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the myth of brilliantly mixed music Effects Pedals, Units & Accessories
Old 4th May 2012
  #181
Well, I though about this today while working on a mix w/ a client actually there. This is a client who tracks a LOT at home, and has done many mixes that range from his being happy with them, to others he feels just plain suck.

A lot of times the client (most times) is there and has a creative decision on which direction to go with the mix. I mean, the artist is still seeing this as part of the creative process, and the engineer is involved in this, helping him / her make what they want to hear happen.

Does it make these decisions less a creative or artistic process if the client goes home and leaves those decisions to the engineer?

This sealed it for me when I thought of it this way. Mixing is definitely still part of the creative / artistic process. I even sat there and thought:

"What if I didn't inject any of my thoughts or idea into this? What would it come out like? What if I just threw a generic plugin preset reverb on this etc. etc., and let it ride?"

I then asked if the client thought mixing was part of the artistic process. "His response was "All hell important, and definitely an "artistic" component.

"Not more important than the music, but just as important nonetheless."

On the simple reverb and delay thing...

It is a creative decision to decide what environment to put tracks into with reverb and delay ...for me anyway. It can change the whole basis of the song, and how it's interpreted by the listener. The whole delivery.

Do you want it to sound like the artist is in your face, in a hall, a cavern, outer space? All of this is a pretty big deal, and has a major impact on the outcome of the finished product.

Where the engineer as an "artist" comes in, is he is working these damn reverb boxes like instruments. themselves. Just as the guitar player would work his gtr and effects to get different tones out of it, an engineer does more than just slap a HUGE reverb on the vocal to make it sound like a plate or cathedral. He has to catch things that are wrong (cause rarely is a preset perfect), and fine tune the effect to make sure it doesn't sound like a crappy simulation of a voice in a cathedral.

Most of your average musicians don't do these kinds of things, some maybe, but not most. I see this as part of the creative process, maybe I am giving engineers too much credit....I dunno.

I have met some badasses that can engineer and play, and create a record from soup to nuts all by their lonesome. Sure. Trevor Rabin?

Even those though, see the mix as part of the artistic process.

Let's not forget,there is a hell of a lot that can be done in mixdown.

Again, don't sell your mixing skills short. Just saying.

Thing is to not get too self important about anything in life I guess. Maybe don't underestimate the importance of some things either though.

Peace,
john

Last edited by NEWTON IN ORBIT; 4th May 2012 at 01:15 AM.. Reason: typo city...my bad
Old 4th May 2012
  #182
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DaveUK's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by NEWTON IN ORBIT View Post
Well, I though about this today while working on a mix w/ a client actually there. This is a client who tracks a LOT at home, and has done many mixes that range from his being happy with them, to others he feels just plain suck.

A lot of times the client (most times) is there and has a creative decision on which direction to go with the mix. I mean, the artist is still seeing this as part of the creative process, and the engineer is involved in this, helping him / her make what they want to hear happen.

Does it make these decisions less a creative or artistic process if the client goes home and leaves those decisions to the engineer?

This sealed it for me when I thought of it this way. Mixing is definitely still part of the creative / artistic process. I even sat there and thought:

"What if I didn't inject any of my thoughts or idea into this? What would it come out like? What if I just threw a generic plugin preset reverb on this etc. etc., and let it ride?"

I then asked if the client thought mixing was part of the artistic process. "His response was "All hell important, and definitely an "artistic" component.

"Not more important than the music, but just as important nonetheless."

On the simple reverb and delay thing...

It is a creative decision to decide what environment to put tracks in with reverb and delay to...for me anyway. It can change the whole basis of the song, and how it's interpreted by the listener. The whole delivery.

Do you want it to sound like the artist is in your face, in a hall, a cavern, outer space? All of this is a pretty big deal, and has a major impact on the outcome of the finished product.

Where the engineer as an "artist" comes in, is he is working these damn reverb boxes like instruments. themselves. Just as the guitar player would work his gtr and effects to get different tones out of it, an engineer does more than just slap a HUGE reverb on the vocal to make it sound like a plate or cathedral. He has to catch things that are wrong (cause rarely is a preset perfect), and fine tune the effect to make sure it doesn't sound like a crappy simulation of a voice in a cathedral.

Most of your average musicians don't do these kinds of things, some maybe, but not most. I see this as part of the creative process, maybe I am giving engineers too much credit....I dunno.

Thing is to not get too self important about anything in

Peace,
john

Like this
Old 4th May 2012
  #183
BOP
Gear Addict
For jazz, which I am most interested in professionally I don't really care that much about the mix itself but then there are situations like these:
Zhivago - OJM + KURT ROSENWINKEL - YouTube

That is some competence going on in there.
Old 4th May 2012
  #184
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drBill View Post
(I'm in the thousands now - how many tunes have you mixed?)
A few
Old 4th May 2012
  #185
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FireMoon's Avatar
When it comes to anything about art I always remember the words of Michael reeves when he was making the film "Witchfinder General". Vincent Price played the lead role and constantly harangued Reeves about his methods and it led to the seminal showdown where Price approached Reeves and said...

"Young man, I will have you know, I have made literally hundreds of movies"

Reeves simple smiled and replied

"Well I've only made 3 however, they were all good"

That film is generally considered one of Price's best ever performances.
Old 4th May 2012
  #186
Quote:
Originally Posted by BOP View Post
For jazz, which I am most interested in professionally I don't really care that much about the mix itself but then there are situations like these:
Zhivago - OJM + KURT ROSENWINKEL - YouTube

That is some competence going on in there.
I'd say you are 110% right man. Damn.

Both in the mix and the performance.
jeez.

Beautiful.

Reminds me of some fusion stuff from the 1970's that I absolutely love. That is a big band too..which is even more difficult to mix.

Thanks for that, that made my night

john

PS: Do you by chance know the engineer? Do you happen to know what he chose to use for the drum OH's? Sounds amazing man. Nice and warm. Good creative choice there....err...oops, don't want to start a war :0)
Old 4th May 2012
  #187
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Sounds Great's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by BOP View Post
For jazz, which I am most interested in professionally I don't really care that much about the mix itself but then there are situations like these:
Zhivago - OJM + KURT ROSENWINKEL - YouTube

That is some competence going on in there.
That is really good! Thank you for posting that link, made my night as well. And mixing that sucker was no walk in the park. Though such a great score and players like that make it a lot easier.
Old 4th May 2012
  #188
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I think the gray area that is causing all of the disagreements in this thread is the lack of distinction between mixing and producing.

It seems that some are using the term 'mixing' to describe what most would call 'producing'. It seems that if you're making the ultimate decision with regard to something like to which reverb to use, and how much to apply, you are co-producing (in my opinion). This is different from the producer saying, "I would like some reverb there". Then you select the reverb. Then the producer says, "no, I'd like it longer" or "I would like it more ethereal". And you select another one, and he says, "YES -- that one". In this case, you are using your knowledge, experience and technical expertise to assist the producer in realizing their vision. In the case where you are deciding that reverb should be used, what type, etc ... that's a serious creative decision.

If there is no producer, just a mixer and an 'artist', and the artist has little involvement other than approving the mix, you are likely co-producing.

To complicate matters further, there are probably some 'producers' out there who simply 'approve' everyone else's creative decisions. Additionally, there are probably artists who think they're doing everything and the engineer and mixer are actually the producers.

The Beach Boys' Love You album is credited as follows: PRODUCER: Brian Wilson; MIXDOWN PRODUCER: Carl Wilson. This is different from the actual mixer -- Carl didn't mix it himself, but he made essential creative mix decisions.

You can say it's semantics, but I think these distinctions are important. They are particularly relevant when creative disagreements occur.
Old 4th May 2012
  #189
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At it's best, the creation of music is like getting catching a massive 50 foot wave off the north shore. Exhilarating, fun, stimulating, and yes, creative.

If your perspective of mixing is that it's just pushing faders up and down to get something finished....geez, no wonder so many around here are so jaded to the creative muse.

IMO, that perspective is now running rampant in 2012. Mostly due to people making music via the status quo 2012 production technique - by themselves in their own personal studio, bedroom, or garage while covering all (or most) the bases themselves - Artist, Songwriter, Arranger, Producer, Vocalist, Guitarist, Keyboardist, Drum & Synth Programmer, Engineer, Mixer, Mastering Engineer. If you're attempting that without a very deep level of traditional and varied experiences under your belt, it's a sure fire way to stifle the creative muse, and end up with music that is not only NOT brilliantly mixed, it's also quite probably NOT brilliantly performed, produced, executed, etc..

If that's your only perspective and musical world view, then yeah, maybe brilliantly mixed songs IS a myth for you. But it's not a myth for many of us. Maybe it's time to consider that there's a bigger world out there with some very cool things happening that you're not completely tuned in to. Maybe it's time to book some time with a great engineer at a good studio that's NOT in your home and make some music the old skool way....... You know, find out where the magic is hiding....

Or you can just come on GS and bitch about the usual stuff..... heh
Old 4th May 2012
  #190
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Quote:
Originally Posted by steveschizoid View Post
I always wonder then, why post the thread that essentially belittles anyone who is interested in discussing gear? Why not just go listen to music instead?
Exactly. What are these people doing here? If their premise is valid, why do they NOT take the suggestion to record themselves on a Zoom? I am totally serious. You don't need to come to Gearslutz to learn how to use a Zoom.

Apparently the reason they need to come to Gearslutz, is to lecture ME, a working professional musician and a working professional engineer, on the relative Artistic importance of engineering and music According to them, I have "forgotten" something and need to be "reminded"


Quote:
It's certainly my idealism speaking to say that you (the global "you" so to speak) shouldn't be doing this if you don't find it exciting and fascinating.
A sad lot of these people are doing "this" because of economic necessity. They can't afford to record in a studio and feel they can record cheaper at home. Many of them resent the time and effort it is taking to get good at something they wish they could afford to pay someone else to do!

Pretty soon, the actual cash equation starts to look bad too, but they have already invested.

Some are only interested in audio as a means to an end. The more they can convince themselves mixing is not critical, the more optimistic they can allow themselves to be about their "chances". The quibble of who is an "Artist" just a cover.

The real issue is the same entitled crap we see over and over and over. People want to believe that they can cut every corner there is and somehow not pay a price. And if you tell them life doesn't work that way, then you are part of the conspiracy that is "holding them down".


Quote:
What I am objecting to is the devaluation of the engineer's contribution to the bigger picture.
They almost have to devalue the engineer's contribution in order to maintain their viewpoint. They also have to devalue the contribution of higher end gear itself, since they can't afford that either.

Having "yourself" as the engineer can be great if you can truly switch "hats" and think like an engineer, while you are engineering, but if you are not that into it then, by definition, you are stuck with a mediocre engineer.

Now your only option is convince yourself that somehow it doesn't matter.
Old 4th May 2012
  #191
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joeq View Post
Having "yourself" as the engineer can be great if you can truly switch "hats" and think like an engineer, while you are engineering, but if you are not that into it then, by definition, you are stuck with a mediocre engineer.
I agree with this 100%. As for the rest of your post, quite frankly you sound like a sad and bitter man whose career is in decline and who thinks, to use your own words, that a "conspiracy" of musicians is "holding you down". And from the looks of things, you are not alone.

It never ceases to amaze me how so many people on this forum, many of whom claim to be musicians themselves, continually put down the very people who allow them to make a living. The constant talk of "turning crap to gold", the attitude that any input on the mix by the artists is to be mocked and ignored, the condescension and ridicule toward any musician who dares to educate himself in the area of engineering and possibly even attempt to develop his own skills in the field through self recording...it's simply unbelievable.

Don't get me wrong: I'm certainly not saying that all engineers are guilty of this. But a lot are, and more often than not they're the ones who aren't doing anything that matters in the industry. You don't see any of the big names who occasionally frequent this forum spouting off crap like that. Even if some of them might think that way from time to time, they're far too professional to ever say it publicly. And more likely, they probably got to where they are today because they had enough respect for the artists to work with, rather than against them.

And I get it. The recording industry is in decline, a lot of great studios are closing down, a lot of engineers are having difficulty finding work. And it sucks. Believe me, I hate it as much as anybody. But far too many people here are putting all the blame on the musicians, and spouting off delusional nonsense about how musicians don't value their services and are too stupid to see all that a great studio environment can offer them. That is absolutely absurd - I don't know a single musician who wouldn't jump at the opportunity to record in a great studio with an engineer who gets what they're trying to achieve artistically and is willing to work with them to achieve it.

The sad fact is such a situation simply isn't an option for most musicians these days. The bars and clubs that used to offer good bands at least a living wage are now hiring DJs, running karaoke nights, or possibly offering some "lucky" band the "opportunity" to play for them for free, "for the exposure". That is, if they don't simply play canned music. So at a time when most musicians are struggling more than ever to even put food on the table, you simply can't demand that they drop thousands of dollars that they don't have to record everything in a studio. And that's assuming that they even have access to a quality studio with a skilled engineer who actually respects them in the first place - both good studios and good engineers are in very short supply, particularly outside of LA, NYC, and Nashville.

Which is why the attitude I'm talking about is so counterproductive, and why I get so frustrated when I see it espoused. We're all in this together - we should be working together to find solutions that will allow both musicians and engineers to continue to make both great art and a living in this industry going forward. But the more you continue to attack, mock, and ridicule musicians, the less likely they are to bother with you in the first place. More and more these days, musicians are seeing engineering as a necessary part of their musical skill set, and while it's true that not all of them possess the dedication to excel at it, a lot of them do. I'm seeing a growing trend of independently released albums that are engineered by musicians from other bands in the same scene, and a lot of them sound damn good. And given a choice between an amateur who respects and gets them, and a "professional" who thinks so little of them, who do you think they're going choose to work with?

So if you don't like how the industry is shaping up, here's a novel idea: how about you actually try working with the musicians to make it better for everybody? Or you can sit at home and bitch on the internet about how nobody appreciates you - it's your choice. Just remember that musicians were around for thousands of years before there was even such a thing as a recording engineer, and if you don't want to be a part of what they're doing they will leave you in the dust.
Old 4th May 2012
  #192
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Sounds Great's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by TimS View Post
But the more you continue to attack, mock, and ridicule musicians,
Who is doing this?
Old 4th May 2012
  #193
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synthoid's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by TimS View Post
The bars and clubs that used to offer good bands at least a living wage are now hiring DJs, running karaoke nights, or possibly offering some "lucky" band the "opportunity" to play for them for free, "for the exposure".

...


if you don't want to be a part of what they're doing they will leave you in the dust.
Engineers: tread lightly, or you might not be invited to karaoke night.

-synthoid
Old 4th May 2012
  #194
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MoneySound's Avatar
TimS,
If I may, I think any discontent you are perceiving as directed at musicians, is really just directed at the OP who denies the existence of anything better than average in the world of music mixing, and BTW has not weighed back in on the discussion as far as I can tell.
The OP has essentially farted and ran out of the room.
Old 4th May 2012
  #195
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Space Station's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by MoneySound View Post
The OP has essentially farted and ran out of the room.
hehe
Old 4th May 2012
  #196
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russellwolff's Avatar
Couldn't possibly disagree more!

However, there is no need to try and convince anyone of this. Seriously...

People who believe the OP will opt for a mediocre mix (or possibly get lucky and get a great mix anyway, but not likely).

People who know this is not the case... that a great mix is a great work of art, and a great mix engineer is a great artist... well, they will seek out those artists to work with. And there will be a vast difference in quality.

In the end, the problem works itself out just fine.
Old 4th May 2012
  #197
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by synthoid View Post
Engineers: tread lightly, or you might not be invited to karaoke night.

-synthoid
You know, I really want to take umbrage with this...but that was just too damn funny! Well played, sir.
Old 4th May 2012
  #198
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synthoid's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by TimS View Post
You know, I really want to take umbrage with this
if it's any consolation, I'm also a musician.

-synthoid
Old 4th May 2012
  #199
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TimS View Post
... the attitude that any input on the mix by the artists is to be mocked and ignored, the condescension and ridicule toward any musician who dares to educate himself in the area of engineering and possibly even attempt to develop his own skills in the field through self recording...it's simply unbelievable.

perhaps you read my post closely followed by another person's post?

I am not getting down on all self-recording musicians, just the ones who think that engineering is a chore to be 'gotten through'. Just the ones who think mixing a song is like performing a tuneup on an automobile engine. No wonder their mixes suck.

As I implied in my previous post and explicitly said in the post before that, I am outraged at the INSULT perpetrated on me and other engineers by the OP: The claim (which you are repeating here) that we need "reminding" of the primacy of the Music.

We do not. Only crappy insecure engineers just starting out need that reminder.

My clients, all talented musicians, come to me for the very reason that I respect their music and they know that I will will work my ass off to achieve THEIR vision of the song. The real skill of the best mixing engineers is to incorporate the client's requests and ideas without letting the mix fall apart or become unbalanced for technical reasons.

Yes, it is a technical job. Proud of it. Never said it was "more important than the music". Never heard any Professional express that attitude, either. The only time I ever hear that is as an accusation in whiny threads like this one on Gearslutz. As a Straw Man.

I agree with the concept that the music comes first. I do not agree with the OP's opinion that professional engineers need to be "reminded" of this and 'lectured' about it in such a condescending manner.


Quote:
You don't see any of the big names who occasionally frequent this forum spouting off crap like that.
Yet some dudes on Gearslutz are accusing the Big Names of saying that! Right here in this thread. They are big names for a reason, and the very best musicians go to them for a reason. They don't care if you refuse to call it Art, as long as you pay them.

Quote:
I don't know a single musician who wouldn't jump at the opportunity to record in a great studio with an engineer who gets what they're trying to achieve artistically and is willing to work with them to achieve it.
And yet here they are on GS, starting thread after thread about how such studios and engineers have no value because all you need is a good song!

Quote:
The sad fact is such a situation simply isn't an option for most musicians these days.

And so they declare that those grapes are probably sour anyway??


Quote:
So at a time when most musicians are struggling more than ever to even put food on the table, you simply can't demand that they drop thousands of dollars that they don't have to record everything in a studio.
They can drop thousands of dollars they don't have on computers and plug-ins, though, can't they? And spend hours, days, weeks when they could be practicing and writing and looking for gigs!

Quote:
Which is why the attitude I'm talking about is so counterproductive, and why I get so frustrated when I see it espoused.
again, I believe you may be misinterpreting my position, I am not espousing this "attitude".

Quote:
More and more these days, musicians are seeing engineering as a necessary part of their musical skill set, and while it's true that not all of them possess the dedication to excel at it, a lot of them do.
Both those that do and those that don't are better off when they understand that it does matter. Everything matters. As you point out yourself, the music industry is a tougher row to hoe than it has ever been. Every advantage will be needed if you want your music to be even noticed in the ever-increasing din of wannabees.

Quote:
given a choice between an amateur who respects and gets them, and a "professional" who thinks so little of them, who do you think they're going choose to work with?
Again I really don't know who you are talking about, these are not the professionals I know, and from my reading of the posts in this thread, the real professionals are not "thinking so little of them".

They are merely saying that just because the Music matters most, that doesn't mean that 'X doesn't matter' and 'Y doesn't matter'. Because IT ALL ADDS UP! It is, as drBill pointed out, a widespread "dumbing down" that is going on here. People who resent the fact that they have to be their own engineers and buy their own gear, take it out on the real engineers and engineering as a craft and even the gear itself.

Quote:
Or you can sit at home and bitch on the internet about how nobody appreciates you
My clients appreciate me! My personal trajectory is on the upswing! It is people like the OP who are sitting at home bitching that their mixes should be considered "just as good" as the Big Name mixers. Not because they ARE just as good, of course, but because "mixing doesn't matter" - because mixing isn't the same level of Art as music. I agree it isn't the same level of Art, I do NOT agree that it "doesn't matter". That's all.


Quote:
Just remember that musicians were around for thousands of years before there was even such a thing as a recording engineer
I am a drummer, and we drummers were around for tens of thousands of years before anybody invented guitars and pianos.
Old 4th May 2012
  #200
Gear Guru
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by MoneySound View Post
TimS,
If I may, I think any discontent you are perceiving as directed at musicians, is really just directed at the OP who denies the existence of anything better than average in the world of music mixing, and BTW has not weighed back in on the discussion as far as I can tell.
The OP has essentially farted and ran out of the room.
thank you for saying in one paragraph what it took me half a page to try and express!
Old 4th May 2012
  #201
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Sounds Great's Avatar
 

Good stuff.

I see now we shouldn't have even responded, this whole thread is nothing but a ruse.
Old 4th May 2012
  #202
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drBill's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by TimS View Post
you simply can't demand that they drop thousands of dollars that they don't have to record everything in a studio.
First, nobody is demanding that.

Second, the "average" musician these days seems to have money for thousands of dollars of Tatts. Maybe less ink and more music?
Old 4th May 2012
  #203
Lives for gear
The person who washes the car should get as much credit as the person
who designed and built the car ???

The person that hangs the painting on the wall, is just as much of an artist as
the painter??

I call bullcrap. Playing, writing, performing, thats art. Mixing is just organizing others' art.
Old 4th May 2012
  #204
Here for the gear
 
Wolfsong's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lawrence View Post
My $0.02... fwiw...

Mixing isn't an art imo, it's a service. Granted, in many electronic genres mixing has been kinda coalesced with production so much that it's often hard to tell where the line between the two is. But in general (imo) mixing isn't an art at all... it's an acquired professional skill... like welding... some do it much better than others... but the only real art there is the music.

If mix engineers are artists then so are the other 1,000,000 professions where it takes years of study and practice to do them well. The fact that the services relates to art, doesn't make the service provider an artist.

I think (respectfully) it was about the time where mix engineers started to consider themselves as important (or more important) than the artist that it all kinda started to go downhill. Now it's probably less likely the case that a random mix engineer will just shut up and do what you want as opposed to trying to "produce" your song, unsolicited.
Music is science AND art. So is mixing. There are musicians who I consider technicians, and very highly accomplished technicians. There is no soul in their playing. Soul, feeling, all that right-brain stuff, should be enhanced and emphasized in an artistic mix - and in some cases, "injected" into music that lacks it.
So, I disagree totally with what you're saying.
Old 4th May 2012
  #205
Gear Guru
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by joecandy View Post
The person who washes the car should get as much credit as the person
who designed and built the car ???

The person that hangs the painting on the wall, is just as much of an artist as
the painter??

I call bullcrap. Playing, writing, performing, thats art. Mixing is just organizing others' art.
You, like the OP, make a very forceful case against a position that apparently NOBODY holds. Certainly not me.

Has anyone in this thread said that the mixer should get just as much credit as the artist? I must have missed it! Can you please find it and quote it for us? That would be helpful in establishing a baseline of the range of opinions.
Old 4th May 2012
  #206
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Space Station's Avatar
Still, the ridiculous analogies are nice..

The weather man doesnt make the weather? One I just came up with ..
Old 4th May 2012
  #207
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MoneySound's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by joeq View Post
thank you for saying in one paragraph what it took me half a page to try and express!
Ha! Anytime. Somehow this thread veered into defining art, when really it was about how no mixer can be credited with doing "brilliant" or "great" work. I don't see how anyone can agree with such a statement, whether you're talking about mixing, winemaking, or just about any other craft. There will always be work that stands out above the rest.
This was entertaining reading for a while, but I think I'm done with this thread.
Cheers
Old 4th May 2012
  #208
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by Space Station View Post
Still, the ridiculous analogies are nice..

The weather man doesnt make the weather? One I just came up with ..
Good one!
Old 4th May 2012
  #209
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by joeq View Post
Has anyone in this thread said that the mixer should get just as much credit as the artist? I must have missed it! .
Yup, you missed it. Lawrence mentions it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lawrence View Post
My $0.02... fwiw...

I think (respectfully) it was about the time where mix engineers started to consider themselves as important (or more important) than the artist that it all kinda started to go downhill. .
Old 4th May 2012
  #210
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Quote:
Originally Posted by donnylang View Post
Listen to David Bowie's original mix of the Stooges' 'Raw Power', then listen to the '90s remix. Aside from the extreme compression, the remix is probably more 'correct', that is, you can hear everything more clearly, the instruments are well-balanced and realistic, etc. But that original mix sounds so much cooler, more mysterious and more appropriate for the music. That's artistry vs. skill/labor.
damn! Good one. Clear thinking here.
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