Should I spend so much time pre-mixing?

Discussion in 'Tracking / Mixing / Editing' started by JohnTodd, Nov 8, 2013.

  1. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member

    Hi! Hope you all are fine.

    My dilemna is this: I'm working on a project I am very excited about. I have a world-class singer I am collaborating with in a new band. So far it's just me and him.

    Anyway, we are pressing ahead with making a CD. I've got the tracks done, and am waiting to schedule the vocal sessions.

    My question is this: Should I be spending so much time getting the mix 'perfect' when all I have is my own scratch vocal in there as a guide? Should I let it go until the real vocals are finished, or press on and make the mix perfect? This discounts basic editing (like the occasional clunker being cut out), so let's not sweat that part.

    What are your thoughts?
  2. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    i try to give singers as close to the final product as possible. that said, in order to sing right and be comfortable your gonna have to cater the mix to him. this will probly include adjustment to the type/amount of efx he's hearing, like echo and reverb, and probably he'll wanna hear himself a bit louder/softer than it will be in the final mix. and usually whatever is is main melodic reference like piano, or guitar, will likely be a bit more upfront than in the final. also you may have to cut out some things that might be distracting like maybe a busy percussion part, or guitar overdub #10. you've got the scratch so you know how the parts will intertwine, so there probably won't be a ton of "oh thats not working w/ the vocals" but i'd stay open to it.

    it's mainly all balance stuff that's gonna need to be done to his taste in his phones, but i got no problem getting things sounding sonically as good as they can, or as close to final as they can be. a rippin guitar, and pounding drums (if it's rock and roll) will just be inspiring and make it more fun to get the keeper. that said, his voice is gonna be different than yours, so you may find frequencies clashing like w/ the snare drum or guitars. so you may end up tweaking the eq to fit around him/her, or re-recording w/ a different tone, or maybe playing it in a different area.

    so i say yeah, it's worth getting it as close to done as possible, maybe the %85 range, knowing that some things, especially the balances are gonna probably change. thats where save as, and snapshots help. looking forward to hearing it!
  3. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member

  4. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    To add a bit more to what Kyle said with an emphasis on track volume.

    Don't start lifting levels, leave plenty of headroom. If he has a strong voice, you will be needing room.
    I would also have two version. One that is the creative mix and one that is pretty natural. At this point, you never know...
  5. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member

  6. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    That being said, I am working on some original music for my daughter right now. She has the basic songs constructed on the piano but we are intending to add drums, bass , guitars, harmonies, effects etc. > everything in later. Like you right?

    She lays down the piano and scratch vocals to a click track. I then produce the song with the intention that she will re sing and play it all (start to finish), once the song is at a point where we would call it ready. A good song has the feel and sonic evenness like it was performed all the way through. Anything that can be re-tracked to add a more natural flow in the final version a will also be redone over again.

    The produced version prior to tracking her final vox will not be mixed per-say, it will be produced with the right levels and effects in place but it won't be over processed. I mix into the vox. At final version, her voice will be re-tracked and then final mixing will be done.

    That's how I've always done it. Hope this helps as a guide.
  7. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Sure thing.

    Everyone has a a different approach but the one thing I stand firm on is how hard it is to professionally gel parts of a song that were created in steps, over time . There is also something about intimidation in this statement too. You want lead singer to feel like they are contributing their sound and the Lead.. other wise it become a "Cover" and not necessarily the best way to the bigger picture. We usually sing and play our thing better than someone else.
    If your system lacks space, but you add this in, on your scratch tracks, the scratch recording can sound un naturally processed , then when your singer gets on board they can often feel like they sticks out like a sore thumb, that isn't a good thing either. So, sometimes less is more when it comes to trying to make everything sound perfect too early in the ceative process.

    You want the lead to be the footprint and inspiration to the song, not the other way around. So, I write around the lead. Ironically we create music in the DAW but it doesn't make it the best way to complete music so I always try and redo some key tracks. Know what I mean?

    The secret to a more natural song is to track stuff over that can be during final production. I wouldn't get too ahead of the song until the main vox is in there. A lot a tiny things he will do will shape the song.

    The singer might get really inspired to hear the grass roots.
  8. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member

    Sounds like good advice.

    I'll just do some editing and throw a little reverb on there and let it go until I get the vocals done.

    Thanks all!
  9. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Man, my wording is pathetic. I'm up in a catwalk right now reading over what I typed and I'm scratching my head lol

    Sent from my iPhone
  10. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member

    LOL! Just blame it on this:

    Damn You Auto Correct! ยป Funny iPhone Fails and Autocorrect Horror Stories


  11. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Well, that definitely happens to me but I am constantly doing 3 things at once and writing isn't one of them I do well. I chose guitar over school lol, and thats only part of it. The reality is, I have been on my own since I was basically 7. Family split and my dear mom ended up in a wheelchair. To eat I had to work long before most kids leave the nest. Guitar paid my bills for years. smoke

    I fixed up my post. Looking forward to hearing all your work John.
  12. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member

    Thanks! This project has me writing better than ever before, and sound wise I'm doing a much better job at engineering.

    Perhaps some day I'll be big enough to do real drums. As for now, my Abbey Road kits are making me sound real good. LOL!
  13. Paul999

    Paul999 Active Member

    For me I only do a 5-10 minute mix. This has advantages. In my mix I get it to the point that I am feeling the song and your tracks should be recorded well enough that it sounds pretty good pressing play. I will add a transient designer to snare and kick some HPF AND LPF maybe compress the bass and I'm good to go. I don't want to be recording onto a computer that is working very hard. Also when I go to mix I want a fresh start and don't want to be clouded by what I did before.
  14. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Exactly as Paul just said!

    Sent from my iPhone
  15. bouldersound

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

    The dynamics of a monitor mix will affect the dynamics of performances tracked to it. If I want a singer to be more dynamically controlled I may do a bit more compression of the tracks.
  16. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member

    Well, we had the session today. I just got back.

    Turns out the guy had never worked in a studio before. He knew nothing. But, he was an f-in fantastic singer. Moreover, he was HUMBLE and EASY to work with!

    He absorbed the basic of studio singing and overdub techniques like a sponge. Within an hour he was doing it like he'd been in studios for years. Proper mic technique for dynamics and breath noise. Pitch and rhythm accuracy. Oh yeah!

    He sang with the mix I already had. No adjustments other than overall volume.

    We did his lead vocal first. I always make singers do multiple takes if they are willing. So we did gobs of takes and he performed wonderfully. Only in one particulary difficult passage did we have to "concentrate" and loop it for several takes.

    We then tracked the choir section together (you know how I love building a choir in my songs). We looped it and sang together into one mic. He quickly grasped the concept of moving around in the room to vary the sound the mic hears. We did Soprano, Alto, Tenor, and Bass 16X each. for a total of a 128-voice choir. It is almost flawless.

    I'm really looking forward to the next session. This may have been the start of something huge.

    Thanks for all your help and guidance throughout the years. It's really paying off now.
  17. pcrecord

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

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