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Mixing IN your mind
Old 18th September 2019
  #1
Gear Head
Mixing IN your mind

So i was watching this masterclass by Tony Maserati and he talks about being able to imagine the finished mix in your mind's ear before doing anything.

https://youtu.be/Tk-WE2C20-c?t=3152

And suddenly i had an idea for an exercise to test one's mixing skill in this regard:

on a new mix you create a static balance with no processing at all and listen to the song several time trying to figure out what processing it needs. You can take notes and basically mix the song on paper. Take note of every single move you'd make to create the final mix. Then, you simply apply what's on paper to your mix without ever listening till you have finished applying all the moves you wrote on paper. And only after, you listen to the result. What was a good move, what went bad?

Hope this helps someone
Old 18th September 2019
  #2
Gear Guru
 
Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

My advertising clients do that -- they remix my mix by committee in an email, then I actually do it. Then they do it again and keep doing it until the airdate prevents them from improving it further.
Old 18th September 2019
  #3
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
My advertising clients do that -- they remix my mix by committee in an email, then I actually do it. Then they do it again and keep doing it until the airdate prevents them from improving it further.



While I think there's considerable merit to the 'throw up the faders and see what you got' process as a first step, and also think some contemplative time just listening to what you have (both in ensemble and soloed) and thinking about the overall shape of the song/work in question can be a good practice, I have to say I have a certain amount of skepticism of the OP's more elaborate process of writing out notes and prescriptions and then implementing those imagined changes without listening at all.

That said, maybe if one currently finds himself getting bogged down in the process of getting a rough starting mix together -- perhaps getting lost in tinkering individual sounds before one even has a full sense of the overall project -- then, perhaps such a discipline might prove a helpful exercise, giving oneself a 'starting place,' at least until one gets a fuller sense of what he's doing.
Old 18th September 2019
  #4
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by theblue1 View Post


I have to say I have a certain amount of skepticism of the OP's more elaborate process of writing out notes and prescriptions and then implementing those imagined changes without listening at all.
Was going to say this exact thing. Even if you already have an idea of how you want something to sound, listening is a key aspect of getting there.

I do always sit and listen through the whole track first and take notes, but they end up being things like "needs punchier bass" or "guitars are harsh" and not "I need to put a fet compressor with a ratio of 8:1 and a threshold of 5db gain reduction on the bass and cut a notch of 5k out of the guitars" - the idea of implementing those moves without listening seems like an interesting exercise at best but not how I would prefer to go about mixing.
Old 18th September 2019
  #5
Quote:
Originally Posted by sirjuxtable View Post
Was going to say this exact thing. Even if you already have an idea of how you want something to sound, listening is a key aspect of getting there.

I do always sit and listen through the whole track first and take notes, but they end up being things like "needs punchier bass" or "guitars are harsh" and not "I need to put a fet compressor with a ratio of 8:1 and a threshold of 5db gain reduction on the bass and cut a notch of 5k out of the guitars" - the idea of implementing those moves without listening seems like an interesting exercise at best but not how I would prefer to go about mixing.
I suspect, approached with intellectual curiosity and a sense of exploration and experimentation, that exercise might prove instructive or at least thought provoking.

Next time I sit down to mix something (and I've got a mixing/mastering backlog building up), I'm going to try to front load my thought process a little and see if such an effort leads me to any new insights or approaches.

But, I have to say that my main approach to learning engineering was pretty much always twist a knob and listen. Even when I was taking classes in engineering and commercial music production, I was very much about doing and listening. Though I certainly kept my ears open to what teachers and experienced engineers had to say, as well -- for that matter, I tried to check out every trick or approach I heard about, even from people I considered bozos. As they say, you can get the correct time from even a broken clock twice a day. (As long as it's completely broken and not moving at all, anyhow. )
Old 19th September 2019
  #6
Lives for gear
 
swafford's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
My advertising clients do that -- they remix my mix by committee in an email, then I actually do it. Then they do it again and keep doing it until the airdate prevents them from improving it further.
This was my life when I was doing reproduction printing. Make a 3 prints (over, under and on the nose), send them out, get a committees worth of notes of what's wrong, do it again till the drop dead date is missed and everyone is suitably panicked, they send it in late and pay out the nose to burn new films, and, finally, lay the blame on me.

And at $100 an hour, they could blame all they wanted!

The best part is the final set was never that much different than the first.
Old 19th September 2019
  #7
Gear Maniac
What strikes me about OP's idea is that you look at your original notes afterward to see which initial instincts bore fruit.

I always just start with the vocal but I suck anyway. I might try this.
Old 19th September 2019
  #8
Gear Guru
 
Muser's Avatar
Tony Maserati says he ended up mixing in his mind out of the desperation of having to listen to the same thing over and over again. he had ideas how to make things better but had no position to make suggestions. so he started imagining techniques to achieve the things he would have suggested.

I always take what people say as a function of their imagination. I imagine what kind of imaginary world they must live in, in order to say the things they say. often you find that people have substituted imagination with a set of ideas. Maserati sounds to me like this is what he's trying to say. he's trying to say that imagination is primary and his methods are schemes by which he uses his imagination, to manifest what he remembered imagining. this is what I thought as I listened on to what he was saying. quite a lot of good producers often say the same thing.
Old 19th September 2019
  #9
I was just rereading my response a couple comments back... I probably undersold the amount of time I often put in listening to and contemplating the tracks I'm working with before mixing. But I definitely do a lot of knob twisting and listening.
Old 1 week ago
  #10
Gear Head
So, did someone tried this experiment? How it went? For me, i guess it would produce pretty random outcomes at first, and this would be a clear sign that i don't know my tools very well.

Btw, i found this article about taking notes. I like the comparison with the game of chess.

"Creating a clean mix is like playing a game of chess. Every move you make has repercussions that can either move you closer or further away from your end-goal. Chess masters don’t just plan one move at a time; they take into account the vast combination of moves they’re going to make after their first one to beat their opponent. Skilled mixing engineers work in the same way. They’ll listen to a mix, and they’ll then plot out all of the moves they’re going to make to finish a mix."
Old 1 week ago
  #11
Lives for gear
 
64gtoboy's Avatar
I get the concept of using this sequence to teach your ears, but i don't think it would be useful for actual mixing. More of a test your memory type of thing. And it could be fun to find new ways of doing things by making mistakes. I would probably only do this exercise with a few short tracks at a time to really focus in on before and after differences more easily.
Old 1 week ago
  #12
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lobsterinn's Avatar
This exercise seems like a great way to intellectualize what should be an instinctive process. I’d suggest instead of thinking about technical details at the start of a mix, you focus on the emotional heart of the song - I like to come up with a word or short phrase about what feels essential. Then, as I’m mixing and dealing with details, I’m constantly checking in with that emotional goal: Does this feel more intimate/angry/sad/dreamy/whatever with or without this thing I just did?
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