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The importance of 20 fast mixes?
Old 17th May 2006
  #1
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The importance of 20 fast mixes?

Mixing is of course a very important process in the recording chain. But what really happens when a professional mixing engineer mixes up to 20 different mixes of a certain song? That was a question I asked myself this morning. It might be a big number but it seems like some engineers have the approach of making 20 fast mixes rather than one really "good" mix. Let's say the "good" mix would take the 7th place, then one of those 20 fast mixes would be 6 positions better. What I started thinking about was, maybe it's a good approach and maybe the difference is bigger than I think... Maybe this is how you take small steps towards a big and very important decision and also a great way of finding alternatives you never thought existed as well as taking care of them. The more I thought about it, the more it made sense...

These are the things I thought made sense about this approach:

- You minimize the loss of "boxing", that effect you get from not having much enough breaks and not fresh enough ears for noticing and hearing good or bad things in real-time

- Some mixing decisions should take place as you are consuming the material (in both the studio and in reference stereo systems) and knowing that this was the best you were able to do with the material

- From mixing in many ways you discover new things about the mix and can take better advantage of it. Some of these things might be VERY important

- Having many options is good for letting others give their valuable opinions about the mix as well, with THEIR ears

- Having to push yourself into a new approach or direction might be a creative process that is really needed and that might never take place if you only do one or a few mixes

- With many mixes you can give a "better" mix to the mastering engineer since you have evaluated a lot more against a consumer listening environment

- It's a good way of targeting the material when you are not sure about how it needs to be targeted

- You can use a mix - reponse - mix - response approach on some of the mixes or a similar strategy to better know what works and what doesn't

- Your feelings about the mix will get a greater impact on the mix, might be a good thing...

- With many mixes you can have a "select strategy", which can further improve the final result

- You have learned a lot more after mixing 100 songs this way, since you have done 2000 mixes and not 100

- What you finally found best sounding might be due to something you never were aware of as you were mixing the song and it might have been more important than you ever could imagine...

- You allow yourself to fail, which might be necessary to take the risks needed to succeed

- You can take more advantage of the thing called "luck"

Any thoughts and opinions about this?
Old 17th May 2006
  #2
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TyRip's Avatar
 

It sounds great to me.... However, I don't know if I would be creative enough to pull it off. I suppose I could, but it would take some work.

I am the type of person that remembers all the settings and everything, I would probably end up repeating most of them all the time and making different level adjustments and playing with the verbs and delays more than anything.

Come to think of it, it would be a huge challenge to me to make 10 completely unique mixes of one song.

I should definitely try it... Maybe that is just what I need to get a fresh approach.
Old 17th May 2006
  #3
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robmix's Avatar
I've worked with many of the big time professional mixers and have never seen any of them print more than one main mix with the usual variations of vocal up, vocal down, TV track and instrumental. Maybe a vocal down 2db or vocal up 2db if the client is unsure. I once saw a mixer in another studio print about 20 versions - but he wasn't a well known mixer , and they weren't really 20 mixes - just 20 variations of the same mix - kick up, bass up, vocal down with bass up, etc., etc.
Old 17th May 2006
  #4
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XSergeantD's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by RainbowStorm
But what really happens when a professional mixing engineer mixes up to 20 different mixes of a certain song?
As rob noted, the Engineers make one good mix. Then in order to satisfy everyone's tastes in the band, A&R, Management,... they print many versions so they don't have to do a full recall just to turn the drums up 1db, or BGV down .5dB, TV pass,.... The FX are the same, delays the same, ... just level differences on those 20 some odd mixes, but it's usually around 10 passes or less
Old 17th May 2006
  #5
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kingneeraj's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by RainbowStorm
Mixing is of course a very important process in the recording chain. But what really happens when a professional mixing engineer mixes up to 20 different mixes of a certain song? That was a question I asked myself this morning. It might be a big number but it seems like some engineers have the approach of making 20 fast mixes rather than one really "good" mix. Let's say the "good" mix would take the 7th place, then one of those 20 fast mixes would be 6 positions better. What I started thinking about was, maybe it's a good approach and maybe the difference is bigger than I think... Maybe this is how you take small steps towards a big and very important decision and also a great way of finding alternatives you never thought existed as well as taking care of them. The more I thought about it, the more it made sense...

These are the things I thought made sense about this approach:

- You minimize the loss of "boxing", that effect you get from not having much enough breaks and not fresh enough ears for noticing and hearing good or bad things in real-time

- Some mixing decisions should take place as you are consuming the material (in both the studio and in reference stereo systems) and knowing that this was the best you were able to do with the material

- From mixing in many ways you discover new things about the mix and can take better advantage of it. Some of these things might be VERY important

- Having many options is good for letting others give their valuable opinions about the mix as well, with THEIR ears

- Having to push yourself into a new approach or direction might be a creative process that is really needed and that might never take place if you only do one or a few mixes

- With many mixes you can give a "better" mix to the mastering engineer since you have evaluated a lot more against a consumer listening environment

- It's a good way of targeting the material when you are not sure about how it needs to be targeted

- You can use a mix - reponse - mix - response approach on some of the mixes or a similar strategy to better know what works and what doesn't

- Your feelings about the mix will get a greater impact on the mix, might be a good thing...

- With many mixes you can have a "select strategy", which can further improve the final result

- You have learned a lot more after mixing 100 songs this way, since you have done 2000 mixes and not 100

- What you finally found best sounding might be due to something you never were aware of as you were mixing the song and it might have been more important than you ever could imagine...

- You allow yourself to fail, which might be necessary to take the risks needed to succeed

- You can take more advantage of the thing called "luck"

Any thoughts and opinions about this?
Along the lines of what everybody is saying, its just to save your ass and time and money. Nobody would wanna get 100 calls at 9am after a 20hour mix to turn the vocal up 0.5dB during the 10second instrumental breakdown!! Ya Know? And That IS how picky the A&R(or somebody at label) people are...

Typically the more versions of the mix that are printed, the more unsure the engineer is of his work!

thumbsup
Old 17th May 2006
  #6
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AScheps's Avatar
 

I don't think I could do 20 different mixes of a song.

When I start mixing a track I almost immediately hear what I want it to end up sounding like. That doesn't mean I don't change my mind and find suprises along the way, but the basic sound of the track won't change that much from my original impression.

Andrew
Old 17th May 2006
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TyRip
It sounds great to me.... However, I don't know if I would be creative enough to pull it off. I suppose I could, but it would take some work.

I am the type of person that remembers all the settings and everything, I would probably end up repeating most of them all the time and making different level adjustments and playing with the verbs and delays more than anything.

Come to think of it, it would be a huge challenge to me to make 10 completely unique mixes of one song.

I should definitely try it... Maybe that is just what I need to get a fresh approach.
I think you should try it! I tried this approach today and what I found very useful about this approach was that in my prosumer speakers a certain mix was the best sounding, in my studio the same mix came in 2nd... It seems to be good if your playback room is not the best... I also really liked the way I got a new understanding of the song for each mix I did and that it worked great in combination with audio editing. So for each mix I did I tried to locate the biggest problem and work on that. Soon I realised some instruments needed another approach on the EQ for instance... Then when I had been doing a lot of mixes I started to like some in the middle that I didn't like at first. Then I started comparing these and selected the ones I thought were the best sounding. Then I listened in the prosumer speakers and found a certain mix to be best sounding. Then I just had to fine tune that and I was happy with my mix...
Old 18th May 2006
  #8
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Mixxed Up's Avatar
 

I remember reading about this approach in "Recording" magazine years ago. The author of the article indicated that he recommended multiple mixes of the same song in order to evaluate the material for final selection of the tracks, prior to mastering.

I don't think he advocated 20-mixes, but possibly 6 or 7 different mixes.

seems like a good idea, if you have the tape available, to mix down to.
Old 18th May 2006
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mixxed Up
I remember reading about this approach in "Recording" magazine years ago. The author of the article indicated that he recommended multiple mixes of the same song in order to evaluate the material for final selection of the tracks, prior to mastering.

I don't think he advocated 20-mixes, but possibly 6 or 7 different mixes.

seems like a good idea, if you have the tape available, to mix down to.
Interesting! It's a while ago since I read about the 20-mixes approach, might be that the author talked about track volume changes only, because 20 new mixes is really a lot...! heh But anyway, I'm sure 6 or 7 different mixes would be something that would be more realistic and less time consuming, but still be efficient enough... When you have found the best sounding mix you can further adjust that with different track volume changes only.

I think when you mix 6 or 7 new mixes of the same song I think it might be helpful to have some kind of versioning strategy. For instance, one mix could be built around the vocals, one around the drums, one around the bass guitar, one around a combination of two and one would be a "do only what's necessary" - type of approach. Sometimes it might be difficult to know exactly what the mix should be built around, for instance when several key instruments are consuming the sound field equally well, that's when you could discover new things by doing it in many ways. This could also be combined with muting different tracks in different versions that are consuming the sound field equally badly or simply don't fit in efficiently enough. In this way you are able to take risks in order to find out how to consume the sound field most efficiently, without losing too much when it goes wrong. If you only do one mix you really need to be careful with those bigger decisions and the risk is that the decisions are never taken eventhough they should... In the end you might have 3 really good sounding mixes to present for the client, at that point the client doesn't think about whether you did a great job or not and whether you succeeded with the mix or not, all he thinks of is which version to choose!

Another approach to this approach would be to a have a strategy about when to do one mix only and when to do many mixes. In that way you can take advantage of this approach when you really need to... One such case could be the following two mix types:

- Great vocals! (the most important element is the vocals in this tune, build around that)
- The vocals are not great, not the drums either, it's a rock tune (several versions will reveil what is the best approach on this song)
Old 18th May 2006
  #10
11413
Guest
I like to mix in sections.. print the sections into protools.. and edit them together later.. I find that its easier to get away with more extreme sounds this way... because you may only use that sound for a break.. build up.. chorus.. etc.

I also like to track at 48k and mix thru an analog buss, banging it off tape, then bringing the tape back into protools at 44.1.

anyone else this crazy?
Old 18th May 2006
  #11
11413
Guest
Quote:
Originally Posted by robmix
I've worked with many of the big time professional mixers and have never seen any of them print more than one main mix with the usual variations of vocal up, vocal down, TV track and instrumental. Maybe a vocal down 2db or vocal up 2db if the client is unsure. I once saw a mixer in another studio print about 20 versions - but he wasn't a well known mixer , and they weren't really 20 mixes - just 20 variations of the same mix - kick up, bass up, vocal down with bass up, etc., etc.
read the Mix interview with Flood, he does it...

there's one mix on U2's "Achtung Baby" that's 9 different mixes edited together...
Old 18th May 2006
  #12
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paterno's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by RainbowStorm
Interesting! It's a while ago since I read about the 20-mixes approach, might be that the author talked about track volume changes only, because 20 new mixes is really a lot...! heh But anyway, I'm sure 6 or 7 different mixes would be something that would be more realistic and less time consuming, but still be efficient enough... When you have found the best sounding mix you can further adjust that with different track volume changes only.

I think when you mix 6 or 7 new mixes of the same song I think it might be helpful to have some kind of versioning strategy. For instance, one mix could be built around the vocals, one around the drums, one around the bass guitar, one around a combination of two and one would be a "do only what's necessary" - type of approach. Sometimes it might be difficult to know exactly what the mix should be built around, for instance when several key instruments are consuming the sound field equally well, that's when you could discover new things by doing it in many ways. This could also be combined with muting different tracks in different versions that are consuming the sound field equally badly or simply don't fit in efficiently enough. In this way you are able to take risks in order to find out how to consume the sound field most efficiently, without losing too much when it goes wrong. If you only do one mix you really need to be careful with those bigger decisions and the risk is that the decisions are never taken eventhough they should... In the end you might have 3 really good sounding mixes to present for the client, at that point the client doesn't think about whether you did a great job or not and whether you succeeded with the mix or not, all he thinks of is which version to choose!

Another approach to this approach would be to a have a strategy about when to do one mix only and when to do many mixes. In that way you can take advantage of this approach when you really need to... One such case could be the following two mix types:

- Great vocals! (the most important element is the vocals in this tune, build around that)
- The vocals are not great, not the drums either, it's a rock tune (several versions will reveil what is the best approach on this song)
OR, you could just make everything louder than everything else and call it a day...

JP
Old 18th May 2006
  #13
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robmix's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by 11413
read the Mix interview with Flood, he does it...

there's one mix on U2's "Achtung Baby" that's 9 different mixes edited together...

That makes sense for Flood and Lanois. I've heard and read that they're constantly printing mixes - whenever Danny hears something he likes. I would imagine the editing process is a nightmare - trying to squeeze together everyone's favorite sections. I could be wrong, but it sounds like their approach is more about capturing end of the day mixes (spontaneous brilliance) than setting out to print 20 variations.
Old 18th May 2006
  #14
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Santiago's Avatar
 

Actually, I love the practice of editing two mixes together, you can take the listener suddenly to a completely different aural space. The classic examples are the beatles with Strawberry hill and I am the walrus, but I also love Brother LA from Daniel Lanois (several edits in there) and "One minute warning" from Passengers (U2/Eno/Howie B).

So if you've made 20 mixes, it will allow you to do this kind of thing

Santiago
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