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Mixing Technique 1: Getting A Concept For Your Mix
Old 4th November 2002
  #1
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Lightbulb Mixing Technique 1: Getting A Concept For Your Mix

When I begin a mix the first thing I work on is not the kick, the snare, or the sound of any instrument. The first thing I focus on is the concept for the mix. I call this the mix's point of view, and I discussed it in HDL 4 and HDL 6 (July + September's Hard Disk Life columns in DIGIZINE). Briefly, I define this as the commitment I make to a particular and distinctive sound. It may be unique. The combination of sounds may be an invention of my imagination, but there is an underlying theme to my choices. And this is the mix's concept. To read more about where I get my ideas from, how I apply them, and why—click on the two links above.

Nonetheless, for me this is really the most important stage of the mix. This is where I establish in my mind the direction I want to take it. That's why I believe more mixes fail at this point than any other. Because it's a good concept that glues a mix together. When you hear a great mix, you like it because it has elements about it that you connect with, and that connect with each other. It seems cohesive. You hear it and no matter how fresh, or new, or "oh my god this song sounds bizarre...and I love it...and I have no idea why but I am totally gettin' into it" it sounds, it is reaching you and you want to hear it again. That does not happen without a plan.

When I hear one of those mixes that completely wakes my ears up to a collection of sounds they've never heard before, I know there is more to it than just a bunch of fresh sounds. How is it that we can connect so quickly—for some instantaneously—to a sound that we have never heard before, that on first listen seems to be completely foreign and has nothing familiar to it? In my experience, it's because there are actually elements in the mix that are quite familiar, it's just that they have been juxtaposed in such a way that they seem completely fresh and new to our ears. And that is the real art to keeping the listener's attention.

Obviously, this is not only a result of the mixer's work, it is also the producer's, artist's, and songwriter's, but between these collaborators there is a symbiosis. Each individual is influenced and inspired by the work of the persons that has preceded them and that is what fuels a mixer's work. So, this leads me to my questions.

When each of you sits down to mix:
  • Do you use this approach, and come up with a concept for your mix before starting?
  • If so, where do you get your ideas from?
  • And how do you apply these ideas?
  • If not, how do you begin your mix? And how do you proceed?
  • Do you have an alternative technique that works for you? And what is it?
I'm looking forward to your responses. I know there are many different approaches to mixing out there and I'm quite curious to compare notes, and learn.
Old 4th November 2002
  #2
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Curve Dominant's Avatar
Quote:
Posted by Charles:
it's a good concept that glues a mix together
Exactly.

What does the song want to be?

Every mix engineer, before he or she mixes a song, should procure a printed lyric sheet of that song, and lock himself in a room for a few minutes to read those lyrics, absorb the story and the vibe of that story, and then take that into the control room - that vibe. Because it is that story which is what you should be recording.

If you do that, the mix will come naturally. Just follow the story.

Quote:
"oh my god this song sounds bizarre...and I love it...and I have no idea why but I am totally gettin' into it"
That's conflict, and conflict is good. William Shakespear hit on this ages ago: "No action without conflict." It's the first rule of theater, and we are working in the theatrical realm.
Old 4th November 2002
  #3
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I produce almost all the stuff I record and mix (and sometimes even compose it) so my vision mostly comes from way before mix time. When I mix, I'm merely trying to put the icing on the cake so to speak and make sure it will translate as well as possible on different reproduction systems. The few people I sometimes do "just" a mixing job for (singles often) are usually half-consciously looking for my producer's view of what a mix for their song should be considering what it is they are trying to achieve with the material at hand. I don't think I'm an exceptional engineer and it is more my style and vision than pure sonics that they like when they think "This sounds good".

I guess that really great mixers (and I don't consider myself as such in any way), those that come up with these truely great "visions" you talk about Charles, are probably acting like a producer somewhere inside. That and they also have great technical skills to achieve exactly what they're aiming at in the context of a sonicly imposing presentation that's serving the song.
Old 4th November 2002
  #4
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Charles
A great start to your monthly tenure.
I'm just into a new project that started tracking this weekend, and I did sit down and come up with a plan to try and get a raw edgy sound instead of what would normally be a slick Nashville type production around these songs.
The writer/vocalist has a style that is Travis Tritt like but, the rest of the band is more of a zz/credence/steve Earl bag.
So we went for a live off the floor type of recording but we did control the bleed by putting the Amps in different rooms and the players all in the same room as the drummer. A twin for a clean rhythm sound and a Marshall head and twin speaker cab for the leads.
We tracked the drums with a big spashy sound using only 4 mics , a MD 421 on kick, just outside the front head aimed at the beater, and a 57 on snare with a U87 on omni above the kit about 4 feet, and an AT 4033 about 3 feet in front of the kick.
As far as the plan went we were quite successful we got a trashy but rockin take of most of the tunes, and the band really got into playing the tunes, perhaps too much as most of the dynamics which go with the Nashville type productions went right out the window. So now we need to deal with that fact when we track the vocals. I guess this may be a case of the plan not working so well or me not doing enough producing and too much engineering. Possibly the vocalist will adapt and do a balls to wall performance and we will have something a little different.
Now I've done a few roughs of the instrumental tracks and they rock. I mean really rock.
So I guess this all leads to the question of how you can plan the mix if you don't do the original tracking, and do you track, keeping in mind that the plan may do a U turn. I'm pretty much stuck with the big splashy drum sound now, and wish I had gone for the more traditional (for me)small dia over heads, and maybe some tom mics ,as well, to give me some more options on the kit. Or am I just being a wimp and I need to goad the vocalist into a performance that sticks with the plan. It's early and I'm sleep deprived but I think there is the basis for some discussion here.
Anyone know how to contact Fogarty, I may need him to sing these tracks ;-). Take care Logan
Old 4th November 2002
  #5
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Charles Dye's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by Curve Dominant
Every mix engineer, before he or she mixes a song, should procure a printed lyric sheet of that song, and lock himself in a room for a few minutes to read those lyrics, absorb the story and the vibe of that story, and then take that into the control room - that vibe. Because it is that story which is what you should be recording.

If you do that, the mix will come naturally. Just follow the story.
Eric,

I couldn't agree with you more.

In HDL 4 I said, "There is another place to look for more specific direction for your mix, and it's right there on the lead vocal track. It's the lyric of the song, and it can often unlock a number of mysteries about your mix. Using a term from organizational gurus, the lyric is the song's Organizing Principle. "All other issues are subservient to it." (Again, guru-speak.) The lyric can give you concrete answers to what the song is about, and therefore what kind of feelings your mix should support. For me, whenever I'm at a crossroads with my mixing, I simply pick up the lyric sheet and start reading it. The answer will almost always rise to the top."

So, Eric after you read the lyrics, what kind of ideas do you get and how do you translate them into sound treatments. Just trying to understand other engineer's approaches.

Thanks.
Old 4th November 2002
  #6
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i just put it up and make it into what it wants to be. like a sculptor who instead of coming up with a design for a slab of rock and then carrying it out... simply looks at the slab of rock and shapes it into what it wants to become. i cant remember where i stumbled onto that philosophy... possibly tom robbins?

i cant simply focus on the lyrics to move the music around it... lyrics are at times of very little "importance" to the song, simply just another texture. guess it depends on what type of music you are doing. besides... there are very few poets in music these days.

it is how i do all the art that i am a part of... from photography, to painting, to drawing, to sculpting, to design... its all about understanding how to release ego and finding the purity in what has been given to you to create from. forcing something rarely if ever works out to benefit whatever you might be doing.
Old 4th November 2002
  #7
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groundcontrol,

Yes, I have that same experience with my "visions" or concepts coming or actually evolving way before the day of the mix if I'm tracking or producing a project.

Regarding your mixes, can you give us an example of a song you produced that turned a corner, and became something it wasn't previously envisioned to be, in the mix phase? Could you describe to us how it sounded before the mix, and then how it changed afterwards? And could you give us an example of a track you didn't produce, but you were asked to mix, where your producer's view helped their song become something they didn't realize it could be, but you heard the possibility hidden in the tracks and brought it out? In other words, the mix stage was where these tracks truly came alive. Have you ever had these experiences?

Also, do you feel your best mixes were mixes where you captured a "sonically imposing presentation" or where you created a vision for a song that was ear-catching? That drew the listener in for other reasons? Can you give an example?

Regarding really great mixers that come up with truly great "visions" acting like a producer somewhere inside: Absolutely! The simple rule to mixing (this applies to anyone) is whatever you need to do to make a song sound great—YOU DO IT. This is the make it or brake phase. Now or never. Don't be inhibited by ANY thoughts of "oh I better not fly these parts around too much, or edit this up too much, or rearrange the song too much, or really eff up the sound that's on the tracks too much, because I'm not the producer." Your right: you're not the producer...you're the freakin' MIXER. And it is now your mandate to make this track sound great—whatever it takes. And I mean anything. If you don't do it now, it ain't gonna happen. Just do it.

If you like it, the client may too, if they don't, just have a more conservative alternative that's closer to their original approach. These ideas don't always fly (same with the "big guys" too), but sometimes they do and those are the ones people remember, the ones that can really make a difference. That stand out on the radio. There are plenty of stories out there about guys that made it into the big leagues by taking just such a chance.

As the old story goes, the baseball players with the most home runs are also the ones with the most strikes. The reason why they succeeded in the end is because they tried to hit it out of the park more often, rather than just trying to make it to first base.
Old 4th November 2002
  #8
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Logan,

Thanks for the appreciation. About your project, sounds like you're off to a good start. You had a plan to do something different combined with something familiar. Instead of taking the obvious approach you went in the opposing direction to combine contrasting sounds.

"most of the dynamics which go with the Nashville type productions went right out the window"

Perfect, seems like you're right on track to me.

"Anyone know how to contact Fogarty, I may need him to sing these tracks."

That would be the obvious—my advice: don't go there. I know you were kidding, but stick with your plan. Your singer will most likely react perfectly to the powerful dynamics, bigger guitars, and trashy drums. Your tracks will get your singer to give his version of what's needed based on what the band played in each section of the songs. You don't need a scratchy voiced aggresive rock singer. I think your instincts were great.

Avril Lavigne is based on a similar idea. She is a clear + bright voiced singer, that is contrasted against aggressive guitars and tracks. Cliff Magness used vocal doubling in the choruses, and TLA + David Leonard used aggressive + edgy vocal treatments across the board to help her voice cut through, and kept the aggressive guitars panned hard left + right to stay out of her way.

When you go to mix use your aggressive sounds, but put back some of the dynamics you feel should be there with automation and hopefully you'll end up with a cool sounding record.

Sounds like your kickin' ass so far.
Old 4th November 2002
  #9
Jax
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OT Barry Bonds

Yes, off topic. But I had to answer the baseball analogy.

Barry Bonds defies the old rule that the baseball players with the most homeruns also have the most strikes (or strikeouts).

I understand what you meant Charles, but I couldn't resist.

Back to our regularly scheduled program.
Old 4th November 2002
  #10
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It was Babe Ruth I believe (I don't follow baseball). That's why it's an "old" story.
Old 4th November 2002
  #11
I hate mixing.

I blend the elements of the production to my & the bands satisfaction with a fully open eye on making it sound "good on the radio"...Hopefully.

The goal is to make it 'sound nice' - like a record.

My concept is - "You have to finish this, then you can have fun recording & producing another project".

That's my "concept" of mixing...

Tracking / overdubbing / recording is where the "buzz" is for me.

If I could just send the soundfiles to Andy Wallace and be done with it, I would be a happy man.

Jules
Old 4th November 2002
  #12
Jax
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Like it or not, I think any of us who mix "popular music", which I believe would describe most of us, have to subscribe to several pre-written concepts. For rock, there are a set of things that generally define what rock sounds like. I'm saying for any music, you're sort of mixing for that genre. You can take liberties with the mix, but I think that in the end, it all comes back around to at least sounding like a representation of the genre, and what can be done within it. Otherwise, the music is less likely to be accepted as something the listening public will allow to be popular, if that makes sense. That doesn't mean it can't sound good if it doesn't follow preconceptions, just that it's less likely to be find widescale acceptance... which I feel is unfortunate.

Many times, the weird element in the mix that "stands out" also sounds a little gimmicky. I think it should be the song that gets your attention, and I often hear music that relies on little flashy tricks (effects, sporadic wierd sounds) to catch your attention. What happens if the song sucks after the gimmick has got your attention? The song becomes background noise, or better yet, silence. So the trick must be to find a balance of oddities to good music that actually works well together. Easier said than done IMHO.
Old 4th November 2002
  #13
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alphajerk's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by Jax
and I often hear music that relies on little flashy tricks (effects, sporadic wierd sounds) to catch your attention.
kinda reminds me of becks midnight vultures album... the whole thing was pure sporadic weird sounds, at least from what i remember. i dont really listen to it that much.


i kinda just have a whole bag of tricks that i can pull from, a library if you will. i am VERY reluctant to use them because once i do, i dont use it again... depending on how much of a trick it is. i only deplore them when absolutely necessary.
Old 5th November 2002
  #14
Hey Charles,

I mix on the average between 3-4 songs a week in different genres and different languages. Everything from major releases in different countries to independent productions right here at home. I would say since the majority of the music is vocal driven(pop/alt pop/rnb/dance/some rock), i always start mixing my vocals first(lead then bckgrounds). 9 times out of 10 this is the case. I feel that my ears are freshest at the begining so why not concentrate on what's most important. It makes the mixes much more balanced(frequency and level wise) and I end up using less compression through out. The only time i do the drums first is if the vocals were tracked superbly(which now adays gets rare and more rare). Usually the drums need some help so I will hit them first.

My focus in mixing is very simple these days; Using a baseball analogy, I try to make my defense up the middle really strong(Lead vocal,Kick,bass and snare). And that leaves me the sides and back to experiment and create depth with.
Old 5th November 2002
  #15
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C.Lambrechts's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by Jules
I hate mixing.

I blend the elements of the production to my & the bands satisfaction with a fully open eye on making it sound "good on the radio"...Hopefully.

The goal is to make it 'sound nice' - like a record.

My concept is - "You have to finish this, then you can have fun recording & producing another project".

That's my "concept" of mixing...

Tracking / overdubbing / recording is where the "buzz" is for me.

If I could just send the soundfiles to Andy Wallace and be done with it, I would be a happy man.

Jules

guess we are complete opposites .... I LOOOOVE the mixing part of it.

I like tracking and recording but usually by the end of that stage get like 'ok ok ... everybody out of here now and leave me alone so I can start mixing..... '
Old 5th November 2002
  #16
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Hey Charles,
Real quick off the topic. You mentioned David Leonard on the Avril record (which I think is a great sonic yet crunchy record)...but do you know what David is up to now? Is he still in Nashville mixing/producing or just mixing?
Thanks!

And somewhat back to the topic...
who here is FOR or AGAINST listening to or acknowledging the roughs that the producer/programmer has already come up with when it comes to the desk.

Charles, it's great that your taking the time to do this...

cheers
Old 5th November 2002
  #17
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alphajerk's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by doug_hti
who here is FOR or AGAINST listening to or acknowledging the roughs that the producer/programmer has already come up with when it comes to the desk.
the project im currently mixing i had my client spring those mixes on me after i was halfway through... i was a bit nervous until i heard them, then was like "okay"... and my client was very satisfied with my mixes. ended up picking up his next whole album instead of just mixing.

oddly enough, the stuff i did record on the album is so much easier to mix than the other stuff.
Old 5th November 2002
  #18
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[QUOTE] Originally posted by Charles Dye .

When you go to mix use your aggressive sounds, but put back some of the dynamics you feel should be there with automation and hopefully you'll end up with a cool sounding record.[Unquote]

Charles, thanks for the advice and that's exactly how I've decided to go, 'cause the tracks rock. I've done a little mixing since the post this morning and I kept the guitars right up there and panned them pretty hard on either side lots of LA2As and 1176s
and a few grungy amp simulator type things just glossed over the tones, but not obscuring the orginal amp sounds. Lots of pultec to really pump up some frequencies. The trashy drums are way cool and when they did get out of hand, i found a gate could come to the rescue. Normally I hate gates on any thing, and my hardware Ashleys have been largely unused for years, but the UAD-1 gate seems to be a little more tweakable and I was able to isolate and clean up the snare and make it just crack through the rest of the splash, ain't DAWs wonderful.
I am having some trouble with the aggressive mix loading up the master buss and I'm having to run a WAVES Ren comp on the main buss to deal with excessive gain. I come from old school console mixing where I like all the faders up in the sweet spot and deal with levels coming in with the trim pot.
I'm using Nuendo and mixing in the box for this one and I really miss the trim pot. What is the statedgy for gain structuring these things. I've got a lot of aggressive compression going on and the track faders are having to come way down to avoid clipping, and still The lights are flashing like Christmas trees on the main buss, there is no audible clipping, but like I said I'm having to insert a Ren comp on the main buss and lower gain there. Fill me in O wise one. I could send it all to the console and mix it but I'd like to deal with it in the DAW .
Also this is a pretty small production and there are only 8 tracks at present, 4 drum tracks 2 bass, di and miced amp, and 2 guitars. We may double up some guitars and will definitely double up parts of the vocal track, when we cut it. Now I've panned the guitars almost hard to each side, but everthing else is coming right down the middle, I am concerned with carving a little more space for the vocal, but I'm reluctant to throw a drum track with snare and kick on it off to the side, although I know Sir George had no problems doing that and the old STAX stuff often had none stereo drums. I might try putting the 2 bass tracks a little to the outside. Any ideas? Take care Logan
Old 5th November 2002
  #19
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I'm in the Alphajerk mode myself. I believe the first time I saw the concept of doing what the song tells you was from a post Fletcher put up on RAP.

I Generally put up all the faders and start making adjustments as needed. I like to spend a lot of time on EQ and fader position. I try to make everything "work" which doesn't always mean sound good. I did a mix recently where I had excessive compression almost everywhere. There was tons of distortion form the compressors and other tricks. Its noise floor is ridiculous! The song asked to be mixed that way. The band loves it!
Old 5th November 2002
  #20
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Quote:
Charles, you posted:
quote:
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Originally posted by Curve Dominant
Every mix engineer, before he or she mixes a song, should procure a printed lyric sheet of that song, and lock himself in a room for a few minutes to read those lyrics, absorb the story and the vibe of that story, and then take that into the control room - that vibe. Because it is that story which is what you should be recording.

If you do that, the mix will come naturally. Just follow the story.
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Eric,

I couldn't agree with you more.

In HDL 4 I said, "There is another place to look for more specific direction for your mix, and it's right there on the lead vocal track. It's the lyric of the song, and it can often unlock a number of mysteries about your mix. Using a term from organizational gurus, the lyric is the song's Organizing Principle. "All other issues are subservient to it." (Again, guru-speak.) The lyric can give you concrete answers to what the song is about, and therefore what kind of feelings your mix should support. For me, whenever I'm at a crossroads with my mixing, I simply pick up the lyric sheet and start reading it. The answer will almost always rise to the top."
Charles,

I like that, but I don't recognize it's origins... I've gotten into the organizational guru thing a bit myself in recent years, so I'm curious who that concept comes from.

Glancing at my copy of "Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People" by Stephen Covey, I think the equivelant would be habit #5: "Seek First To Understand, Then Be Understood."

IOW: Seek to understand where the author was at/coming from/getting at with the intention of the lyric, and work in that frame of reference. Be in that place. This is especially useful in coaching the vocalist through the vocal tracks, I've found. Before you "roll tape," describe to the singer what's the emotional state, the setting, the vibe of the song. Set the mood, and put the vocalist into that state with the enthusiasm you have already developed for that setting, having understood and digested it already. That's why I feel it's essential for the producer/engineer to immerse himself in the vibe of the song before he goes into the control room: So he can compellingly communicate that vibe to the rest of the team.

One example I can give, is of a song I hired a local singer to sing recently. The song is entitled, "I Live To Kiss You," and it is a romantic ballad about obsessive love. I suggested to the young lady vocalist to imagine singing this song to someone who hurt her badly and deeply in a failed relationship, or to someone she desperately wanted to be with, but knew she couldn't...conflict. No action without conflict. It worked like a charm: She nailed the track in 1 or 2 takes.

Quote:
So, Eric after you read the lyrics, what kind of ideas do you get and how do you translate them into sound treatments. Just trying to understand other engineer's approaches.
Aaahhh...good question. I've been exploring that, and Pro Tools is has some de-luvely flexibility for creating "character" out of vocal takes. Here's an example...

I recently produced a duet with that same female vocalist I mentioned above and a male vocalist, a song called "Slow, She Said." It's a song about two people who hardly know each other, but they are lusting for each other, and the girl is telling the guy "Let's take it slow..." when in reality neither one of them REALLY wants to take it slow. Sooo...

I recorded both vocalists singing about these travails. I split each vocalist into two separate characters: The one who refrains from impulse, and the one who is impulsive. So, I've got an impulsive male/female couple, and a reticent male/female couple; kinda like the Id/Super-Ego x4; and they are squared-off against each other, and struggling with themselves at the same time.

For the reticent characters, I had them sing softly, very close-mic'd. I then tracked them in mono, but bussed to a stereo space-echo insert (DigiRack Medium Delay), and a stereo reverb (DFX D-Verb), which softened their performances even more.

For the impulsive "Id" characters, I had them sing hard, away from the mic a bit, and drove the mic pre/compression chain hard for a hard sound. I put no reverb or delay on these tracks - but what I did do was duplicate these tracks, nudged the duplicates by 1000 samples, and then panned them all L&R by about 60%. SO these tracks are dry and fierce, in stereo, in contrast to the softly treated mono (yet stereo-softened) tracks of their "alter egos."

So, I've got two contrasting male characters, and two contrasting female characters, in a total of 8 vocal channels.

Since I composed the music for this piece, it was simply a matter of arranging these different "characters" across the composition in order to create the unfolding story... Kinda like being a cinematographer, where you "film" characters acting out these various situations in a story - but in this case with audio. Then you take all of that "film" into the editing suite (Pro Tools in this case), and assemble an audio "movie" of a story.

I don't go to these extremes with every song I produce, but that seemed like a good example to answer your question with, and it's indicative of my approach to recording since I've started working with Pro Tools: I approach it like an "audio cinematographer" now. I "film" a vocalist in an emotional state, or a physical movement; I "photograph" what a guitar sounds like, what flute or a drumbeat or a bassline sounds like...and edit those moments into a story.

This is what I love about Pro Tools: I feel like an artist again. Like Man Ray and Duschamp, Warhol and Basquiat, Van Gogh and Gaugin, Miro and Picasso...I can work with a singer on an artistic level where we can make "movies" about life, create profound works of art, here in my crib in my little rowhouse apartment in center city Philadelphia. I don't have to strap my belongings to the roof of a car and drive to LA and prostitute myself, begging the gatekeepers to please give me a chance to make a record.

By the way, Charles, this forum is only 4 days old, and already our mixes are sounding 100% better.
Old 5th November 2002
  #21
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Charles Dye's Avatar
 

Eric,

"I'm curious who that concept comes from."

Sorry, I can't remember the author's name, but I believe the book was called the 60 Second Organizer. A small yellow pamphlet-like book.

Thanks for your excellent examples. I really enjoy hearing how other people approach mixing. BTW, I use the film analogy also with my mixing, but in a slightly different way than you do. I'll talk about it more in a future post.

And thanks for the compliment.
Old 5th November 2002
  #22
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Re: Mixing 1: Getting A Concept For Your Mix

Quote:
Originally posted by Charles Dye


When each of you sits down to mix:[list][*]Do you use this approach, and come up with a concept for your mix before starting?
For me mixing, writing, producing mostly intermingles, partly because I work mainly on my own project. I'm working more on other's artists material too as producer and mixer..so it's all evolving at the moment.

I realised how unconscious my process is when I read this question. Especially as I tend to prefer music that is genre-mixed and erring on the unique. I feel I can benefit from being more conscious. I think I have been affected by the "don't think about or you'll spoil it" mindset. Which is flawed I believe. So I tend to soak as much music and info as I can handle in the reservoirs of my mind/heart/soul and hope that inspiration will rise to the top and work for me. I'd like to develop a more conscious approach as you describe, it's like having a frame or bowl to support the wash of ideas and channel them. I imagine especially useful when I'm blocked.
[*]If not, how do you begin your mix? And how do you proceed?

One thing I tend to concentate on is mood, the mood of the delivery of the lyric, maybe more or as much as the lyric. I tune to ambiguity if it's there, I tune to simplicity if it's there. What character is the vocalist? What emotional space are they in? What clues are there aurally to the meaning of the words? Are they expressed as deeply honest, playful, self-deceiving, sarcastic, confused, seductive, vulnerable, a victim, an abuser? From this I think I attempt to give the mix a sense of 'tunedness' to this mood eg. more full on and exciting when the singer is right with the lyric and more mystery when there's ambiguity or vice versa!!


I have a lot to learn regarding these issues and this education is priceless. And amazingly it's here, free!! I've worked with some very talented and respected people, but never found anyone able to articulate and to encourage discussion about the process like you Charles. I suspect this is about self-confidence. Good on you!
Old 6th November 2002
  #23
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Quote:
Originally posted by alphajerk
i just put it up and make it into what it wants to be... its all about understanding how to release ego and finding the purity in what has been given to you to create from. forcing something rarely if ever works out to benefit whatever you might be doing.
alphajerk,

I don't actually completely envision the completed mix before beginning to move the faders around. I sometimes can't come up with anything, so I simply start and hope that it begins to make sense.

And I agree about not forcing something. When I listen to a song I'm going to mix I try to respond to the mood the music creates, the emotions in the singer's voice, and the dynamics of the arrangement. And I see where it will lead me.

One technique I use is to listen between the notes to the influences behind the songwriter, the artist, the musicians, and the producer so I can find ideas to help guide me through the mix. Trying to understand what they were each drawing upon when the made their contributions, can really help me come up with a sound that is both connected with the song an organic way and hopefully also interesting to the listener, and when I'm really lucky—original.

Each of the collaborators where probably drawing upon multiple influences, so by listening to all of them I can try to both make connections between them as well as highlight the interesting contrasts. When it comes to sound treatments of the various instruments and vocals, I can now choose effects that will re-enforce the influences I feel will make the most interesting blend. I could go fifty different ways with the mix, it's my job to choose the one that will be responsive to the song, supportive of its emotions, and be able to be heard again and again.
Old 6th November 2002
  #24
There is only one
 
alphajerk's Avatar
 

i didnt mean 'you' towards any particular person... i guess i should of used 'me' and 'i'. i was just stating that i never have a plan.... and when i do, i always end up going a different direction.



you mention taking it 50 different ways... interesting thing to think about. picking the one way to take it that is.
Old 6th November 2002
  #25
FX smörgåsbord user
 
Charles Dye's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by Jax
So the trick must be to find a balance of oddities to good music that actually works well together. Easier said than done IMHO.
I agree completely.
Old 6th November 2002
  #26
FX smörgåsbord user
 
Charles Dye's Avatar
 

thethrillfactor,

"i always start mixing my vocals first"

How do you do it? I can't imagine what you listen for. Could you tell us more about this technique? I'd like to learn how do it myself, if it's something I'm able to learn.

The end result sounds like something I'd like to shoot for with my mixes. This is very interesting. I didn't know anyone here used this approach. Please share with us more, if you're willing.

Thanks.
Old 6th November 2002
  #27
FX smörgåsbord user
 
Charles Dye's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by doug_hti
who here is FOR or AGAINST listening to or acknowledging the roughs that the producer/programmer has already come up with when it comes to the desk.
I'm back and forth on this one. Sometimes I want the mix to flow where the music takes it, with no outside infuences, and other times (I guess depending on my mood) I like hearing the rough. And I feel comfortable going in knowing that I can ignore it completely afterwards if I want to, but it may provide excellent guidance towards the orignally intended vision for the song. Which I can follow closely or use to at least get me going off in the right direction.

Good question.
Old 6th November 2002
  #28
Gear Addict
 

Clearmountain does that. He starts with the vocal first, listening to the tone and vibe of the singer and then putting him/her in an ambience that fits. Then he brings up the rest of the track. And I must say, his vocal pockets blow my mind.
Old 6th November 2002
  #29
Lives for gear
 
groundcontrol's Avatar
 

Charles, sorry for taking so long to reply.

I too mostly start with my vocals nowadays. I try to give them a nice texture and place them in a space/atmosphere that's consonant with the words/mood/delivery. The way I see it, what defines a pop-related mix (most of what I do) as far as dynamics is mostly gonna be your vocals (that are probably gonna take "center stage" so-to-speak) and the drums. So I'll often start from there and in that order. An exception could be for a "wall of electric gtr" type of song where I might go directly to the gtrs after my vocal is roughly in place. After the drums I'll move to whatever seems to be the next "main" ingredient. In R'n'B/Hip Hop/dance related stuff this most likely will be bass. Often I'll try to find one instrument/sound/track that "does it" for me. Something I find catchy/interesting/funny. I'll try to make this element as effective as possible. If the song is starting to happen with only vocals, drums and one or two main elements, I'm probably heading in the right direction. This also makes me use most of the mix "real estate" for the elements that deserve it most. If I stumble across some really cool treatment/fx that makes me change my mix vision and I allow more place/importance than planned to some elements then I often find I don't have to use all the tracks. It may even lead to a more effective and cohesive picture with less elements.

I find this way I end up shaping my mix from the most important elements (likely the front stage of my presentation) backwards to the less important ones. I've only started working like that relatively recently and I find my mixes have improved exponentialy.

Regarding your previous question, I have changed my plan before. For some reason this is occuring less and less. (I take this has coming up with better plans or being better able to implement them... either that or I'm becoming old and lazy! ) In one instance, I ditched the drums and bass in one song almost completely and turned it into a remix-style trippy/trancey complaint with lots of echoes on the vocals, huge pads and strings and heavily filtered parts that beared little resemblance to their original selves. It did not make for a good single but made a great mood/album track and it lent more poignance to the vocals and what the guy was actually saying. Maybe because it was the only real/organic element in the song and it made you really focus on each and every word. BTW do you like Bjork? She's mastered that kind of stuff so beautifully...

In any case I try to always make the "sonics" subservient to the song/music rather than the other way around. (Unless the sonics ARE the song like in bigbeat oriented stuff...)
Old 6th November 2002
  #30
FX smörgåsbord user
 
Charles Dye's Avatar
 

Logan,

"I come from old school console mixing where I like all the faders up in the sweet spot and deal with levels coming in with the trim pot.... What is the statedgy for gain structuring these things."

An answer to this topic is actually worthy of it's own thread (+ if more people would like to discuss this, let's start one), but I'll give a short and very controversial answer: (my opinion) This is digital not analog, so the question of a sweet spot doesn't apply (at least not in the same way—again hotly debated). My answer (only my opinion) is to just turn your faders down so you don't overdrive your stereo bus. (Again, let's please debate this in a "digital fader/gain structure/etc..." thread. Thanks.)

"Now I've panned the guitars almost hard to each side, but everything else is coming right down the middle, I am concerned with carving a little more space for the vocal, but I'm reluctant to throw a drum track with snare and kick on it off to the side... I might try putting the 2 bass tracks a little to the outside. Any ideas?"

In general, I'm not a fan of panning the kick, snare, bass, or vocal out of the center either (I know you didn't say, "vocal"). I feel the kick + snare loose their drive and punch when off center, but on rare occasions I have slightly panned a snare. I also prefer the bass in the center, though on even rarer occasions (I think once) I panned it slightly off.

Here's some suggestions about what to do instead: Normally a kick's frequencies don't get in the way of a vocal, and both the kick + snare are momentary instruments, so they don't really create much of a problem as far as covering up the more sustained tones of the lead. If the snare's frequencies get in the way try boosting a different hi-mid frequency on the snare (that's out of the way of the vocal), or cut some of its hi-mids and/or highs to make room for the top end of the voice. The bass on the other hand can easily get in the way of the vocal (especially male). Make sure that the low mids (approx. 185—350Hz) aren't too present. If the bass starts sounding too woofy, and you are having a hard time hearing the vowels of the lead—scoop out the low mids on the bass some more. Also be careful with the top end of the bass. Too much fret noise can be distracting, though eliminating it all together kills some of the performance's excitement.
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