Are we ever REALLY happy?

Discussion in 'Tracking / Mixing / Editing' started by DonnyThompson, Apr 30, 2015.

  1. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    @Kurt Foster @audiokid @Boswell @kmetal @pcrecord @paulears @Paul999 @Paul Christensen ( et al...)

    In terms of songs we've either performed on, recorded, or mixed...

    Are we ever able to listen back, sometimes just a few day or weeks later, sometimes maybe even months and years later, and be able to not think:

    "I really wish I'd ________ on that song",
    "I sure wish I would have had __________ on that track",
    "If I'd only been able to _________"...

    ...and you can fill in the blanks however you want.... it could be a mix thing, as in an EQ setting, a track/instrument level/balance thing, or it could be a doubt about the tracking, as in mic used, position, technique, or, it could even be a performance issue... a part you played or sang...

    My question is, how many times have any of us been able to listen back to a song we were involved in at some point, and have really been able to say to ourselves, "Yup. Nailed it."

    I'm not talking about the obvious deal breakers - the in-your-face, "can't-help-but-notice" types of errors - like clams, sloppy playing, missing a beat, blowing a fill or break, or over-processing a mix to the point of destroyed sonics... I'm talking about being pretty happy with something, with most things, and still be able to be happy with it afterwards, and have few regrets about anything, or, being absolutely 100% satisfied with it.

    Most of us will be willing to admit to usually getting about 90% -95% of the way there, and that's if we are really "on".

    And in most cases, 95% is probably good enough for the non artists, who listen as just average music lovers.

    But can we ourselves ever really, truly be 100% satisfied? Or is it just inherent in our DNA, in our instinctual nature as writers, musicians, and producers, and arrangers and engineers, to never be able to be completely satisfied? To always think - that no matter how well we might have done something - that there is always "something" we could have done to make it make it perfect.

    No matter how close we feel we may get, the times that we feel we fall "this far short" (insert tiny little emoticon of thumb and forefinger making a "this close" symbol here ) seem to happen quite a bit, or at least that's the way I feel, and many of my peers/colleagues have admitted this, also.

    Chris has said in the past that the hardest part of mixing is in the last 2 or 3 percent. I almost agree with him on this, my own observation is more like the last 10% LOL.

    And this also goes for performances too - can we ever listen to a guitar solo, or a lead vocal track, or a hooky riff that was part of the song and say to ourselves "I couldn't have done that any better".

    I'm just curious as to how others here may feel... and it's not really even a gear thing, either. It's more about our own level of satisfaction as engineer artists, as producer artists, as performing artists.

    I'm also curious if the high level, the well-known and respected cats ever feel this way... (?)

    Did Roger Nichols ever listen to Aja', or Fagan's Nightfly, (which are sonically fantastic sounding albums) and think to himself, "Hmmm. I wish I would have done that different". Or, has Alan Parsons ever heard a part of DSOTM and thought to himself, "I wish I would have pushed that ____ forward /back more."

    I'm just curious to see what the members here think of this. And ... it's totally okay to say that you feel that you always nail it, or that you are always happy, if you really do feel that way....
    To which I'd respond with a sincere "God Bless and more power to ya!" ;)

    But speaking for myself, I'm certainly not one who can't honestly say that. ;)

  2. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    i'm always happy Donny! just look at my avatar! ... my band once pressed a 45 to sell off stage or to give away for promo. turned out there were phase issues that the mix engineer, mix producer and even the ME (all of who were very reputable) failed to catch. no one checked to see how it summed in mono! that's the only thing for me.

    i have a few thing i listen to that i am very proud of, most of these were banged out in pretty quick fashion. i think a lot of recordists over think mixing. for me it's all about performances and tracking. if those steps are executed correctly, mix's will usually take care of themselves. of course, i'm always anxious to move on to the next project.
  3. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    I think that if I had a song on the billboard's top 10 for a month, I would be happy, no mather how it sounds ! ;)

    Being happy depends on a lot of things and is a state of mind that may come from a conscient or inconscient decision. You may be mad of having a flat tire or happy of that the flat didn't cause an accident !

    In audio being satisfied with a project may vary depending on the degree of limitations we had at the moment of production and also how much our decision were accepted at the time added to that how much we've changed, learned and trained since then.
    Let's face it, the customer has the last word on a lot of things when you produce somebody else. And if you are producing yourself you may suffer from your one unique views and inspirations.

    I think. the only thing we can do is to do our best in the present and accept it in the future ;)
  4. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    I'm almost never happy, and that's what drives improvement.
    kmetal, pcrecord and Kurt Foster like this.
  5. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Sometimes when I'm searching for a mix I did years ago, I get a surge of surprise and pleasure when I unearth one that sounds really good. It quickly turns to despair when I realise that only a few of my current mixes sound that good.

    Even though I have been constantly improving my gear over time, some of the old tracks can still match what I'm turning out today. If it's not gear, was I just lucky, or what have I forgotten in my technique in the intervening years?
    pcrecord likes this.
  6. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    For better or worse, I almost always go into a project knowing how I want the finished product to sound. If we come out the other end and it sounds like I imagined it would/should - I'm very happy.

    There's no accounting for taste, and not everyone is going to like any single approach - but if I can execute the vision I had going in, that's the achievement that will make me happy. Having a clear idea before you start, makes every decision along the way so much easier.
  7. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    I agree with Bos on this one. I have projects that for one reason or another were 'abandoned' in order to get product out the door or the artist ran out of time with the record company or ran out of money...myriads of reasons to stop working on something....but almost to a single one, I go back and discover that my angst at not feeling done at the time was unfounded.

    As for today's mix compared to yester-years, I see a pattern of 'what-I-do' in everything. I hear the differences in the environments that things were recorded in...I immediately recognize the better controlled studio sound as opposed to a garage recording but only in the room dynamics and not necessarily the production. I think the TAPE recordings I did back in the day have some vibe that the digital stuff doesn't and by the same token, those recordings all sound 'dated' in the fact that they weren't privy to millions of dollars of outboard that a large plugin library provides.

    The absolute BIGGEST difference is the song structures. Much as I love music from the 70's and 80's as far as bombastic overtures to excess, the songs kinda suck least from my clients.
  8. Makzimia

    Makzimia Active Member

    I am bipolar depressant.. I need say no more :).
  9. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    I'm never satisfied with anything fully. I'm learning what a reasonable 'good for what it is' point is. This comes from my gradually growing experience. Ime understanding what my job/gear, the musicians, and the songs themselves are adding up to better. I have OCD so I either fix clams only, or I edit basically everything.

    I prefer to track a live band, and mix quickly. I find most of my 'best' work was done that way. Reguardless, of the machine being used or the rooms (from warehouses to studios) these always seem to have the most 'finished or complete' feel.

    Every time I start to feel like I'm starting to get 'good' I usually immediately realize how much more there is, that I don't know yet lol :) back to mediocrity, which to me is almost worse than being inept.

    Sylvia Massey puts it well "it's not a job, it's a lifestyle".
  10. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Never is a long time. ;)

    You could get it back. It's just a matter of whether you want to. ;)

    Although I do understand what you are saying - I went through a period where I didn't play much, either, and was instead concentrating on my studio as a business - and it doesn't take as long as some people may think for those rust particles to start to form. BUT - I think you'd be surprised at how very quickly you can also get it back. ;)

    I was always a drummer/vocalist first, it's how I made my living throughout the late 70's, 80's and into the 90's, working in various club bands and doing sessions.

    I got my chops back when I was asked to join a band as a rhythm player/vocalist doing concerts. These were fairly big shows, and not your "typical" bars, with the drunken local gentry who would rather watch NASCAR on a big screen TV ... LOL...
    These were planned shows, tickets purchased for venues of anywhere between 250 and 15000 people, so I had to take it more seriously.

    My second strength was rhythm guitar, and I've been doing a solo act now for about 9 years, playing acoustic and electric to my own pre recorded backing tracks - BUT - there's a huge difference between bashing out Margarittaville or Brandy You're A Fine Girl, and learning a show's worth of original material for concert venues.... so I started practicing, getting my dexterity back, and, it didn't take nearly as long as I thought it would.... but, I did have to knuckle down to some degree, and it does take time, which for many of us, is a premium these days.

    If I hadn't have had a pretty decent paycheck waiting for me on the other end, I don't think I would have bothered.
  11. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    One of my old-time bass playing buddies calls it the "point of diminishing returns"
  12. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I've been known to beat a mix to death, only to return to the originally saved mix scene and use that one because it sounds the best. LOL

    I think we need to be aware - or maybe I should say that I need to be more aware - that there's a difference between remixing because I have to, and remixing because I want to.


  13. philter1

    philter1 Active Member

    Damn, I can relate to all this :( I had an ex-girlfriend that was a painter and she said every time she went to look at what she had finished, she noticed things that needed to be tweaked. For us it was a completed painting, to her it needed a colour toning down (or up) and more detail added (or removed). I guess you have to say that it's done and go store it in the attic, so to speak :)

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