You need a decent set of tools you understand how to use in order to finish the work right, if you've never really had a lot of experience using a lot of tools and you aren't familiar with drastic night and day qualities of say a good vintage Neve Pre vs a Presonus anything for example, then a statement like yours becomes something understandable. You just don't know what the real things sound like.

Lastly, digital MP3 compression is terrible, but there are ways to maximize your fidelity enough to compensate for the loss.

Hell tracks cut to tape aren't at the highest possible recording resolutions either and we love how old LP's feel on a turntable.

Listen to Jack White's new LP "Blunderbuss" on MP3 and tell me he didn't engineer something special artfully that really covers his bases on getting through the higher res copies of the record vibe and such.


02. Mixing is a medium, but "disposable" mixes usually kill something special quickly. If something feels flat, uninspired...boring. Well...than it is boring. Lets call a spade a spade.

Sorry, we're merchants of emotion man, we're trying to augment the intention of the music and impart our fingerprints on the scene of the crime of the century. The goal of every pro with true talent in this business is to have a unique sound that delivers on all those counts every time. A voice as distinct as the artist's in question. That's why so few ever really get to do things full time as a living.

There are fantastic pros who raised the bar that post on this forum or at least read it, and they don't have to brag, the sales, the fans, and the people who try to learn from them by studying their recordings are enough to prove that talent is not a myth or a construct.

Training your ears for the Olympics is tough, and not everyone gets to compete, but that doesn't mean I'm ever going to quit. Recordings that literally make you as a listener get lost in their engineering tend to feel alive in a manner people who take this stuff seriously always aspire to achieve.


01. Pushing boundaries and using what is available to you in order to get the best recording you can, (something unique that truly is special that has a commercial market in music) is what everyone who's working their way up to being a top level pro has to do in order to get noticed.

You can be a charming dude people love to hang out with, but that doesn't mean you make a recording that truly feels like it should be a hit record with the majority of people who chance upon listening to it. (And I mean "hit" in sense that people want to buy it and support it, not in the old radio sense)

You can do amazing things and learn a lot quickly with a small home studio and the internet, but that doesn't mean people will buy your records in mass quantities. Making superior products with skilled professionals is often the only sane choice in order to secure advertising funding for a product from investors or label groups.

This is never an easy business, and it takes years to develop an ear, even if you're talented naturally. So I really don't agree with anything you've said. I just know that pairing up with people who don't deserve to be paid never leads to a pro product you can release and promote.

That being said a great engineer might take more time with a small budget and few resources to get to a competitive and wonderful sounding place with a project than someone with a lot of toys, no work experience, and nothing unique about their end-game sound. But they will deliver something that takes on it's own life musically in the end because they live and die by the sword.

Gordan Raphael in particular comes to mind this case with "Is This It" by the Strokes, but there are many cases of great records being done with less.

It's the driver, not the car, but the car has to be in good enough condition to make it around the track.
__________________
"Your brain is like any other muscle in your body. If you don't exercise it once in awhile it will atrophy."
#82
2nd May 2012
Old 2nd May 2012
  #82
Lives for gear
 
Dpro's Avatar
 
Joined: Mar 2012
Location: Los Feliz/Hollywood
Posts: 927

Dpro is online now
Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveE View Post
client: "you didn't add any delay/reverb/fx?"

mixer: "Whoa! Holdup there buddy! I'm not here to make artistic decisions for you, I'm just a technician!"
LOL

This discussion is interesting. Lets look at carpentry you have carpenters that do great woodwork, they are craftsmen. Some people come along and see this wood work in a house and call it artistic.

It now has taken on the appeal of artistry. At that point the carpenter has elevated from just being a master craftsmen to an artist. Now did he add some of his own ideas to the original design? If so he is definitely an artist.

Now lets take this back to mixing. Fact is quite often a good mixer or producer has a musical background. Oh and usually(should) have a great set of ears.
At this point in the process of the mix he hears something in his head that could take the whole song to the next level, a touch of reverb here, a fade there, etc.. all of sudden the song jumps out of the speakers at you. Impact, not that it did not have it before. Except now it just kills. That is artistry. Not all mixers can do that.
True, the mixer is there to deliver the artists vision. In the best possible way. Though the thing is they can and do sometimes hear the extra icing that takes the song just that much farther.

I am currently listening to mix on KRCW (Santa Monica college) and can tell you that whoever mixed it did something amazing with it. Something that I don't think the artist could have come up. The mix has made the track large and stellar.

That is artistry. Some people do not like mixers or producers that add something to their music. I remember being instructed about this when I was younger. It was like, "your there to make it the best possible product it can be for its genre, not to make it yours".

Though some of the great mixers can do that, and then just add a touch of special that makes it greater.
That in and of itself is a talent be it learned or partly a gift. It is indeed artistry of sorts.

Oh and to Cowboycoalminer, with your comment about a musician can create music out of thin air a mixer cannot. You take on the typical musicians attitude of no one can do I what I do. Therefore what they do is not art. Can we say you might be a bit cynical? It puts a bias on your whole point you know.

Oh and who are you to pass judgement on all mixers. How do you know the mixer behind the desk is not a musician himself or has musical background. Refer to what I wrote earlier, some of the best Mixers and producers have musical backgrounds, could even be musicians. At that point they are not just mixers but artists too. Don't you mix your own stuff? Therefor you are a both a mixer and an artist. Do you not add artistic ideas to your mix's based on your musical idea's? Artistry at work.

Sure the mixer does not create the song but they can create the finishing touches that make the song much more listenable which can insure its possible success.

Those finishing touches go right back to the wood work Carpenter analogy I started with. It is not always an Art but indeed can be.
#83
2nd May 2012
Old 2nd May 2012
  #83
Gear nut
 
Joined: Nov 2011
Location: Connecticut USA
Posts: 137

lpedrum is offline
Hmmmm....As someone who has "graduated" to mixing in the last year or so after playing and producing for many years, I feel mixing is just as much "art" as every other part of the process, not just a medium. Ask yourself, if the mix choice of making the hi hat the loudest thing in this track was NOT made, and the hi hat were placed back in the mix like it often is, would you connect with this song as much? I don't think so.
Al Green - Love and Happiness (Studio Version) - YouTube
#84
2nd May 2012
Old 2nd May 2012
  #84
Lives for gear
 
cowboycoalminer's Avatar
 
Joined: Sep 2010
Location: I was country, when country wasn't cool
Posts: 2,936

cowboycoalminer is offline
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dpro;
Don't you mix your own stuff? Therefor you are a both a mixer and an artist. Do you not add artistic ideas to your mix's based on your musical idea's? Artistry at work.
I do mix my own music. That's the part that was taught to me by a very great teacher and mentor. It's a craft that I have tried to hone over the years. To me mixing is the work part. It's not much fun to me, that said, I've been a studio cat most my life. It's old hat. Making music never gets old though. I have to do it, like breathing.

I certainly agree though that to be a great mix engineer, one must have a background in music, otherwise it would be like asking Helen Keller to judge a dance contest.
#85
2nd May 2012
Old 2nd May 2012
  #85
Lives for gear
 
kennybro's Avatar
 
Joined: Nov 2010
Posts: 4,001

kennybro is offline
Pretty silly stuff. Art is most clearly defined as a man's name. Beyond that, it's a crapshoot.
#86
2nd May 2012
Old 2nd May 2012
  #86
Gear Guru
 
drBill's Avatar
 
Joined: Jul 2006
Location: So Cal
Posts: 15,081

drBill is offline
For those who must define ART within the confines of their own 4 walls, and known definitions, you are quite simply wrong. To define art is to murder it. To constrain what IS art is to severely limit your ability to create it. Again, reading the younger (I presume, but maybe I'm wrong) guys on this thread saddens me as to the future of music and art in this world. So two dimensional and boxed in......

It reminds me of the old joke - "thar's TWO types of music - Country AND Western".

Still.....there are those for whom compromise and pre-defined boxes do not exist in their vocabulary. Those will be the true artists of the next 50 years. Those trying to limit the word are just pretenders with an internet connection.
#87
2nd May 2012
Old 2nd May 2012
  #87
Lives for gear
 
FadersmakmeHappy's Avatar
 
Joined: Nov 2008
Posts: 517

FadersmakmeHappy is offline
Quote:
Originally Posted by cowboycoalminer View Post
Good post. Mixing is not an art, it is a learned skill or trade. There are levels of skill between mix engineers same as any other profession in the world. To say a mixer is an artist is a stretch. Engineers create nothing but are simply part of the process of creation. Artists create something out of thin air. Can a mixer say that?
While I think you make a good point, I would state that you are missing a certain 20% of the equation that makes the great mixers stand out of the crowd. What a great mixer lends is a creative viewpoint, a way of cultivating and seeing a piece of work in a unique way, that allows it to become more than what is was. The tools they utilize to this are definitely learned skills, but so is the ability to draw or paint.

Having worked with some of the mixing greats, I would definitely consider them artist. What they bring to the table is a perspective that exceeds their pure technical abilities. They make the piece greater than the sum of its parts and I think that is art.

To say that Monet "just painted flowers well" is to miss the perspective he brought as an artist.
__________________

#88
2nd May 2012
Old 2nd May 2012
  #88
Lives for gear
 
sleepingbag's Avatar
 
Joined: Feb 2010
Location: Denver CO

sleepingbag is offline
Agree that the music is essentially 1000x more important than the mix, agree that there are many different ways to mix and something questionable in one context might stand out as an interesting artistic choice in another. But that said, you can definitely ruin a song with a bad mix, or severely damage its accessibility. And on the other hand, a great mixer will be doing things that I guess you could technically call production or arrangement on a case by case basis, but it really is just part of the process. Mixing can be a lot of fun if you're working with creative people who don't mind taking some risks. Most artists don't really understand the idea of creative mix decisions the same way a good mix engineer or producer does, so when your mixing process is "can you raise this, can you lower that" ad infinitum of course it's going to seem kind of boring and artless.
#89
2nd May 2012
Old 2nd May 2012
  #89
Gear addict
 
Joined: Mar 2012
Posts: 479

frednurk is offline
Mixing is important obviously, but I think, maybe because of forums such as these, it's become too much the focus. Same with the gear. It's sort of like being more concerned with the paint and the easel and the brushes and the frame and losing focus on the actual painting or the bear itself.
#90
2nd May 2012
Old 2nd May 2012
  #90
Gear addict
 
Joined: Mar 2012
Posts: 479

frednurk is offline
Quote:
Originally Posted by lpedrum View Post
Hmmmm....As someone who has "graduated" to mixing in the last year or so after playing and producing for many years, I feel mixing is just as much "art" as every other part of the process, not just a medium. Ask yourself, if the mix choice of making the hi hat the loudest thing in this track was NOT made, and the hi hat were placed back in the mix like it often is, would you connect with this song as much? I don't think so.
Al Green - Love and Happiness (Studio Version) - YouTube
Normally, I would probably focus on Al Green's voice, the song, the melody, the words, maybe the horns, the groove, the feel of the whole deal. But now all I hear is that hihat.
New Reply Submit Thread to Facebook Facebook  Submit Thread to Twitter Twitter  Submit Thread to LinkedIn LinkedIn  Submit Thread to Google+ Google+ 
 
Topic:
Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Similar Threads
Thread
Thread Starter / Forum
Replies
Remoteness / Remote Possibilities in Acoustic Music & Location Recording
118
thethrillfactor / So much gear, so little time!
71
ninjaneer / Rap + Hip Hop engineering & production
4
airboy / Mastering forum
5
Steve Smith / Remote Possibilities in Acoustic Music & Location Recording
5

Forum Jump

SEO by vBSEO ©2011, Crawlability, Inc.