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Step 2: If the song sucks, the mix is irrelevant

Discussion in 'Recording' started by Mixerman, Apr 24, 2001.

  1. Mixerman

    Mixerman Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2001
    Step 2: If the song sucks, the mix is irelevant.

    Now, a song being great or lousy has a certain amount of subjectivity to it. OK allot of subjectivity. In fact, who the hell knows why one person thinks a song is the greatest ever, and another thinks it's the worst ever.

    The point of this step isn't that if YOU think the song sucks the mix is irrelevant (see below). If the listener doesn't like the song, the mix is irrelevant. You know... when you play a song for your signifigant other, and they say 'this song sucks' and you say, 'but listen to the mix! Isn't it a good mix?'. It doesn't matter Bucko, she ain't diggin' the song, so forget about the mix.

    If you, as the mixer, hate the song... uy yuy yuy. In this case you have to fool yourself into liking it to mix it. Or find some way of making yourself like the song. I know that for me, if I don't like a song, and there's really no way of fooling myself into liking the song (this happens occasionally), the mix is doomed. In these cases, I rely heavily on input from the client. Oh, the client may like it in the end, but you'll hate the song ten times more because the mix sucks so bad. Your goal should be to find some way to like the song. There's always some way, right?

    When I make a reel (for those who don't know what a reel is, it's a CD of a variety of songs so that a Producer or Artist can decide whether they want to hire you based on your work), I try and pick out songs that tend to appeal to a high percentage of people. I pick by the mix too, but a likeable song is the highest criteria. When you accept this step as truth, they usually tend to be one and the same anyway.

    I have one song that I always put on the reel that's totally low-fi. But the song is fantastic, and it was a hit. The sound, tehcnically is horrible, it was mixed unautomated, and you can even here pops when mutes go in and out, but it's the perfect sound for the song, and the song is incredibly likeable.

    Unfortunately, just because a song and a production are great, this doesn't guarantee you automatically a great mix. After all there is some skill involved in this. It's just that your mix can't be judged on its merits if the listener can't get past the song.

    None of this means we don't try as hard as we can, every time out. Sometimes the mix can actually be the step that makes the song great. That's how I approach every mix, whether it's actually possible or not.

    Mixerman
     
  2. Ang1970

    Ang1970 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 5, 2000
    Do you have any special methods for tricking yourself into liking a song?

    For example, I remember one guy saying he focuses on a single part that was performed well, or an instrument that was recorded in an interesting way. After paying attention to that one part long enough, he has a reference point on which to build an appreciation for the rest of the song.

    I listen to songs as if they were movies, and focus on the storyline above all else. Then again, I'm easily amused. I was watching cartoons on nickelodeon today, laughing my ass off. lol

    What are some of your tricks?
     
  3. Mixerman

    Mixerman Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2001
    Originally posted by Ang1970:
    Do you have any special methods for tricking yourself into liking a song?

    For example, I remember one guy saying he focuses on a single part that was performed well, or an instrument that was recorded in an interesting way. After paying attention to that one part long enough, he has a reference point on which to build an appreciation for the rest of the song.

    I listen to songs as if they were movies, and focus on the storyline above all else. Then again, I'm easily amused. I was watching cartoons on nickelodeon today, laughing my ass off. lol

    What are some of your tricks?


    I had to think about this one for a second. Great question.

    Well, there are many reasons for not liking a song. Often times we don't like a song because of the lyrics. A good Producer follows the song based on the lyrics, I do the same thing as a mixer. But once I've determined what the song is about, I can completely block out the lyrics, and actually listen to them as syllables.

    If I don't like the music, I try to find some element in the arrangement that I like. Sometimes the stupidist little thing can be featured, and you've totally changed the song, and your feelings of the song.

    For me, it's always about the challenge. I call it 'finding the record'. The challenge is always the same, but it's always a different puzzle. Usually, so long as I feel I've found the record, the most effective treatment of the mix for the song and the production, then I'm happy. I focus on that MUCH more than the song itself, and my personal feelings about it.

    As enthusiastic as I always am about this, the reality of the situation is, you're doing amazing work if you can save a song 1 out of every 10 disasters. I'd say that for a novice mixer, it's probably more important to focus on doing your best work every time out. Enthusiasm for what you're doing can usually suffice at fooling yourself into liking just about any song.

    I think how one gets past a lousy song is a personality issue. So, how do others get past this?

    Mixerman
     
  4. Punchmo

    Punchmo Guest

    Ok, I'm not in your league and don't often record the level of talent you 2 guys do. I get groups that do have good songs but less than stellar talent. This can be a lot of fun at the mix stage. Good tracking and outboard can make em sound good.

    On the other hand, bad songs and bad talent and a snare that costs less then the 57...hmmm...tough. Just trying to make the snare sound like a snare can keep me going for a while.

    What a PLEASURE to record good players with good tunes :)
     
  5. Ang1970

    Ang1970 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 5, 2000
    Originally posted by Punchmo:
    On the other hand, bad songs and bad talent and a snare that costs less then the 57...hmmm...tough. Just trying to make the snare sound like a snare can keep me going for a while.

    Hehe, that could be fun too. Forget trying to make the snr sound like a snr, that's the time to get experimental and create a sound that nobody else has. When there is a complete lack of talent, flaunt it like a badge of honor.
     
  6. Originally posted by Ang1970:
    Hehe, When there is a complete lack of talent, flaunt it like a badge of honor.

    Isn't that part of what made The Sex Pistols a success?
    Seriously, a great mix can help make a song more interesting, to me at least. I used to hang out at a bar where the jukebox had a bunch of Ozzy tunes. I'm not a fan of his, but I could appreciate the arrangements and mixes. We should all learn to get past our musical preferences and listen to the mix even if, "that tune sux man." Trust me, until you reach the top of this profession you'll polish a lot more turds than gems.
     
  7. Mixerman

    Mixerman Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2001
    Originally posted by Punchmo:
    Ok, I'm not in your league and don't often record the level of talent you 2 guys do. I get groups that do have good songs but less than stellar talent. This can be a lot of fun at the mix stage. Good tracking and outboard can make em sound good.

    On the other hand, bad songs and bad talent and a snare that costs less then the 57...hmmm...tough. Just trying to make the snare sound like a snare can keep me going for a while.

    What a PLEASURE to record good players with good tunes :)


    So help your talent with the songs. I can think of plenty of hit bands that can't play well.

    Once you've got the songs fixed, everything else is easy. Magnify the glaringly bad sounds. Make a 'thing' of it. Use it to your advantage, rather than trying to cover it up. When you make something loud, no one will ever doubt that you did it on purpose, not to mention with purpose.

    They might even say, "that snare sounds great!"

    Mixerman
     
  8. Ang1970

    Ang1970 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 5, 2000
    "How do you get that distorted vocal sound... you know, the one that sounds like someone screaming thru a megaphone?"
    lol
     
  9. hargerst

    hargerst Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2001
    I don't know how others do it, but we use a real megaphone. It's the Radio Shack grey and black model and it records perfectly. We also will run the vocal thru a Sans Amp set to a Marshall setting and tweak the drive gain.
     
  10. Ang1970

    Ang1970 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 5, 2000
    hehe.. Harvey, when somebody asked the question on r.a.p. about 3 or 4 years ago, I replied that they should go to radio shack for a megaphone.

    In this case, it was an example of a silly trend (that persists to this day) which was most likely the result of somebody ^#$%ing a recording up royally and the mix guy having the balls to take advantage of it. I know, I don't always make these things clear in my posts. Sorry :)
     
  11. Punchmo

    Punchmo Guest

    Originally posted by Mixerman:
    So help your talent with the songs. I can think of plenty of hit bands that can't play well.

    Once you've got the songs fixed, everything else is easy. Magnify the glaringly bad sounds. Make a 'thing' of it. Use it to your advantage, rather than trying to cover it up. When you make something loud, no one will ever doubt that you did it on purpose, not to mention with purpose.

    They might even say, "that snare sounds great!"

    Mixerman


    I agree, there are hit bands that sound like $*^t live. Obviously lots of recording work by studio musicians, producers and arrangers.

    I do re-arrange tunes re-write bass, drums and guitar parts as well as adding keys and it usually sounds great.

    But, I'm talking 'bout bad songs and bad talent. I guess I could write all the songs and play all the instruments and put their name on the record that might help but, they couldn't afford it.

    Some of this $*^t SHOULD NOT BE LOUD :) hell, it shouldn't be recorded at all but, somebody will do it and if my studio ain't booked, it helps to pay for the gear I use on good players that can write good tunes :)
    It REALLY is a joy to work with good players.
     

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