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When is too much (artist changing mix)? Dynamics Plugins
Old 23rd December 2010
  #1
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When is too much (artist changing mix)?

When delivering an EP - I usually ask for "comments", but recently some of the bands have included engineers..

So the comments are really detailed and some of their visions really detract from my vision of the mix - and I'm not sure if some of the changes are benefitting the track.
I don't mind leveling out guitars - or reducing drums, but adjusting the high-hats 1dB just really seems pointless.. it doesn't need it.

What's the best way to suggest meeting in the middle?
I stick to the two revisions rule.. but I also want the clients to be happy while I get my work to sound the way I want.

Any advice?
Old 23rd December 2010
  #2
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MikeRL's Avatar
 

charge em' by the hour and take that high hat down 1db


on the other hand, I believe that its the engineers job to the make the artists vision come to fruition. not the other way around. its great to have a picture of where you want the mix to end up, but its still your job to give the artist what THEY picture.
Old 23rd December 2010
  #3
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T_R_S's Avatar
This is the number one reason why studios charge by the hour. thumbsup
Old 23rd December 2010
  #4
Quote:
Originally Posted by MikeRL View Post
... I believe that its the engineers job to the make the artists vision come to fruition. not the other way around. ...
A soup needs a cook. Not a committee of cooks. I find one un-nerving tendency is for the actual artist to be moderately oblivious to how the song is coming across, sometimes they are just plain 'ol mired in their peculiar, parochial vision of it...

If they want to sit by your shoulder, describe the changes they want, listen as it comes out of the speakers, "approve" it when it's "right"-- that's the formula for totally ruining something, in my experience.

I don't think there is a way to get across to these folks that you are just better qualified to put it all together for public consumption. If they can't be persuaded of this, that's very, very sad. In my most sanguine moments, I describe this as God's way of winnowing out the CDs that will achieve any success.
Old 23rd December 2010
  #5
Quote:
Originally Posted by MikeRL View Post
on the other hand, I believe that its the engineers job to the make the artists vision come to fruition. not the other way around. its great to have a picture of where you want the mix to end up, but its still your job to give the artist what THEY picture.
No, it's the PRODUCERS job to make the artist's vision come to fruition, and the engineer's job to facilitate this. Are you being hired as engineer or producer? Most bands at a self-funding level are actually self producing up to a point.

That said, the "HH down 1dB" comment is called "band member needs to justify themselves to other band members and to hired engineer". Otherwise they'd just have said "HH is a bit loud", and you'd bring it down more like 3dB since 1dB is unlikely to be here nor there, unless it's something like a vocal level.

But yeah - bill by the hour, and no-one can complain.
Old 23rd December 2010
  #6
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frans's Avatar
It can go two ways:
A) the artist has a vision and everything will be coming out totally brilliant, this will be the record people will ask you about in years to come.

B) the artist has no clue, is insecure and nitpicking on insignificant details because he/she/it is deluded so far to actually belive they know what they are doing and see the wood for the trees when they totally lost it.

Most times it's just B. But I got to admit I once HAD an artist with "A" and allthough he was nitpicking and spent hours with me on completely, utterly insignificant details... hardly a month goes by where some band doesn't ask me about THAT record. Anyway, charge by the hour. And yes, the record would still be great if we hadn't spent all the eeeny weeny changes on all the details. In fact, it would have sounded a touch better if he just let me do my job.
Old 23rd December 2010
  #7
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Chris's Avatar
Play them the completed mix in your mixing room. Ask for changes. Send em to the break room for an hour. Do changes.

If they want something that is drastically different than what you gave them, they probably want a different mix engineer. You delivered your product and they hired you for your product. If they want the guy that's not behind the desk to do the mix let them know you can send him the tracks after you get your check.
Old 23rd December 2010
  #8
Honestly, I thought the hi-hat could come down even 1.5 db
Old 23rd December 2010
  #9
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Sigma's Avatar
the CLIENT has the final say..i do my mix..get feedback, tweak then give them 1 more shot ..after that it's by the hr..before that flat fee

i have done plenty of records where the band or producer wanted something i knew was bad..there is a holiday recording that's on a compilation with sonic youth etc i did where someone in the band i wsas working with [won't say] said "the gtrs are too loud...this is a band all instruments equal"..i knew it was going to emasculate the mix ..but i did it..there is no disclamier on the record that says .."recorded and mixed by mike tarsia with a caveat" everytime i hear the song i cringe..BUT THAT'S MY JOB..DOING WHAT THE CLIENT TELLS ME

do what the clent tells you..i gotta tell YOU that the biggest peeve i hear from the kids i work with are about engineers who TELL THEM how their record should sound even after the band has made it's decisions or who carp about minor changes..
Old 23rd December 2010
  #10
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overall elements, i.e. if say they want the guitars to be "bigger" or "louder" or something...then try to do that within its context of course...same as stuff like the vocals need to be louder...

HH...maybe it needs more cowbell while you're at it? haha...stuff like 1db, i just tell people i did what they said and strangely enough, 99% of the time, they will listen again and say "yeh thats better"...this also works in live sound, have a channel with nothing on it, someone tells you to do something, tweak the knobs on the free channel...you'd be surprised how many people think the sound improved 100% after doing that...

I guess the point i'm trying to make there...do what you think the mix needs, take what they're saying into consideration, listen to the mix again...if you think they're just saying something to get some sort of word in...humour them...

It doesn't matter so much if some of them are engineers...i know with me for example, i'll mix other people fine, then mix something for myself and think its great....listen to my mixes a couple of months later, the stuff i mixed for other people, still sounds great, MY stuff...not so much...haha...i'm sure a lot of other people have been through this sometimes...

At the end of the day, they're paying you to mix...its like hiring a sniper and telling him how to shoot...be open to suggestions to a certain point, but i'm sure you can weed out the s*** along the way haha....

good luck!
Old 23rd December 2010
  #11
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Really interesting posts.. I can totally see both points of view.
I guess I'm only technically employed as an engineer / mixer - but I do ensure that the best performances and arrangements are there.

It seems that irrespective of what I think, it's the clients who have the final say?
Old 23rd December 2010
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nelson89 View Post
stuff like 1db, i just tell people i did what they said and strangely enough, 99% of the time, they will listen again and say "yeh thats better"...this also works in live sound, have a channel with nothing on it, someone tells you to do something, tweak the knobs on the free channel...you'd be surprised how many people think the sound improved 100% after doing that...
Yeah. I'm usually open to suggestions, so I'm more than happy to turn something up if the artist is sitting there during the mix. But in many cases, as I'm reaching to turn something up, I hear "yeah - that's better" before I even have the chance to make the adjustment. Normally I'll go ahead and adjust anyway to see if somehow 1db really is better, but at that point I can just as easily turn it back down since they were already happy with it.
Old 23rd December 2010
  #13
But, confront this sad/tragic inevitability: the client is not qualified to be issuing the final say.
Old 23rd December 2010
  #14
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MikeRL's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by psycho_monkey View Post
No, it's the PRODUCERS job to make the artist's vision come to fruition, and the engineer's job to facilitate this.
maybe true brotha! but im my world thats the same person
Old 23rd December 2010
  #15
Don't forget that sometimes, the client is actually right. Sometimes someone coming in with a fresh set of ears, saying "the guitars are too quiet", and you make the change and it's BETTER!
Old 23rd December 2010
  #16
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MikeRL's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by solo-bration View Post
Honestly, I thought the hi-hat could come down even 1.5 db
i was gonna say 1.3db.. but i think maybe we can split the difference at 1.4?
Old 23rd December 2010
  #17
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bash's Avatar
 

Whoever pays the bills shapes the vision.
Old 23rd December 2010
  #18
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TheRealRoach's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by -Noodles- View Post
Really interesting posts.. I can totally see both points of view.
I guess I'm only technically employed as an engineer / mixer - but I do ensure that the best performances and arrangements are there.

It seems that irrespective of what I think, it's the clients who have the final say?
I don't really buy the whole "Client is always right" thing. I would hope that the engineer is always right regarding engineering tasks otherwise the client shouldn't have hired said engineer.

So, assuming that the client did hire the right engineer, the next step is to present a good case as to why you are right. What can help is a reference of another artist that the client provides to demonstrate that the engineer's vision IS actually in sync with other music that the client likes and admires.

Bottom line: What mix best benefits the song?
Old 23rd December 2010
  #19
Quote:
Originally Posted by psycho_monkey View Post
... sometimes, the client is actually right....
Exception that proves the rule?

I'll confess to realizing one thing: it's not the engineer who's going to come up with the bold, innovative approach that could be the harbinger of a whole new trend, because in all cases the engineer is struggling mightily to take these raw tracks and make them sound something like the established bulk of music that's come before.
Old 23rd December 2010
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by psycho_monkey View Post
Don't forget that sometimes, the client is actually right. Sometimes someone coming in with a fresh set of ears, saying "the guitars are too quiet", and you make the change and it's BETTER!
This is also true....this being the case, its also good practice to write down some of what the client says, and listen to it again after you've given your ears a proper rest
Old 23rd December 2010
  #21
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Sigma's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by bash View Post
Whoever pays the bills shapes the vision.
that's what i tell bands when they argue.."whose paying for this?" then i tell them the golden rule..."THOSE WHO HAVE THE GOLD MAKE THE RULES"
Old 23rd December 2010
  #22
Quote:
Originally Posted by TheRealRoach View Post
I don't really buy the whole "Client is always right" thing. I would hope that the engineer is always right regarding engineering tasks otherwise the client shouldn't have hired said engineer.

So, assuming that the client did hire the right engineer, the next step is to present a good case as to why you are right. What can help is a reference of another artist that the client provides to demonstrate that the engineer's vision IS actually in sync with other music that the client likes and admires.

Bottom line: What mix best benefits the song?
I've seen quotes from both Bob Clearmountain and CLA saying that often the client comes in, makes a couple of suggestions, and they find themselves agreeing 100%.

Just saying that just because we think we've got the ultimate technical and stylistic know-how, sometimes the guy(s) who wrote and performed it might have an idea too.

No-one is infallible - the smart ones (and it would appear, successful ones) realise it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by joelpatterson View Post
Exception that proves the rule?

I'll confess to realizing one thing: it's not the engineer who's going to come up with the bold, innovative approach that could be the harbinger of a whole new trend, because in all cases the engineer is struggling mightily to take these raw tracks and make them sound something like the established bulk of music that's come before.
Nah, the exception proving the rule would be the A+R guy who had an opinion that improved the mix!
Old 23rd December 2010
  #23
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mu6gr8's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by psycho_monkey View Post
I've seen quotes from both Bob Clearmountain and CLA saying that often the client comes in, makes a couple of suggestions, and they find themselves agreeing 100%.

Just saying that just because we think we've got the ultimate technical and stylistic know-how, sometimes the guy(s) who wrote and performed it might have an idea too.

No-one is infallible - the smart ones (and it would appear, successful ones) realise it.
This has been my experience as well...generally speaking. That said, I find that printing my first draft of a mix before I play it for the client/artist/producer is good insurance because sometimes my first instinct wins out in the end. Plus, if my vision is already printed and "in the bank," it's easier to let go.

Ultimately, the artist has to be happy and inspired or they will find a way to sabotage the record...and inadvertently their career! I've seen it happen before, even on major labels.

Note to the OP: Always print your visceral first-pass mix, and then make the artist happy. Consider yourself lucky if all they want is an extra dB of hi-hat. Even if you don't *hear* the change in a meaningful way, the artist may *feel* the difference in an inspirational way. Just my $0.02...
Old 23rd December 2010
  #24
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TheRealRoach's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by psycho_monkey View Post
I've seen quotes from both Bob Clearmountain and CLA saying that often the client comes in, makes a couple of suggestions, and they find themselves agreeing 100%.

Just saying that just because we think we've got the ultimate technical and stylistic know-how, sometimes the guy(s) who wrote and performed it might have an idea too.
I disagree that the client should be able to trump any and all decisions made by the engineer as they see fit. But, this is what the mantra "The client is always right" implies. I would be surprised if anyone really follows it to the word. My problem with "the client is always right" as a mantra is the presence of the "always" -- the absolute nature of the statement.

In the case of the OP - who appears to be a Producer/Engineer for the project - I would volunteer that "the client can be right". And, if the engineer feels the final product is being compromised by a client's request the producer/engineer shouldn't be afraid to put a foot down and show passion for why they believe in certain contested decisions.
Old 23rd December 2010
  #25
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mu6gr8's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by TheRealRoach View Post
I disagree that the client should be able to trump any and all decisions made by the engineer as they see fit. But, this is what the mantra "The client is always right" implies. I would be surprised if anyone really follows it to the word. My problem with "the client is always right" as a mantra is the presence of the "always" -- the absolute nature of the statement.

In the case of the OP - who appears to be a Producer/Engineer for the project - I would volunteer that "the client can be right". And, if the engineer feels the final product is being compromised by a client's request the producer/engineer shouldn't be afraid to put a foot down and show passion for why they believe in certain contested decisions.
FWIW some of the IndieProMix guys and I make a point of telling the artist *once* if we think they're making a mistake. Yep, just once... After that, they can listen to the difference and decide for themselves. It's faster & easier to show them the difference than to debate it. Remember, we're just mixing the stuff, not producing it, so we have to support the artistic decisions that the producer & artist already negotiated.
Old 23rd December 2010
  #26
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Steab's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by psycho_monkey View Post
Don't forget that sometimes, the client is actually right. Sometimes someone coming in with a fresh set of ears, saying "the guitars are too quiet", and you make the change and it's BETTER!
That's so true, it's easier for a fresh set of ears to detect a "problem" sometimes, as soon as they have their ears/listening somewhat developed.
Old 23rd December 2010
  #27
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Sigma's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by TheRealRoach View Post
I disagree that the client should be able to trump any and all decisions made by the engineer as they see fit. But, this is what the mantra "The client is always right" implies. I would be surprised if anyone really follows it to the word. My problem with "the client is always right" as a mantra is the presence of the "always" -- the absolute nature of the statement.

In the case of the OP - who appears to be a Producer/Engineer for the project - I would volunteer that "the client can be right". And, if the engineer feels the final product is being compromised by a client's request the producer/engineer shouldn't be afraid to put a foot down and show passion for why they believe in certain contested decisions.
wow ..i wonder how long i would have lasted if when clive davis called i told him i thought his mix changes were wrong and i didn't want to do them
Old 23rd December 2010
  #28
My three rules for clients regarding mixing - these rules have saved me from TONS of these sorts of problems:

1. No one can ask for changes to their own instrument - i.e. guitar player can't ask for more guitar, drummer can't ask for more snare, etc. This keeps everyone listening to the "big picture."

2. If you don't hear a problem the first one or two times you listen to the mix, there is no problem. This keeps bands from listening to the mix 300 times, looking for things to change.

3. The entire band must agree on all changes prior to doing any tweaking/recalls, and bring in a single, unified list of changes. This keeps me from getting texts/calls/emails from different band members asking for changes.

Now, if someone has an issue I will always hear them out and try out any changes they want, but these three rules make the process much smoother for me, and no one has complained about them so far.
Old 23rd December 2010
  #29
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Sigma's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by BLUElightCory View Post
My three rules for clients regarding mixing - these rules have saved me from TONS of these sorts of problems:

1. No one can ask for changes to their own instrument - i.e. guitar player can't ask for more guitar, drummer can't ask for more snare, etc. This keeps everyone listening to the "big picture."

2. If you don't hear a problem the first one or two times you listen to the mix, there is no problem. This keeps bands from listening to the mix 300 times, looking for things to change.

3. The entire band must agree on all changes prior to doing any tweaking/recalls, and bring in a single, unified list of changes. This keeps me from getting texts/calls/emails from different band members asking for changes.

Now, if someone has an issue I will always hear them out and try out any changes they want, but these three rules make the process much smoother for me, and no one has complained about them so far.
thumbsupthumbsupthumbsup

absolutely exactly what i say too..1 spokes person! ..the band confers in private makes a decision THEN 1 person informs me..i'm not paid to be a part of their bickering..i never got a complaint either..they like that ...
Old 23rd December 2010
  #30
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The artist's perspective is not always they best. I find many players in bands are more concerned about how loud their instruments are versus how good the song sounds. Guitarists want guitars louder, bassists want their bass louder and so on. Also now that every musician is a so called engineer it can be difficult. They feel they really know what's up. Some do, most don't. The trick here is not to let their shortcomings as an engineer define the engineering on the mix.
With that said, never let your own ego get in the way of staying open minded. It's a tough dance we dance.
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