Step 1: Mixing is an Attitude

Discussion in 'Mixing & Editing' started by Mixerman, Mar 14, 2001.

  1. Mixerman

    Mixerman Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2001
    Step 1: Mixing is an attitude.

    Let's explore this for a moment. Mixing is an attitude. What attitude? What does this mean?

    This means timid doesn't cut it. It means you control the track and the instruments, they don't control you. The instruments and parts on tape are yours for mangling, manhandling, molding, and destroying. You need to take charge of the instruments, go with your gut instincts.

    Don't bog yourself down with the baggage of the artist and the producer. Show them the way. Sure, ultimately they are who must be happy, and you have to give them what they want. But do they know what they want? Sure they do. They want a mix that presents the song in the most effective way possible. But that doesn't mean it's the way they intended it to be. They want a mix that when they finish listening to it, they say, YEAH! A mix that when they listen to it, they hear a song that provokes the intended response, not the mix itself.

    Often times people are married to parts that don't really belong in the mix. If you made the recording, you have to separate yourself from the parts, and allow something to happen that no person imagined possible. Sometimes that requires actual time to 'forget', between tracking and mixing.

    Sometimes records are straight ahead, and the mix is somewhat obvious. Sometimes you have to search for the mix. The attitude is in trusting yourself, and your take on things. If something is bugging you, let it go momnetarily, and the solution will come to you as you learn how everything interacts. Know intimately how everything interacts.

    The balance lies in allowing others to provide you the way when you are lost. If you are open, and listen (we all are born to hear, but how many of us really know how to listen?), then you can take from others, and use for the mix. Your mix.

    If you play the mix, and the client is still carrying baggage from parts they were married to, have them listen to it again, and have definitive reasons for everything that you have done, that you can espouse philisophically about. If they hate it, figure out another way to make it work.

    I you hit a wall, then take a break. If the break doesn't get you past the wall, then use whtever you have to to break down the wall. Weed, beer, whatever. The wall blocks the way, and sometimes getting over the wall requires drastic measures. Do what you have to do.

    Use the attitude, trust yourself, and listen to others. A mix can seem a mile away, but be only five minutes away. It's an elusive entity that must be both created and found.

    Step 2, coming soon.

    Mixerman
     
  2. RandomGuest

    RandomGuest Guest

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2001
    Originally posted by Mixerman:
    Step 1: Mixing is an attitude.

    Agreed

    This means timid doesn't cut it.

    Agreed

    It means you control the track and the instruments, they don't control you. The instruments and parts on tape are yours for mangling, manhandling, molding, and destroying. You need to take charge of the instruments, go with your gut instincts.

    Agreed with a caveat...I've found that everytime I try and muscle a track around, I lose. The song will tell me what it wants, where it needs to go, how it wants to be heard. I'm merely an antenna for the song.

    Editing, removing parts, adding textures, moving things around in time are all part of the process for me...but only because the song is telling me to move stuff, change stuff, add effects.

    I know some guys that walk into a mix session and have all their favorite "signal paths" already patched in. They use the same thing for ____'s ballad as they did for ____'s uptempo thing. Same ____ to a ____ to a ___ on the snare, on the vocals, on the ___.

    I've never approached it that way, and hope I never get to the point where it's a 'factory' turning out product. One of the biggest problems I've found with the way alot of modern "big time mixers" is that they work on 'piecework' rather than by the hour.

    A lot of these guys end up with the same horrible sounding over compressed drek for every record. It's alot easier to mix something when all the levels are the same, when there is no texture remaining...but there are very wealthy men mixing records exactly like this...it's also one of the reasons I can't seem to get all that excited about a whole lot of "major releases"...there is no 'depth and texture' that is bringing out the song...only tones muscled into a formula.

    The last product that I had mixed by a "big time mix dude", I knew the stuff was going to be transfered to a Sony 3348...so I did it in advance. He got a 48 track tape, with 14 tracks of audio. Drums submixed to a "pair", guitars submixed to a "pair", Percussion submixed to a "pair", 'incidental support instruments submixed to a "pair", BK Vox submixed to a "pair", LD Vox, and LD Vox 'support double'...oh, and all the "automation moves" for the LD Vox 'support double' were on the tape from the bounce.

    He still managaed to make is sound like $*^t, I was impressed!!

    FWIW, from listening to records that 'Mixerman' has worked on, it appears he doesn't take this 'factory approach'...
     
  3. So how does one get to hear Mixerman's work? Is there a secret handshake and/or password involved? :)

    -travis
     
  4. hargerst

    hargerst Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2001
    You have heard Mixerman's work, you just don't realize it!! ;)
     
  5. Mixerman

    Mixerman Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2001
    All worthy additions, Fletcher.

    There's no doubt that one could get carried away with the attitude part. But I would rather see a new mixer make a mistake on a mix by being too aggressive, than being too timid.

    Follow the song. No truer words have been spoken. When I bring up tracks, I instantly get a picture in my head that I go for. That picture is based on the song, (and hopefully the production too).

    In the end, we must remember, it's the artists record. His vision should be adhered to. However, we are in a way consultants, and we must try and make the artist understand how his music hits us, and why we make the decisions that we do, before moving away from our own instincts. This is invaluable for the artist, because he is too deep into the project to be objective by the time a mixer steps in.

    At least once per album, I'll do a mix, the artist will be completely surpised by the mix, and will want me to completely re-work it, only to 'get', or understand my original mix later. (I always print my original vision, if it starts to degredate drastically.)

    My comment on the factory work principle. When you mix all the time, mixing becomes like factory work, whether you like it or not. I get very uncomfortable when it starts to feel like that. I take measures to prevent that from happening.

    Some ways to prevent mixing, or even recording from becoming factory work would be the following: Doing more than just mixing. Not mixing the same records over and over, or getting stuck in one particular genre. Changing venues so you're not just patching the same chains into the same instruments that you used on the last album. Viewing each album as a diferent piece of art or work, rather than just another (fill in the blank) band. Not getting caught up in having a 'sound', and believing one's own $*^t.

    I don't do factory work. Partly because I'm aware of the pitfall, and I have desire to avoid it. Partly because I'm more of an artist than anything else, and that helps prevent it (can you imagine the guy who inspects the labels on the bottles coming down the conveyor belt, hand re-gluing the labels that were slightly crooked?) But that doesn't mean it's not always a clear and present danger. Staying fresh in this business requires constant vigilance.

    Mixerman
     
  6. RNorman

    RNorman Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2001
    Originally posted by Mixerman:

    At least once per album, I'll do a mix, the artist will be completely surpised by the mix, and will want me to completely re-work it, only to 'get', or understand my original mix later. (I always print my original vision, if it starts to degredate drastically.)

    Mixerman


    I'll agree with Fletcher that a song will tell one how it wants to be mixed, but it's easy to go on to say that's because he's got the ears and years of experience to listen to the song and hear what it's saying to him. This isn't something that happens to everybody and it's what makes a mix engineer a "creative" part of the team. The "talent" often thinks they know what the "mix" should be, and sometimes that's true, but more often it's overshadowed by what they've been playing all this time and how that live "mix" becomes their focal point.

    A good example was in here a couple of weeks ago. Two days of tracking on 5 songs, one day for them to play with the mix via the console. They loved it, paid the bill and took home a CD each, only to call back less than 2 hours later crying in their beers. Seems they got the mix that they were used to, but not the one they wanted, which is what they thought they were doing. The process does not stand out to everybody, particularly those who are that close to the creation of the music and the daily practices. It's very hard to get new "talent" to listen to ideas and concepts, much less have them express it. So yeah, Mix, I agree with you that mixes need some agressiveness in them, simply to show some talent what's possible. But conforming to the talent's wishes, even with smiles on their faces as they leave doesn't guarantee success, thus my mixes were ultimately the ones that had the smiles on their faces for good, whereas when they first heard them they had scowls on their faces. It's a hard game to play, particularly when one doesn't come with such a pedigree as Mixerman's.
     
  7. riboflavin

    riboflavin Guest

    Originally posted by hargerst:
    You have heard Mixerman's work, you just don't realize it!! ;)

    OK, name an album of his I've heard....please?
     
  8. OK, name an album of his I've heard....please?

    That would sort of let the cat out of the
    bag, now wouldn't it? Mixerman chooses to
    keep his true identity known to only a few
    folks, apparently the ones he knows and/or
    trusts. I'm not one of those. :) Maybe if
    you agree to buy something from him next
    time he has something for sale on r.a.p.,
    then you'll get to find out. He obviously
    knows more about mixing, and has probably
    forgotten more on a good day, than I'll ever
    know, and that's all that matters to me.
    His postings about his area of expertise
    carry a lot weight to anyone wise enough
    to listen.

    Keep expounding, Mixerman!

    (so I say, then scurry back into my
    hole to lurk some more...)
     
  9. Mixerman

    Mixerman Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2001
    Originally posted by RNorman:
    I'll agree with Fletcher that a song will tell one how it wants to be mixed, but it's easy to go on to say that's because he's got the ears and years of experience to listen to the song and hear what it's saying to him. This isn't something that happens to everybody and it's what makes a mix engineer a "creative" part of the team. The "talent" often thinks they know what the "mix" should be, and sometimes that's true, but more often it's overshadowed by what they've been playing all this time and how that live "mix" becomes their focal point.

    A good example was in here a couple of weeks ago. Two days of tracking on 5 songs, one day for them to play with the mix via the console. They loved it, paid the bill and took home a CD each, only to call back less than 2 hours later crying in their beers. Seems they got the mix that they were used to, but not the one they wanted, which is what they thought they were doing. The process does not stand out to everybody, particularly those who are that close to the creation of the music and the daily practices. It's very hard to get new "talent" to listen to ideas and concepts, much less have them express it. So yeah, Mix, I agree with you that mixes need some agressiveness in them, simply to show some talent what's possible. But conforming to the talent's wishes, even with smiles on their faces as they leave doesn't guarantee success, thus my mixes were ultimately the ones that had the smiles on their faces for good, whereas when they first heard them they had scowls on their faces. It's a hard game to play, particularly when one doesn't come with such a pedigree as Mixerman's.


    I'm trying to understand what you're saying, and I think that I agree with you. You have to really sus out who knows what they want, and isn't going to come back later, and those who haven't a clue, and need some eduaction, but not on your dime.

    As to the pedigree comment. I'm no pedigree. I'm just a guy that has taken a particular liking to mixing, because it fits with me. Particularly in this day and age when mixing is like producing the mix. I had to work hard and do hundreds of mixes to get to the understanding level I am with it. But it's constant work, and vigilance to stay in the zone that keeps mixing possible.

    In some ways mixing is like golf. It requires a certain concentration, and you can go through times where you're not as on as other times. Keeping the challenge up is probably the hardest part. It's very easy to play down to your opponent (an average song).

    All the issues that you guys (out of the major label zone) suffer through with clients, and bands not really understanding the process, I get it times 100. Imagine this. The accountant at the label now has a say so in the mix. That doesn't menion the managers, the A&R guy, the President of the label, the artists, the Producers, the girlfriends of the bandmembers...etc...

    People comparing your mix to a mastered mix of something that has absolutely nothing to do with the realities of the song you're working on. It's all the same $*^t, just to a worse degree. The politics are drastic in this environment. I'd love to have the opportunity to just educate the artist alone.

    Mixerman
     
  10. Kevin F. Rose

    Kevin F. Rose Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2001
    Originally posted by Mixerman:
    I'm trying to understand what you're saying, and I think that I agree with you. You have to really sus out who knows what they want, and isn't going to come back later, and those who haven't a clue, and need some eduaction, but not on your dime.


    All the issues that you guys (out of the major label zone) suffer through with clients, and bands not really understanding the process, I get it times 100. Imagine this. The accountant at the label now has a say so in the mix. That doesn't menion the managers, the A&R guy, the President of the label, the artists, the Producers, the girlfriends of the bandmembers...etc...

    People comparing your mix to a mastered mix of something that has absolutely nothing to do with the realities of the song you're working on. It's all the same $*^t, just to a worse degree. The politics are drastic in this environment. I'd love to have the opportunity to just educate the artist alone.

    Mixerman


    I agree that education is a big part of getting the $*^t right. I've found that showing the band what they really sound like by doing a quick 2trk live at the begining of the tracking process helps later at mix time. You can always pull it out and say "remember this." If the 2trk is better than what you have at mix time then you ^#$%ed up.
    In another thread I mentioned that I prefer to have the band come in later in the process which hopefully is after a complete mix is on tape. This keeps the band out of the minutae and gives them the "total" picture upon arrival. Usually they're stoned upon arrival so they're a little easier to deal with about foreign concepts.
    If all else fails I change the batteries in the cattle prod in front of them and keep it by the side of the console.
     
  11. RNorman

    RNorman Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2001
    Originally posted by Kevin F. Rose:
    In another thread I mentioned that I prefer to have the band come in later in the process which hopefully is after a complete mix is on tape. This keeps the band out of the minutae and gives them the "total" picture upon arrival. Usually they're stoned upon arrival so they're a little easier to deal with about foreign concepts.
    If all else fails I change the batteries in the cattle prod in front of them and keep it by the side of the console.


    Depends on the level of talent you're working with and what their pre-production planning goals are. Obviously you don't want to force a mix on them that shows their flaws and doesn't account for overdubs, nor do you want to have a mix finished to show to them when they want to do the mixing themselves, qualified or not. So in my case, I was hoping it would be a hands on learning situation where the education stuck. However, it obviously went right over their heads because they were pissed. They should have been enlightened! <g>

    In this particular case, and since I've been somewhat mentoring two of the group for three years, I got the nod on my mix, and it was far better than they were going to do in a month of Sundays, but again, it comes back to attitude, and specifically attitude in mixing. If these guys come back it will be because they want My expertise and not because they want a place to piddle around and try stuff they have no idea about. Hopefully Mitch Easter will straighten them out, but I had been hoping to forward some of their stuff to Mixerman because he'd know whether it was viable or not. Personally I think they've stepped in with good ideas and a new sound. Hopefully it did translate as well as I thought it would during mixdowns. Even us guys mixing don't always know!!! <g>
     
  12. queenie

    queenie Guest

    Hi,
    I am studying mixing to try to get better results at home. I am looking for tracks to study by ear (I learn best by ear). Are there songs that any of you can recommend that feature especially good mixing? Is there any place one can go on the web where well-mixed songs are picked apart and examined as to what made them so great? Thank you for your input.
    Queeniemusic@hotmail.comnull
     
  13. Ang1970

    Ang1970 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 5, 2000
    Pick a song that you like sonically, and post it in a new thread. We'll pick it apart for you.
     
  14. hargerst

    hargerst Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2001
    Queenie,

    This is a perfect place to put in a plug for the rec.audio.pro 4-CD compilation set. About 5 hours of recorded music by the denizens of the rec.audio.pro newsgroup, complete with recording notes on each track and critiques by many of the rec.audio.pro members.

    The whole 4 disc set only costs $15 and includes airmail shippint to anywhere in the world. Either pay with PayPal, or send $15 to:
    rec.audio.pro
    P.O. Box 888
    Krum TX 76249

    If you mail it, include a return address stick-on label.
     
  15. JasonCrouch

    JasonCrouch Guest

    Originally posted by Mixerman:
    In some ways mixing is like golf. It requires a certain concentration, and you can go through times where you're not as on as other times. Keeping the challenge up is probably the hardest part. It's very easy to play down to your opponent (an average song

    funny that you use the golf analogy. I was an all-stater in high school, yet now I'm just another hack that can really let a bad hole wreck my round. Point is that I don't have the necessary time to devote to my game to really key in on it, and I now just look at Golf as a good chance to get out with some friends; smoke a bone, enjoy the course - and have a few drinks afterward.

    The funny thing about golf is that If you think about it too much - you will be all over the place and won't end up having a good day after all. I find that when I'm just out to have a good time, with a minimal level of textbook concentration - my game just fits together like clockwork - and It makes me want to persue a lifestyle that would let me play everyday, but thats another story.

    Point of all this - Is that for me personally with mixing and even tracking - when I think too much about how things should be places, or sound - due to the standards set by major releases - I find myself stressing over minute details and taking away from my true ability - just like with golf. Yet when I just go with things and take them as they come, things seem to flow and the end product Is in most cases something I am happy with - yet can always go back and change things and then get picky.

    Being at the stage I am at - I did all my work on a da-38 and various mackie/A&H boards (yet keeping mics and pres to a maximum) while I was getting into this as a very serious hobby in college. It was basically a result of me listening to albums and thinking - man, thats a good song - but the recording isn't letting people feel it the way it possibly could, and then I would hear songs that werent that great, but were recorded/produced in a way that left you with a feeling of sorts . In my ventures so far - I played mostly with the emotional characteristics of instruments being that I tracked live for the most part and did little overdubs - and my recordings were rather personal since I would use natural spaces for reverbs rather than units I did not own. Anyways - to some extent I let the sight of other production/mixing tools take me out of working somewhat, and into the serious learning curve, and I am getting back into doing the work I really really want to be getting back to doing on a regular basis.

    In a nutshell - I'd love to work with anyone that was willing to take each song as it's own project without many set limits - but at the same time trying to keep all the songs of the project pertaining to some similar boundaries. Thats the part that really makes me feel I have much to learn, not only dealing with the sound of individual tracks - but then the relation and flow of the tracks as a whole.

    makes my head hurt sometimes

    thankful for the inteligent conversation, reading the honest thoughts of many of you is a better inspiration that being coffee bitch for anyone :D

    Jason C. Crouch
     
  16. Mixerman

    Mixerman Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2001
    Originally posted by JasonCrouch:
    In a nutshell - I'd love to work with anyone that was willing to take each song as it's own project without many set limits - but at the same time trying to keep all the songs of the project pertaining to some similar boundaries. Thats the part that really makes me feel I have much to learn, not only dealing with the sound of individual tracks - but then the relation and flow of the tracks as a whole.

    There lies the rub.

    Understnding this concept alone separates you from the pack.

    Some groupings of songs are harder than others, but it's important for there to be a thread, no matter how diverse the songs and productions.

    When there are multi-producer albums, it's common to achieve a thread by using one mixer. Now I'm seeing multi-mixer albums, and that tends to ruin the continuity of an album.

    Unfortunately, young A&R people don't understand this. They think that one guy is better at dense mixes, and another guy is better at pop mixes, etc... It doesn't work that way.

    Mixerman
     
  17. Bob Olhsson

    Bob Olhsson Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 13, 2001
    Location:
    Nashville TN
    Home Page:
    A "factory" attitude can be a huge problem in tracking, mixing and mastering too.

    I try to always throw myself some kind of little (sometimes not so little...) curve because the second I think I know what something is going to sound like, I've lost the benefit of my gut instincts. Acknowledging that it is REALLY easy to fool yourself and everybody in the room with excessive mental energy is perhaps the most important realization of them all
     
  18. gie

    gie Guest

    Originally posted by Ang1970:
    Pick a song that you like sonically, and post it in a new thread. We'll pick it apart for you.

    Since he did not come up with a song....
    Is it OK if I bring up a song in a new THREAD and you guys pick it apart??

    [I have to warn you... I'm not gonna choose a super-hifi one... but more an alternative rock thing.... whaterver that may mean...]

    I'm curious, because over here in Europe we have al lot of difficulties trying to create for example a Brendan O'Brien kind of sound..
    So I would like to choose one of his productions.... OK??

    ThanX

    GIE
     
  19. Ang1970

    Ang1970 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 5, 2000
    Originally posted by gie:
    Since he did not come up with a song....
    Is it OK if I bring up a song in a new THREAD and you guys pick it apart??


    Go right ahead! :)
    (Just pick something I already own, so I don't have to run out and buy new cd's! lol)
     
  20. gie

    gie Guest

    Originally posted by Ang1970:
    Go right ahead! :)
    (Just pick something I already own, so I don't have to run out and buy new cd's! lol)

    Before I start this thread... let's find out what you own then...

    :)

    OK... I wanne pick a Brendan O'Brien Produced/mixed track... I'm thinking Pearl Jam (Vitology album), or Satchel (The Family album)... Do U own one of these...???

    ThanX again that U wanne do this!!!!

    GRTX
    GIE
     

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