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Blunt Mixing Question
Old 15th August 2004
  #1
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Thread Starter
Blunt Mixing Question

Hi Dave,
I have a question (sorry if it sounds a little cheeky). I've often wondered actually how good TOP guys like yourself are. Being involved mainly in sound design, Im constantly amazed by how top pro's can transform seemingly worthless sounds into something cool and 'quality'. Is this the case with mixing? Can guys like yourself resurect bog standard mixes into something 'quality'. Can YOU make that much of a difference?

How much is a mix 'you' and how much rests on the original recording?


PS. Sorry, Im not trying to be an arse, just always wanted to put this to a mixer of your calibre!
Old 15th August 2004
  #2
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Jose Mrochek's Avatar
 

I always had this question myself until I had the chance of sitting in sessions with top engineers. And yes, I do believe they are a step or more ahead. They are not the top guys because of luck or good people skills. I've noticed Dave is a very humble person and it's a good/hard question for him to answer. But looking forward for his reply on this one
Old 15th August 2004
  #3
LTA
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Quote:
Originally posted by Jose Mrochek
[BI've noticed Dave is a very humble person and it's a good/hard question for him to answer. But looking forward for his reply on this one [/B]
I've been noticing, Mr. Pensado will often answer a question as a passing comment in a different thread. I'd bet he doesn't even notice he is doing it.

I've already redefined my perception of what a "top" mixer/engineer/etc is, thanks to both from his current stint as a guest moderator, and a few of the random comments in the "Andy Wallace's Huge but TIGHT Bass Mixing" thread. It has been so enlightening, i can't even imagine Mr. P. even getting 1% of the answer to that question into a multivolume book, and yet it can be (and has been, imo) clearly stated in a single sentence.

Good question though Should spark some fun debate.
Old 15th August 2004
  #4
Jam
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How about phrasing the question slightly differently. Whose basic tracks arrive at the pro mixers door sounding great and just need a final polish ? That way the answer is a compliment !!

Jam
Old 15th August 2004
  #5
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I'm gonna take a crack at answering the question, cause I've had a lot of experience mixing. If I understand the original question, you are asking if the big mixers' stuff sounds good because they get great tracks or they have awesome skills to mix whatever they have to deal with. The answer is they have awesome skills to deal with, whatever they get.
I can tell you from experience that having great sounding tracks to mix does not automatically equal a great mix. It might make it a little easier, but you still have to have your mix game bangin' to go the extra distance to make it sound like a record. It doesn't make THAT much difference whether the tracks are pristinely recorded or just average sounds with a blunder here and there. In fact, for me, killer, perfectly recorded tracks are sometimes MORE challenging because it's tempting to declare it done before you've gone that extra distance.
What is REALLY important is not whether everything has gone through a Jag XKE preamp and a Fairspank toob compressor, but the quality of the production. However in these non-linear digital days, sometimes problems in the production can be improved during "mixing". Just part of doing whatever you have to, to make it sound like a record.
Dave McNair
Old 16th August 2004
  #6
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entropy's Avatar
I've worked with a few top mix boys and hell yeah, they have made a massive difference.

The main thing I noticed was that, where you and I would spend, maybe a day on getting a balance, these boys were eq'ed and balanced (for the most part) within 3 hours, giving them the rest of the day for automation and tweaking, using the time for the polish rather than the rough sanding.
Old 16th August 2004
  #7
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Jose Mrochek's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by mcsnare
In fact, for me, killer, perfectly recorded tracks are sometimes MORE challenging because it's tempting to declare it done before you've gone that extra distance.

Dave McNair

Never thought of it that way, makes total sense. Would you compare this to the sensation you get when you think you have a great song in your hands and it'scary to overproduce it ??? I get that all the time, when is "enough... enough???" Calling it done, is a hard call sometimes.
Old 16th August 2004
  #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by Jose Mrochek
[B when is "enough... enough???" Calling it done, is a hard call sometimes. [/B]
I know .... this sounds simple .... but ..

You've got to be able to step back and listen .... then listen to Yourself
Old 16th August 2004
  #9
Gear nut
 

Thread Starter
Hey, thanks for all the relies... I wasnt sure how this one would go down!

Its always been my opinion that a great record is a product of each stage. Therefore the original recordings must be atleast good for the overall record to be of top quality. However, my mixing skills are not that of the top pro's, and i often wondered how much it really is possible to do. What really got me thinking was when i listened to some old break beats remixed and **** by a top guy - it was amazing what he'd done with them, far more than i thought possible! I also regularly download samples for remix contests, and Im constantly shocked by how crap the original tracks sound when compared to the final mix. This all backs up the notion that a great mixer is every bit as important as good tracking.

I'll be really interested to see if Dave has any comments on this.
Old 16th August 2004
  #10
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When I was coming up I assisted Bruce Swedien and Chris Lord-Alge. Both respected mix engineers with completely different approaches. In both cases their mixes were consistently good whether or not the tracks and productions were well done. It was really just a question of how many hoops they had to jump through to get there. Bruce would go through some serious craziness to get each track sounding pristine - trying different outboard D/A's, sometimes using esoteric audiophile gear to clean up someone else's tracking mess, doing huge track edits by offsetting two machines. Chris was a fast EQ and compression guy, some snare samples, lot's of outboard gear, etc. I've seen both of them save songs. Chris once mixed a song for a big female artist that everyone thought would be left off the record, it was an after thought. By the time he was done it was being considered as the first single. The production got in the way of the song, but by the time he was done cleaning up the mess the song became the focus again and everyone realised what they had.
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Old 16th August 2004
  #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by robmix
When I was coming up I assisted Bruce Swedien and Chris Lord-Alge. Both respected mix engineers with completely different approaches. In both cases their mixes were consistently good whether or not the tracks and productions were well done. It was really just a question of how many hoops they had to jump through to get there. Bruce would go through some serious craziness to get each track sounding pristine - trying different outboard D/A's, sometimes using esoteric audiophile gear to clean up someone else's tracking mess, doing huge track edits by offsetting two machines. Chris was a fast EQ and compression guy, some snare samples, lot's of outboard gear, etc. I've seen both of them save songs. Chris once mixed a song for a big female artist that everyone thought would be left off the record, it was an after thought. By the time he was done it was being considered as the first single. The production got in the way of the song, but by the time he was done cleaning up the mess the song became the focus again and everyone realised what they had.
And THAT's why the big name guys are big name guys, not because they're lucky and get to work with great material all the time, but because they're just that good.
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Old 16th August 2004
  #12
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Jose Mrochek's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by zboy2854
And THAT's why the big name guys are big name guys, not because they're lucky and get to work with great material all the time, but because they're just that good.

Yep.. well, the luck part is just at the beginning I guess. Being at the right place at the right time, getting a assisting position in a high end place.. maybe that has to do with luck a bit or good people skills maybe, but once you are in the door and you stay inside the door it's because you are a step or more above the rest. If I were to do Elizabeth Hurley once, well yeah.. that would be PURE LUCK if I get to do her twice.. then yeah, I was probably good at it heh
Old 17th August 2004
  #13
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Good to see McSnare hanging out. David
Old 17th August 2004
  #14
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Herbert in the house! Hey man how's Van,BC treatin ya? I have wanted to do a project there forever, it seems like such a cool town.
Dave
Old 17th August 2004
  #15
urumita
 
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Hey, Dave McSnare
haven't heard from you since the Baby Monster scene, how's RS, y'all still rockin!!!
Bryce went big and I'm doing music and directing for the theater and some other neat tricks here in Italy.
A good song has a beginning, a middle and an end. A good mix is like a taxi cab ride, you get in, you get to where you're going and you get out, it has to be entertaining or you don't leave a tip.
I know that McSnare has fun mixing and his advice is good. A good mix can make a flattenned performance listenable. A good performance can be destroyed by a bad mix.
Old 17th August 2004
  #16
Gear addict
 

Good thread, I completely agree with mcsnare..


"In fact, for me, killer, perfectly recorded tracks are sometimes MORE challenging because it's tempting to declare it done before you've gone that extra distance."

stike
Old 17th August 2004
  #17
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ROJO my main man! I've heard from more people I haven't seen in ages on this thread. Hope you are enjoying Italy. I moved back to NYC about 3 years ago, and things are pretty good. I swaped emails with RS not too long ago, but we haven't worked on a project together in some time. Last week I hung out with an old buddy and he told me he saw the Splevins CD in a little record store in Connecticut! Small world.
Rock On,
Dave McNair
Old 20th August 2004
  #18
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kevinc's Avatar
 

Well I know Teacher allways mixes with a blunt.

Old 20th August 2004
  #19
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David Herbert's Avatar
 

Hey McSnare,
Loving BC, just started mixing an album of a live show, a "21st century opera", that will hopefully also be a DVD. I am sending you a PM with more info. David
Old 20th August 2004
  #20
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I think its comes down to experience.. Im in no way experienced enough to compete with some of the names mentioned here, but im sure with enough toys and time i could maybe get somewhere in the ballpark. Again its their skill and experience (and track record) that you are hiring and paying them for... not mine! heh heh

I think its the experience and finesse that these guys who we or at least i appreciate, thats makes them so sought after. Gear is a just a means or a vehicle for them getting to the final desintation. Its thier ability and exerience that allows them to pull together a stellar mix in a relatively short amount of time, and be able to tweak it for a lil while longer whilst livng with the mix as it progresses.

I think the hardest part of mixing and is again a funtion of experience (as well as taste) is knowing WHEN TO STOP MIXING.... and not overcook the mix and mix the life out of it... im sure we've all been guilty of that at some point.

Wiggy
Old 20th August 2004
  #21
Gear maniac
 

the cooking analogy is the one i fall on most if i'm thinking of a lateral approach to a mix (like, is this track a bowl of curry or a single green pea on a giant white plate?)

as for the question, i reckon it's like any other skill, there is a long-term ?subcortical/cerebellar habituating process, whereupon one is able to reproduce a visualised abstract idea into reality without thinking which finger is moving which fader

and i also reckon, wiggy, that tools, while being great facilitators, are varied and numerous, and totally subservient to the brain vision of the beholder

for instance, at the moment, i'm working in oenpelli, which is in arnhem land in northern territory, and this place is actually run by the traditional owners of the land (what? in australia?)

i've just discovered a local method of cooking a dish of mud oysters (something between a mussel and an oyster)

what you do is take a branch of gum leaves, put it over the mud oysters and light it up

in a couple of minutes, presto, a hot, steaming, perfectly cooked dish

of course, some people eat bush oysters (ram balls, for those who ever make a trip into the australian outback)

i'm sure there was a point to this story

oh yeah, good to read you again, mcsnare
Old 20th August 2004
  #22
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That is a fasinating post, Max.
Wiggy, I think you are right. The strange duality of the whole thing is yes, if you have fantastic gear your mixes will sound better, all other things being equal. But I think you improve your skills better if you start on modest gear, and gradually start using the better gear as you gain more experience. It's similar to my comment about finishing the mix to early when you have stellar tracks, substitute top line equipment for perfect sounding tracks.
I remember thinking when I worked at my first staff studio job in an 8 track 1/2" joint!, why doesn't my **** sound better? Is it the gear? Gotta be, cause I'm bad, right? Then one of the pros would come in and his stuff sounded SO much better. It taught me a lesson early, that you shouldn't be stopped by sonic or operational equipment limitations. Of course hearing how good the "other guy" could make things sound with the same stuff, I was obsessed by squeezing everything out of that place I could. I learned things during that time, ('79-'81), that I still use today. If you really have a gift, I think a person could start working at a world class studio and get amazing sounding mixes intuitively. For the rest of us mortals, a combination of practice on any gear, and then hopefully later utilizing what we've learned on the bomb gear, is a good way to approach things.
Dave McNair
Old 20th August 2004
  #23
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Jose Mrochek's Avatar
 

Mcsnare should have his moderation month
Old 20th August 2004
  #24
LTA
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Quote:
Originally posted by maxim
of course, some people eat bush oysters
Not to be confused with the North American Rocky Mountain oyster, of course.
Old 21st August 2004
  #25
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Quote:
Originally posted by LTA
Not to be confused with the North American Rocky Mountain oyster, of course.

Funny OT story regarding these things...



Went to a casino about 2 hrs away on Thursday.......and when I got off the bus there was a lady standing there wearing a shirt that said "Testical Festival".

Turns out they have a festival every year where they serve Rocky Mountain Oysters all day long....
Old 23rd August 2004
  #26
urumita
 
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Anyone who gets a song to mix that he hasn't tracked is going to mix it differently from someone who has also tracked the piece, in fact anyone who mixes something will do it differently from another despite circumstances and what gear you have to work with.
A piece of music has to be entertaining in some form of the meaning of that word, good mixers learn how to make this happen or let it happen (on a good performance/recording)
I've done a bit of live to 2 in the studio and did the mixing as we were recording (I still use this method if doing multitrack because it helps the artist hear immediately if the performance was up to his standards or not) (Monitors on the faders, inputs on the upper faders) during tracking it means being as involved as a musician in the performance, or if you just recieve a session and a rough mix, it always means learning the song and the lyrics, air drumming, hand waving or deejaying etc... like you were 16 years old.
How to fit the levels and sculpt the freeks etc.. comes more from the standpoint of what's entertaining and needs to be illuminated and moved around the panorama. The needs are entertainment. Don't turn off the HH on a reggae tune. Don't eq hip hop like Mantovani. Every style has its point for entertaining the artists that make it and their public.
More than the gear it's the understanding of the music and its public that count, but good gear don't hurt, besides a lot of cool sounds are made with no cherry gear.
Old 24th August 2004
  #27
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Curve Dominant's Avatar
Quote:
posted by maxim:
i've just discovered a local method of cooking a dish of mud oysters (something between a mussel and an oyster)

what you do is take a branch of gum leaves, put it over the mud oysters and light it up

in a couple of minutes, presto, a hot, steaming, perfectly cooked dish
THANKS!!!
Old 24th August 2004
  #28
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You can do a cool thing smoking them by getting a wok, putting tea leaves in the bottom, and putting a rack inside of the wok (but above the tea leaves), then lay the oysters on the rack (or any meat for that matter).

Then take foil, and build a "tent" over the wok to seal in the smoke. That's a pretty quick/ low mess way to smoke things inside your house or apartment.
Old 26th August 2004
  #29
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Am I the only one who thought he meant what weed mix is the best?

I personally like Haze and Hash
Old 26th August 2004
  #30
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Quote:
Originally posted by Teacher
Am I the only one who thought he meant what weed mix is the best?

I personally like Haze and Hash
Personally I'd avoid the blunt and go for a good quality wrapping paper like Club Caberets....I hate the taste of nasty cigar paper......
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