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Mixing Trick 1: The Bypass/Insert Head Bob
Old 7th November 2002
  #1
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Thumbs up Mixing Trick 1: The Bypass/Insert Head Bob

When I'm working on the sound of an instrument, it's soloed up and I'm fiddling with its EQ, compression, + other plugs, I've found that after I've gotten the sound I sometimes feel the compulsion to prove that all the work was worth it. So, I bypass all the plugs and listen to the unprocessed sound for a few bars, and then re-insert all of them to hear if I'm fooling myself or not. Did I just waste my time with all the tweaking or have I improved the sound? You might do this yourself sometimes.

I've made a few observations about this practice. One is the longer I work on the sound, the stronger the compulsion is to prove to myself I wasn't wasting my time (in the process wasting more time trying to prove I wasn't wasting my time.) Secondly, after listening to the bypassed sound and inserting the plugs to hear a few bars of it processed, I've noticed a little nod of approval I make to myself with my head. A pat on my own back.

The third thing I've noticed (and here's where the theatrics come into play) is that whenever I'm working with one of those over attentive clients who sit, elbows on the console's edge, following along with every single move I make, constantly asking questions (you know the ones I mean), that I behave a little differently. Since they're watching me so closely (they've got their own DAW) they are completely aware of the fact that I've been focusing on this sound, and when it comes down to the bypass/insert test they are also expecting there to be a marked improvement ("'cause he just spent so much friggin' time on it"—client's internal monologue speaking.) So, subconsciously what I've found myself doing after hearing the processed sound for a few bars is not only do I nod my head up + down much more emphatically, but I've noticed this expression of macho satisfaction coming over my face (eyes squinting, brow furrowed, lips pursed, like a quarterback who just threw a fifty yard touchdown pass and the only emotion he shows is the confident satisfaction that he knew it was going to make it before it left his hand.) This somehow seems to help.

And it seems to have an added benefit. If the client was nodding in approval already, they will still usually look over at me to see what I thought, and when they see my little subconscious theatre act their head will really start to bob up + down. Even to the point of their shoulders + body getting into it. And with each track this happens to the client will become more and more relaxed, and over time they will slowly melt back towards the couch, and eventually start reading a magazine. It kind of works out nicely that way.

Have any of you noticed yourself doing this or anything else like this consciously or subconsciously?
Old 7th November 2002
  #2
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i consciously make NO emotion while adjusting something while i client is there... not until i am fully sure that is where i am going. then i say... yeah, thats the ticket. when they arent there i find myself talking to myself a lot.

i do however get caught up sometimes wondering if what i did was for the benefit of the track, or if what i was hearing was right vs what im hearing after i did something do it.

i also notice that phenomenon of the client moving back to the couch and starting to read after a while. i dont know if its because they now trust my decisions or are just burnt to hell on the repeated listening. by the time im doing full song passes, mix wide open... i really like them back on the couch reading because they do tend to pick up on things not concentrating so hard... my current mix im in the midst of wrapping up, the client and i were telepathic with what needed to be done. he would pipe up about something he noticed and i was already fixing it. THATS when mixing becomes really great with the client in the room.... plus it secured me his next project.
Old 7th November 2002
  #3
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i definately use the added benefit of physical acknowledgement when i think i've nailed a sound the way i want it. (making sure i dont look suprised that the effort worked though) being an engineer requires a generous helping of psycology. you have to know what will make the client feel good and/or bad. sometimes the little bop is subconscious, and sometimes it is forced. no matter what makes it come out, it does seem to put clients in a state of confidence with what i am doing. i, too, do not dig the breathing on my knuckles kind of client. i would much rather them back on the couch just listening, not examining the aspects of what i am doing. i am also a fond believer of removing the plugs on a track to see if my work was "because i can" or actually a necessary addition to the sound and vibe. if they do improve what is there, they go right back on.
Old 8th November 2002
  #4
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no clients while I mix .... period. They can 'pop' in and listen for 15 minutes and give remarks and we can discuss options .... that yes .... but I will rarely continue mixing or change something (sound wise) while they are there .... and that has nothing to do with hiding how and what I do ....


If they want to know how and what I do , I will show them before the mix starts, or after it 's done. but not during the mix precess itself ... I need to be alone for that.


I know, clients sometimes will put it as a condition to come to the studio .... doesn't happen often but it does happen. I'll simply refuse the job and that's it. I've tried it and for me it doesn't work ... cannot mix whil someone watches every move I make. I do not run what you can call a client based studio. Most stuff we do around here is our own stuff but we do get quite some remix client based stuff ... I LOVE remixes .... I LOVE mixing overall ... but alone.
Old 8th November 2002
  #5
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Quote:
posted by Chris:
I LOVE mixing overall ... but alone.
LOL...

When I was a teenager, a friend's band got a major deal w/big name producer - woo hoo, made all the local papers, big thing...

Long story short: They were CRUSHED when the name producer locked the band out of the studio at mix time. Didn't even allow a "Pop yer headz in once in awhile...", no. LOCKED THEM OUT. They were like kids who got rocks for Christmas.

My singer annoys me with her nitpicking at the mixes sometimes...thing is, oftentimes she has good ideas. But once in awhile I'll fake a system crash...he he.

The "bypass/insert head-bob"...

In Philly, we have a variation on that:

I'll jump up out of my chair and stand in the middle of the room like Muhammad Ali standing over Sonny Listen, and shout, "What's my name??!!!" What's my name??!!!"
Old 8th November 2002
  #6
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i have no problem with clients being with me during the mix... its their album after all. they range from annoying to enjoyable. there is always a point where im alone with the mixes so it doesnt bother me at all.
Old 8th November 2002
  #7
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When I wrote the original post I had no idea it would bring about this reaction.

One of my first rules when I mix is to eliminate my ego. It only manages to get in the way of the creative process. Mixing is not about me, and if I were to make it so, the quality of my work would suffer. It is about the song, and the artist. I never become married to an idea, or sound. If it's a cool one, but the producer doesn't dig it—I save it for my next mix.

I want my clients in the room. I want their input, their fresh perspective, and their vision. They better than I understand what the song + artist are about. Of course they are coming to me for my contribution, it's a collaboration, but my best mixes have always happened when I work together with a producer who really knows what they want.

And I never say to a client: No, that won't work because... The client has the luxury of having no idea what can + cannot be done, and it's this freedom that allows them to think up an idea that I would never try. It might be the most challenging thing I've tried that week, but chasing their idea always teaches me something. And some of the coolest sounds I've ever put to disk are the result of a "stupid" client idea.

In my experience a client's input is critical. When I get my mix to a point where I'm pretty happy with it I invite them to give me their comments, and with a good producer the quality of the mix only goes up exponentially. It's because the clarity of their original vision combined with my new ideas creates a reaction, the result of which is a stronger more focused mix—every time.

I won't mix a song without the client at the session. They have to work for this too.
Old 8th November 2002
  #8
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"And with each track this happens to the client will become more and more relaxed, and over time they will slowly melt back towards the couch, and eventually start reading a magazine. It kind of works out nicely that way."



Charles

A couple of questions to clarify:

1. When you concluded in your first post that "it works out nicely" when the client relaxes and withdraws, I assumed your goal was to gain physical and emotional space. This doesn't harmonize with your last post, so can you explain more?

2.
Quote:
Originally posted by Charles Dye

One of my first rules when I mix is to eliminate my ego. It only manages to get in the way of the creative process. Mixing is not about me, and if I were to make it so, the quality of my work would suffer. It is about the song, and the artist. I never become married to an idea, or sound. If it's a cool one, but the producer doesn't dig it—I save it for my next mix.

I am curious about this stategy and the expression- the elimination of your ego-

...>>looking up word in dictionary>> ..

which describes it as "conscious thinking subject, part of the mind that reacts to reality and has a sense of individuality; self-esteem" and later it points to a popular meaning of the word " idealization of oneself" hence ego-trip means "activity etc. devoted to one's own interests or feelings".

Hmm the word has very different meanings. What do you mean by the word?
I see all "ego-trip" kinds of behaviour as springing from lack of confidence. I don't see how one can have too much a sense of self -it's contradictorary.

You say that the mixing you do is not about you- ?????????????
I need some convincing!!?
Of course it's not ONLY about you.

There are aspects of competiveness that are fruitful and some aren't. It sounds as though you strongly filter the aspects that aren't, but I bet your sense of self is your ally and with you all the time.
Old 8th November 2002
  #9
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Renie,

That's the problem with the written word. (At least with my abilities to use it.) That it's really hard to convey sarcasm or self mockery sometimes without being taken seriously.

To be clear, the first post was a self mocking joke. Everything I said was true, but I think my behaviour is pretty humorous—not necessarily to others, just to myself. In reality after I've been working with a client for a few hours, and I've done the "head bob" thing a couple of times, I will actually walk them through the theatre act in a very self mocking manner. It's turned out to be an excellent ice breaker. Sorry about the mixed signals.

Regarding the second post, I couldn't have been more serious. Nothing was intended to be entertaining there, I meant every word of it. But if I was being taken seriously on the first post, that would probably explain the responses.

As far as my ego goes, I'm the oldest child of five and a Leo. If you follow pop psychology/astrology that would make me a pretty arrogant son-of-a-bitch. (In other words, the popular definition you mentioned "idealization of oneself".) Well, as you may know sucessful engineering is 50% about your technical skills and 50% about your people skills. And that a client will work with an engineer they enjoy the company of, over another who is a better engineer, but also a jerk. When I made this discovery as a young engineer, I decided it was time to stop being such a jerk. (Being a jerk is much easier anyway—so I saw it simply as another challenge to overcome.)

"You say that the mixing you do is not about you- ????????????? I need some convincing!!? Of course it's not ONLY about you."

Yes, I fight for ideas I really think are appropriate for the mix, but if the client can't be convinced—then out they go. I'm always ready to dump anything that doesn't fit their vision. And that is what they hired me for, to help them realize the song the way they want to hear it. The mix is not about me, it's ALL about them. If you're not convinced, I'm not sure how I can better explain it.

Regarding my sense of self, fear not I have a strong sense of self.

I hope I've made more sense this time.
Old 8th November 2002
  #10
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i would say the mixing is not about the mixer [although a lot of them think it is]... ive always believed they were just part of the greater sum. a mixer adds the knowledge to the project but does not put themselves above everything else. thats the part of letting their ego go.
Old 8th November 2002
  #11
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Well said aj, I couldn't agree more.
Old 8th November 2002
  #12
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So you're doing the head-bump to convince clients of your work, and go back to let's say routine, if it doesn't work out your way?
That implies, you always have a way to get "there" without your ego? The magic formula? The hard way?

Or do they get YoUR mix anyways (w/o gimmicks) and you just "sell" it a different way? Like keeping the guitars too soft to let the client focus on them, giving you freedom in other directions while keeping them satisfied bringing the guitars up "a notch"?

Niko
Old 8th November 2002
  #13
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Speaking of little client tricks.

I used to have a couple of A&R people who were just plain notorious for wanting the vocal up, no matter what. It was just part of their mantra....."More vocal". Didn't matter how loud the vocal already was.

OK, tolerable, barely. Until they then began using the "vocal up" mixes on mixes where the vocal was already a bit hot on the master version. No fair.

And so, I began mixing the record, then last thing dropping the vocal back a bit from where I really wanted it. THAT was the master as far as everyone else knew.

Worked like a charm. They got to ask for more vocal and not ruin the record. Everybody was happy.

My point is, sometimes you have to protect people from themselves when you're in the chair. It's not arrogant, anymore than it's arrogant for a tour guide to pull an overly enthusiastic tourist back away from the edge of the Grand Canyon.

IMO, it's part of the job to do it in a graceful way. Sometimes head bobbing or other foolery is a part of it.


Regards,
Brian T
Old 8th November 2002
  #14
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Thanks for explaining further.

Quote:
Originally posted by Charles Dye



"You say that the mixing you do is not about you- ????????????? I need some convincing!!? Of course it's not ONLY about you."

Yes, I fight for ideas I really think are appropriate for the mix, but if the client can't be convinced—then out they go. I'm always ready to dump anything that doesn't fit there vision. How can I explain this better? I'm working for them, they are paying me, I am being employed to help them realize their creative vision. This mix is not about me. It's about them. If you're not convinced, I'm not sure how else to explain it.

Regarding my sense of self, fear not I have a strong sense of self.

I think we are in agreement here just slightly different modes of expression, not 100% sure....!!

My point is that you are a significant part of the mix because that's what they are paying you for, Charles Dye , to be you, personality, experience, skills, ears. A key part of that is your lack of insecure behaviour, what you call "ego-trip", you are 'big' enough to know that the realization of the track is the job to fulfill, that is the goal. I see the journey to that goal is touched by the individuals involved, it is a unique sum of human endeavour. Who the mixer is matters a great deal to the outcome.

I'm saying a good mixer has enough personality to recognize that their issues shouldn't impede the track in any way, which I think we all agree on.

Hey no doubt about your strength of self here, that's my point!!


Cheers
Old 8th November 2002
  #15
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I sometimes have the opposite problem. When a mix falls together very quickly and doesn't need a lot of poking, the client may feel the need to do an autopsy on the mix, just to justify their existence in the studio that day. Maybe they feel like I didn't work hard enough, or that I left many details un-attended to. This is the point when I print my mix, and then let the client beat me up and spend all their own money until they're satisfied (or exhausted). The earlier mix almost always wins.
Old 8th November 2002
  #16
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Yay! My avatar finally worked. I think I like Charles' better though. Much classier in an arty/Lichtenstein/Warhol kind of way.
Old 8th November 2002
  #17
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I suspect that some of the misunderstandings and differences expressed on this thread is due to different business models being used. There is simply not a "one-size-fits-all" approach.

It comes down to defining roles that fit various business models. If you mix for hire by an experienced, professional artist or producer, then taking a service-driven approach such as the one described by Charles is most definitely the most appropriate way. If I was hired by an artist to mix a track, I would not only allow but require the artist to be present to offer guidance, if not for anything else but to prevent repeated trips back to the drawing board. And if I was the client, I would want to be there; not with my elbows on the console breathing on the mixer's knuckles, but not napping on the couch, either.

On the other hand, some mixers have to answer to a different command structure, such as a large corporate label, and in that case the artist is often expected to respectfully recuse themselves from the post-production process; the mixer may also in turn expect (or demand) A&R to defer to his expertise. No doubt the scenarios will vary from one project to the next.

George Massenburg once posted a thread about his experience with a young artist at mix time becoming a distracting and counter-productive influence. We all know GM is a service-driven engineer, but even he had to draw the line with a technically illiterate artist who didn't understand the process adding static and ill-concieved advice.

If you're sweeping EQ's and the artist chimes in, "I don't like that..." do you stop and explain the process to them? What if there's a tight deadline? How much explaining of each process do you require of yourself? And how do you keep focussed on the task at hand while simultaneously holding a Mixing 101 class?

So both viewpoints are understandable. It depends on the business model you're following, and how it defines the roles. And the questions that raises could be the subjects of several more threads.
Old 8th November 2002
  #18
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Quote:
Originally posted by Curve Dominant
If you're sweeping EQ's and the artist chimes in, "I don't like that..." do you stop and explain the process to them?
no, a quick "hold on a second" works 100% of the time. sometimes while i am sweeping and they want to know i will explain while im doing it... i have no problems working and talking so it works for me. i do know people who cant do that however, thats where the first comment works.
Old 8th November 2002
  #19
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i've always had the client in the room for mixes. it IS their music i am working on. if they have a question about what i am doing, i try, to my best ability, to let them know. that is how i got into mixing in the first place. it doesn't become mine when i start the mix down. my job is to make whatever record i am mixing the best of what it can be. the one time that the artist wasnt present, i had to go back and remix 9 times until they were happy with the results. granted, i work in small project studios, and not under the eyes of labels, so i dont know how it works in that case. i had a project with a band that, before mix down, the guitarist explained his hate for compression on mixes. he didn't want any compression on anything, period. that is how i did it. they wanted the songs to be raw and not polished, because they are raw and unpolished. different people like things different ways, and my job is to get there. if i have a suggestion on how something can sound better, and i haev surmised that the client is open to suggestion, i will make an attempt to show them what i feel will work. like i said in an earlier post, you need some psycology to learn how to cope with whatever client and/or artist you are dealing with. there is no true formula for what it takes to deal with everyone. its like brail, you have to feel your way to get it. rollz
Old 9th November 2002
  #20
When I let the act hear my mix (as engineer & producer) I am phobic about the 'and another thing' style of - open thinking aloud / concerns from artists.

So I insist they listen several times on the mains & the ghetto blaster at different volumes (I take an ear break and leave em to it) as a 'committee' and make a detailed list of:

a) desired corrections
b) 'areas of concern' for discussion

While we "work through the list" and address items on the list one by one, individual band members ARENT ALLOWED to bring a new 'and another thing' point up, we STICK TO THE LIST! (they can have a further 'group debate' later AFTER the list has been dealt with)

I often insist on a "hall" or "corridor" listen (me included) where we all get out of direct range of the mains and (note pad handy) make last minute observations...

Points in favor:

I like the band to argue out issues with the mix
It concentrates their minds on the mix in a time that I want them to
Decisions made are 'united'
Every time I stop the music the ideas formulating can crystallize and not be blown away by a constant - "and another thing" which starts to irritate me.
It works for me!

heh
Old 9th November 2002
  #21
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Quote:
posted by Jules:
While we "work through the list" and address items on the list one by one, individual band members ARENT ALLOWED to bring a new 'and another thing' point up, we STICK TO THE LIST!
Good point, Jules, and it reminds me of something:

I've noticed over the years that architecture and design firms follow smart guidelines which prevent clients from sending them on wild-goose chases with repeated trips back to the drawing board, and that example touched on one of those techniques.

Generally, design firms use what they call the Three Phase Billing Process. The way it works:

Phase One: Introductory meeting, where the client briefs the firm on the project, parameters and goals are set, and the client officially hires the firm. 50% of fee due.

Phase Two: The client is briefed on a rough draft of the finished project, and the client offers a set of revisions, which are agreed on in writing. 25% of fee due.

Phase Three: Client is presented with finished prototype for approval...BUT, if the client suggests a new set of revisions, THEY ARE BILLED FOR THE EXTRA WORK...IOW billed again for Phase Two, plus billed for Phase Three, the final 25%.

The rationale is that the firm is justified in billing the client for the extra time spent, since the firm already did the work both parties agreed to in writing, and the client is now demanding new work.

Of course, the firm may always improvise flexibility into this arrangement at their discretion, and where they see appropriate.

A strict interpretation of this system may not always be practical for a recording studio, production company, or freelance mix engineer. But I thought I'd post it here anyway, because it may help some of y'all who have had "opportunities" with this issue to create your own set of (fluid) guidelines.

I've found an important aspect of success in doing this, is to inform the client up-front that this system is for their own good: Because it compells all parties involved to approach the project in an organized, goal-driven manner. And as such, it helps ensure the project gets completed on time and on budget, while meeting all the quality standards appropriate to the particular project.

This has been a great discussion; for Gearslutz, perhaps not the sexiest of subjects, but an important one to address. Because if we can keep the agita of these "other issues" to a minimum, we can hopefully keep our careers as sexy as possible. And that's what's most important, right?

Right!
Old 9th November 2002
  #22
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I like Jules structured approach. Cool ideas.
Old 9th November 2002
  #23
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What about the mastering engineers here? Do you guys work alone or with the client in the room?

My guess is that the mastering process is done by one guy alone.

Jasper
Old 9th November 2002
  #24
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I enjoy going to mastering sessions. Aside from hearing my mixes in a different environment, if there happens to be a last minute tweak that can be handled by mastering I can suggest it.
Old 9th November 2002
  #25
Just mastering a 3 song project now myself as I type this (one more song to go!)

1) ananlog mix into Cranesong Hedd @ 96k 24 bit (adding Tape & Pentode process)
2) Hedd patched into Masterlink 96k 24 bit - Make 96k 24 bit master for archive & future pro mastering session
3) Sample Rate Convert (SRC) from masterlink 96k session to Pro Tools 44.1k session with Finalizer
4) In PT use Sony Oxford EQ GML option - adding sheen & sub bass & doing boxey low bass removal (the usual tasks required on my mixes)
5) On a hardware insert is the Finalizer - using Normalizing / DRG / multiband compression (only on some tracks) and Dither
6) play processed track to Masterlink set at 16bit 44.1k
7) 'top and tail' tracks on Masterlink
8) burn CDR's with Masterlink


Old 9th November 2002
  #26
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[quote]Just mastering a 3 song project now myself as I type this (one more song to go!)

1) 96k 24 bit analog mix into Cranesong Hedd (adding Tape & Pentode process)[quote/]

Well, I got the rest, but you lost me with the first step. If you use a Mix system and it only goes up to 48k, how are you playing this 96K miix?

Jasper
Old 9th November 2002
  #27
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Quote:
I enjoy going to mastering sessions. Aside from hearing my mixes in a different environment, if there happens to be a last minute tweak that can be handled by mastering I can suggest it.
Is that the norm then? I always figured mastering guys worked alone for the most part. Maybe that's just Austin.

Jasper
Old 9th November 2002
  #28
My mix is made in the analog domain

I am patching 16 outs of a Prism converter into a 16 into 2 mixer (some outs go via outboard) my session sample rate is set at 48k

Outboard suspects used:

1) SSL comp on a drum group
2) on same drum group after SSL - a Tubtech valve EQ for sheen & sub bass boost
3) Cranesong STC - 8 - for overall gentle mix compression

I 'capture' the mix at 24 bit 96k with the Hedd converter

This mix session used very little outboard, I have used much more on other mixes in the past and I am sure I will again in the future.

Old 9th November 2002
  #29
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I much prefer to attend the mastering if possible.

And Jules is mixing out of PT analog into the D2B, so he the converts that stereo ouput at 96k.

Cheers,
Old 9th November 2002
  #30
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Damn, Jules... Beat me to the post!
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