Mixing an Ep - Cost

Discussion in 'Tracking / Mixing / Editing' started by VintageSound05, Mar 14, 2006.

  1. Hi all. My name is Chris and I've been lurking for some time now just reading, but now I have a question. My band is recoridng a 5 song E.P. (rock music). We'd like the end product to sound as professional as possible in terms of the mix (and master) when were done (wouldn't we all).

    In terms of the mix, we want a mix that gives our music that little edge, or added dynamics. We have some money we can throw at it, but our budget is limited. I have seen people list prices before, and I see rates per hour, but I am not an engineer, so I dont know exactly how long it takes to mix.

    Can anyone recommend a place, or clue me in on how much a decent mix of 20-25 minutes of music is? I just want to see some prices so we can decide where to allocate our budgeted funds. Again, we don't expect an Andy Wallace mix, but we would like something that sounds like a dynamic rock mix. Our sound is in the neighbordhood of the vines, or Nirvana, or greenday, so hoepfully we can find a mixing engineer with decent rates who can take our music and mix it in a similar style to those bands.

    Thank you much.

    I appreciate any help.

  2. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    ICU live in Anaheim California? There are so many wonderful studios out there! Generally you will get what you pay for. Now the better studios will cost you well over $100 per hour! The basement studios and wannabe engineers may cost you as little as $10 per hour? Most decent studios will have decent engineers on staff. I suggest you ask to hear some of the work being done with the people that you are interviewing. I know some large studios here on the East Coast that would never play you any of their work and although they are large expensive studios, everything they did/do sounds like crap! A friend of mine does some lovely work with a cheap console/PA board and an ADAT machine with a cheap audio card on his computer.

    Can you say " crapshoot"?
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  3. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    I mixed and had mastered as well as printing, packaging,and the first 1000 copies of a full length( over 40 minutes of spinetingling and inspiring music) for a touch under 5 grand. This does not include the tracking, though most of the basics were done in two days (14 songs), and the tweeking took as long as I needed as I own my own home-type studio.

    The quality will always be as good as your engineer and songwriter are clever.
  4. Thanks for the responses

    we have studios lined up already.

    One is an actual studio with multiple iso rooms and a large room for drums, it has a neve 8108 console with a decent mic cabinet which includes Neumannns, royer, sure, senheisser, akg e.t.c. (going to track overdriven guitars and vocals here). The other is a friend's garage converted studio for tracking drums, bass, and clean guitar, and is very adaquate but lacks the mics for guitar and vocals.

    So we're left with the task of finding a place to mix our material and another to master it. From everything I've read, it sounds like i want to find a separate place to mix, and then a separate place to master, which are both separate from the recording studio. So, I'm trying to find a couple new set of ears that charge a reasonable rate for high quality service. (I've recorded in two crap studios in Orange County here, and want to research it all and get it right this time). Needless to say, this E.P. will set us back in way of funds, so getting it wrong, and then trying again to get it right is ought of our budget.

    Any recommendations? I just dont even know where to start, so I thought I would ask the people who know.


  5. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Track EVERYTHING at that Neve equipped studio! The action occurs at the microphone input and the associated microphone preamplifier. Mix on anything else! That's the ticket! Don't cut your precious rhythm tracks at your friends basement studio! What were you thinking?

    Or do the reverse? Track on anything else, even in your friends basement studio and mix at that Neve studio! Then you have all of those awesome equalizer's at your disposal during your mix. Even without the Neve microphone preamplifiers it will still sound like a Neve There's nothing else like that sound.

    Waste not want not. Gimme' all the Neve U got!
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  6. stickers

    stickers Active Member

    here's my deal...

    For tracking, if your gear is crap, its better to go to a studio for tracking that has better gear that you can use.
  7. Our gear is decent. Vintage Marshall, Vintage Celestion speakers, Mastersound cymbols, so our gear isnt the problem. Yes, we would like to track at the Neve equiped studio also, but our friend's garage studio isnt bad either. Its not as good as the Neve equipped, but he has a focusrite protools 24 input board, avalon preamp, apogee converter, big ben clock (sorry, i dont know what all this is, i just remember seeing it in there) and i believe the same exact mics for drums also. He just doesnt have the mics for guitars or vocals. Since the other mics left over are 57's, the sure 80something (long silver pencil thing), a dragonfly and some other condenser. Doing everything at the Neve studio is slightly out of our price range even with the $50 an hour we're getting it at. becuase we wouldnt have much left over to mix or master with. So we're trying to figure out how much mixing is so we can figure out how much time we can budget in the studio for guitars and vocals.

  8. jahtao

    jahtao Guest

    Off topic but relevent... some people think its a good idea, after tracking, to get the first song mixed to a standard that everyone is totally and completely happy with (you can't change your mind later, its done, thats it- so be sure) and then play it to the mastering engineer who is gunna work for you, get his comments BEFORE you procede any further. He probably won't have too many problems, and this consultation should be free. When this track is done it sets the standard the others have to be mixed to, that way all the songs can sound consistent, and you don't have to endlessly re-mix every track, everyone sholuld be happy.
    Very best of luck with it
  9. Zilla

    Zilla Active Member

    Most artists making their first recording these days are producing their own material. But being a producer is a skill and talent unto itself. Most musicians are lacking in this area and are usually handicapped with inexperience and low budgets, as well.

    The advise in the previous post is very good. Take one step at a time. Have potential engineers work on a single tune. If the engineer does not provide a sound compatible with your own sensibilites, you will avoid blowing your entire budget. This methodology takes longer and requires patience, but you will dodge a lot of bullets this way.
  10. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    For starters, the SM57 is one of the best guitar microphones to put on any cabinet. The long skinny Shure is the SM 81 and is a fine back electret condenser microphone. Good on almost anything with its flat linear response and high output level, low overload capabilities.

    It sounds like your friends basement studio is not your average basement studio and is probably just fine for your purposes. Even with those " questionable" microphones you mention.

    The always questionable
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  11. Zilla

    Zilla Active Member

    This question is almost impossible to answer accurately. The variables involved are dependent on objective and subjective processes which cannot be predicted. Number of tracks, song lengths, number of songs, quality of tracking, etc. are objective things whose man-hours can roughly be estimated. But what happens when you want to be creative during the mixing process? Ideas pop up while mixing, experimentation starts to happen, and the hours start stacking up. Very difficult to estimate this time. And what about talent? One mixer can take your tracks and create and adequate presentation, while another turns them into an artisic musical experience, how do you put a price on that?

    I am sure your goal is to build a recording which is successful with audiences. You may find "engineers" who will mix for a fixed fee per tune. My experience with such engineers has usually been an initial abundance of enthusiasm. Usually they are green engineers and excited to have a project. But their inexperience typically equates to longer mix sessions as they figure out their craft. And as the hours/days pile on their attitude declines as they realise they are making less money than a McDonalds employee. A person working for such a compensation scheme is not usually in a frame of mind to provide their best efforts.

    You get what you pay for. It is up to you to weigh how well an engineer, working within your budget, is achieving the degree of success you are comfortable with.
  12. rudedogg

    rudedogg Guest

    ok, here is my perspective on all this. as i help a lot of bands out with this one.

    #1. Tracking is everything. You will never get the sound you are looking for if you don't track in good sounding rooms.

    #2. Drum sounds will make or break your record. Track live at the neve studio doing drums, bass, basic guitar tracks and scratch vocals.

    #3 Do the overdubs at the cheaper studio. Getting vocals and guitar parts and all the little shakers, cowbell, tambourine, tuba and what not can easily be recorded after you get all the main tracks laid down. I have found with rock bands that drums and bass go the quickest, and vocals and guitars usually end up eating all the tracking time. you want to be able to try out a bunch of guitars and amps and stuff, and all that takes more time than most bands can afford.

    I think this method would get you the most bang 4 the bling.


  13. Yeah, the garage studio is not your typical. Drums sound great there and the bass sounds good too. The only problem we had was a littel lack of warmth with the guitar and the vocals was. I just wasnt getting the guitar sound I wanted. I have not tried at this same studio though since I upgraded my amp and speaker cabinet though. Another factor is, the friend who can record is us is more knowledgable and creative about setting up mics for the drum sounds than he is for the guitar sounds.

    I'd be curious to know whether or not an SM81, a couple of 57's, a dragonfly condensor and another can looking condensor (i need to find out what model) with teh focusrite pres and an avalon VT-700 series pre can deliver a warm and thick overdriven tone. Remy - if we record in this garage basement, we will surely mix at the study with the neve console. But the vocals have sounded pretty thin when we've tried recording everything with this garage studio before. And the engineer there doesnt record much guitar, so its aolmost just a point and play kinda deal with the mics until we get something thatsounds decent (and he gets the levels set and so forth)
    About getting what you pay for. i understand that also. We're lucky enough to have access to a decent studio for free, and another better studio that will cost us $50 an hour, but has even better gear. But even with great recording gear and instruments, I would just like to get a mix that is more than adjusting levels and minor EQ. We self produce ourselves (arrangement and sound wise..but we dont know what mics and pres to pick out for our sound). Before we go into the studio, we're goign to sit down with the engineer and go over our sound so that our time in the studio is as fruitful as possible. Thast a good idea about getting one mixed and having the mastering person comment on it.

    Thanks for the responses guys.

  14. rudedogg

    rudedogg Guest

    sounds like you already have your mind made up and your just trying to get people to agree that you are doing the right thing.

    i wrote a huge response to this, but i guess everyone needs to learn their own way, and possibly it will turn out great.

    if / when it doesn't turn out as well as you hoped, pm me and i will help you get into a good studio in LA and/or work out rates for you to come record down here in san diego if your interested.

    best of luck.

  15. Sorry Steve, i didnt actaully read yours yet. i am responding from work.

    The garage we have recoded in actually sounds decent, its not a straight rectangle and there are vaulted ceileings. Sound reflections havent been a huge issue unless the amp is placed right next to a wall. So tracking instruments is possible, thought it will be drums while i play direct in on guitar to get those down, and then go back and do guitaqr parts and e.t.c. Im not crazy about that, but we play to a click.

    WE've been happy with the drum sounds in this garage studio though I'm open to trying them at the studio we have to pay for. Since we're out a bassist currently, I will record the bass at a different point in time. I've thought about recording the drums and overdriven guitar live together at the Neve equipped studio and then doing the other rhythym voerdub track for panning there also. Then, guitar solos and such can be done at the garage studio i spose. I would be curious to hear other thoughts on this.

    #3 For us, we've got our specified equipment, and wont have a choice to choose different amps and guitars e.t.c. though we've upgraded our instruments to pretty standard stuff like vinatge marshall, vintage celestion speakers, les paul, strat e.t.c. We'll get very close to the sound we're after with our equipment, maybe not 100% there, but close enough to have a good sounding recording where instrumetns werent the issue.

    The biggest thing about recording the vocals at the cheaper studio is that when we've done it before, there have been inconsisitencies in volumes between vocal takes. Now, I am the vocalist also, so it means i was standing a little further away or something...with instruments, the mic and speaker cabs and drums all stay in the same place, so we set the levels, play, come back the next day, play again. So with the more expensive studio with a more experienced engineer, i was thinkign that he could probably get a more consistent sounding (better) vocals, not to mention the added warmth of the board.

    I mean - a focusrite digidesign 24 input console, avalon pre amp available, big ben clock, apogee converter, sm57's i believe akg drum mics, how bad can that be?

  16. RecorderMan

    RecorderMan Distinguished Member

    I beg to differ. All mixers I know (including myself) base their rate on a per mix (i.e. per song) rate.

    It is sounding good in about 4-6 hours with it done in 8-12 hours on average. Usually you leave it up over night and come in the next morning to tweak it and print (with fresh ears), then move on to the next. Frequently the first one can and does get "recalled" ( you use the settings that wee documented...except for digital presets and DAWS that come back virtually instantaneously) because as you move through songs you hone and refine the mix process to the relative production the sound. Sometimes on a severe budget you can do more than one or two songs a day. With DAWs now you can even spend a day or two quickly working and then moving on through a bunch,,,and then reopening and tweaking for a another day or two.

    If you haven't found anyone yet, PM me...either I or some of the other great producers/engineers/mixers I know can help.
  17. rudedogg

    rudedogg Guest

    sounds like your on the right track. the thing about vocals is that getting consistent level is the job of the mixing engineer. there should be different takes with different microphones, etc.

    i ALWAYS comp vocal tracks to get the best takes and put them together and then do a second comp to get the doubled parts whether they are used or not. part of the mixing process is doing comps whether drums, guitars, bass, etc. sometimes this is done during the tracking process but a lot of times when i get material to mix i like to have backup takes in case there are flubbed notes or something that the tracking engineer (even if they are one and the same) miss something.

    from experience recording many bands and my own band as well as interning and seeing a lot of bands record, the vocals of rock music generally dont need a u87 or c12 or <insert expensive condenser mic here> you need a good singer, a decent mic and try a bunch of different techniques until the vocals sit correctly in the mix. i found it is so much easier to obtain this in my personal studio than the more expensive studio cause you are not on the clock worrying about getting it right. you know that it isn't gonna cost you another two weeks salary if you screw up your tracks. this mentality generally helps singers perform better.

    if your interested, send me an email to steve@slantview.com and i will talk to you about mixing when your done tracking. even if you don't use me, i have some friends in LA that do a great job and have very well equipped studios for mixing down and mastering.

  18. Zilla

    Zilla Active Member

    I failed to express my position about fixed fees fully. Let me retry.

    Yes, many reputable engineers will offer per-song rates. I know quite a few actually. However, they work in the sphere of $1000-$5000 a mix. Lets use your own figures and presume 8 hours to complete a mix. At a $1000/mix rate you would make $125/hour. Obviously this rate allows for a lot of latitude for their involvement in the quality of the mix. In addition it allows for access to a top notch facility. 5 song ep = $5000.

    Another scenario: The original poster discussed a $50/hr studio which is still a fairly reasonable rate to do good work at and give access to good gear. $50x8hours = $400 per mix. A 5 song ep should then be about $2,000.

    And then there is the "budget" solution. Let's say $100/song. If a person working at that rate is even actually capable of completing a usable mix in 8 hours, that works out to $12.50/hr. More likely it will take them twice as long, therefore $6.25/hr. I, myself, have yet to work with anyone in creative fields who produces consistently successful product at such a rate. Not to mention that the equipment they would be employing would be fairly pedestrian.

    It is this third category that I was mainly referring to in my previous post. Hope that is clearer.
  19. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Did I mention that My mix was done in a ProTools room with Digi Control and an HD3 maxxed out?
    The cost of the mix...as Recorderman was alluding to, will go down as far as an hourly rate using a place with recall and a great engineer. As has been mentioned, do NOT overlook the value of tracking to a set of high-end preamps. It will also keep down the cost at mixing when everything already sounds as it should.

    If you cannot get a great guitar sound with a Neve and a good room then the problem lies somewhere besides the gear involved.
  20. JWL

    JWL Active Member

    The most important thing, given a reasonable equipment list (like both studios you mention), is the skill of the engineer. If you record at you're buddy's place, who is engineering? Are they any good? Can they get a good sound? If it's your buddy engineering, can he play AND engineer skillfully at the same time? That's a skill in and of itself...

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