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Member for

21 years 3 months
I'm 28 and I've had a revelation. A great mix of a good song equals a hit.

This year I began paying particular attention to mixes. I examined the discographies of Bob Clearmountain, Mike Shipley, and Tom Lord-Alge (just to name 3 who have played a big part in the music that I listen to), and I'm now aware there is a common thread in the songs that make it big on the radio. Not only are they great productions and well-written tunes, but they also just feel good. Nay, they feel GREAT.

Michael Jackson's "Thriller," INXS' "New Sensation," Bryan Adams' "Run to You," Def Leppard's "Hysteria," Simple Minds' "Don't you Forget About Me," Bonnie Rait's "Nick of Time." Oh the 80's. Those songs sounded great on high school PA systems, on boom boxes, dance clubs, and MTV.

How bout the 90's? Nice little tune by the Wallflowers "One Head Light" -- made a lot of us go out and buy the album. Lisa Loeb "I Do," or "Everything I Want" by Vertical Horizon -- damn those intro guitars are gorgeous and I think the radio hit was remixed by TLA 'cause it's not the CD mix. Sarah McGlaughlin's stuff is beautiful. Counting Crows made a believer out of me. And lastly, the Goo-goo-dolls come to mind: Jack Joseph Puig did a fantastic job making grunge-pop come alive on "Slide," "Iris," "Black Balloon," and "Broadway." Four big hits, and you know why the labels are looking for the next Dolls.

(Side note: listen to Peter Gabriel's "So" while listening on NS-10's at conversation level. Wonder what they used as refs? Even better if you can simultaneously surf over to where you get a virtual tour of Real World and be forever jealous.)

You may not love the tunes that I love, but you gotta give credit where credit is due.

My 2 cents: After "hangin out" on these forums for a while, plus reading the magazines for years, I conclude there is no formula. The recording phase seems to be where you have the most flexbility. I like the approach f "let's pick 12 random mics for this session" and we'll just make it work." Trust your ears, everything will be fine, and it won't matter if you're using a C12, M149, or a U87. Get the vibe and the feel on tape.

Thoughts? (Please, no offense to the senior members who themselves are great mixers and whom I failed to mention.)

- - - Jobola


Member for

21 years 3 months

Guest Sun, 04/29/2001 - 05:24 have definite "A&R" potential. A great song, and a great performance is what is important. The "production" is there to highlight/reinforce the artist's vision for the song. The "mix" can indeed take those elements to a new and higher level.

I'm thinking of Steve Lillywhite's mixes on U-2's 'Joshua Tree' album which are more "effected" than the other mixes on the record, and in my mind brought those songs to their next level. However, without the song, and without the emotional delievery [performance] of those songs...the "mix" would have been irrelevant.

Funny thing I've found over the's a whole lot easier to mix a great performance than it is to try and 'manufacture excitement' for the song/performance in the mix stage.

Yes, a great mix can take the song over the top...but it all has to be in place before "the mixer" can do anything with it.

As always...YMMV

Member for

21 years 3 months

Ang1970 Sun, 04/29/2001 - 05:48
Assuming you are starting off with a good song, you can get a varying degree of mix quality depening on the sound of your recorded tracks.

You have a lot of flexibility, sure. But also a lot of responsibility to capture the sounds in a way that complements the song.

If your options are limited to sm57's and 414's, maybe you can still get the job done, and maybe still sound great for that particular song/project. Sometimes, even if you have a M149, the right mic for the job is a 57. But if you're limited in that way, sometimes what you have in front of you just isn't going to be the right tool for the job. I wouldn't want to limit myself intentionally, because the end product might suffer as a result. Even if the final product sounded "good", I'd always wonder "how much better could this have been?"

Sometimes the mixer can work a miracle, but if you end up with shit sounds on tape don't expect it to be turned into wine every time.

Maybe you missed it, but between the lines there is a formula to be found. Do what is best for the song. What that "best for the song" is exactly is the confusing part. It's also the artisitic part. It's the part that keeps us fascinated by this wonderful process of creation.

It's all relative.

Cheeers. :)

Member for

20 years 9 months

alphajerk Sun, 04/29/2001 - 09:39
whats a good song anyways. whats a good recording anyways. a good song is a song that serves a purposed being played. a good mix is a mix that serves the song.

neither of which make a "hit", thats the incessant marketing of a recording by the record label of what they think hits a certain demographic and can effectively market to it. watch a record company take a great song and a great mix that they arent sure of the marketing potential, they fall flat on their ass.

i do care for any songs you mentioned above much less a lot of "hits" out today. and them being a "good recording" didnt make me like them any more than being a shitty recording.

Member for

21 years 3 months

archived member Sun, 04/29/2001 - 10:33
YMMV (Fletcher), you mention Steve Lillywhite's mixes on Joshua Tree as being more "effected." It was those mixes that were the hits and stuck with all of us: With or Without you -- my god, everyone in the world loves that song now just as much as they did in 87 -- and of course Where the Streets Have No Name -- what better way to begin a grammy-winning album.

Point is, what you call "effected" is perhaps what I was "feeling" every time I heard these songs. It's a tactile thing. The guitars almost tap you on the arms, the vocals bring your attention forward and upward, their trails dancing around the sides of back of the room.

But the mixer's vision is not always exactly the same as the engineer's or the producer's. He/she brings new elements to the song and expresses something original. The raw energy captured in the recording can only help the mixer take it from there to another place. Without that energy, the song is stuck, I think we all agree.

Alphjerk, you're right. "a good mix is a mix that serves the song." But I'm talking about brilliant mixes that blow the fucking ears off the band and engineers.

Great mixes are performances in themselves, no? It is this art of mixing that I wanted to bring into discussion. Not just getting the kick and bass to sit together, or eq-ing the vocal so it has some air on top of it. It's more than all that...

Member for

20 years 9 months

alphajerk Sun, 04/29/2001 - 14:41
no, great mixes are the performances themselves. i REALLY good band can "mix" themselves. 90% of the quality of sound is the players themselves, maybe higher, i have said 98% in the past... maybe i should stick to that. our job is to pull in that last 2%. thats great bands im talking about... otherwise with a commercially made band, you have to make up the 98% of talent they LACK. not the kind of stuff I want to record.

im not a big fan of over effecting the mix just for excitements sake. it wears off after the first listen really. never really liked U2 [cant stand some guy named Bozo who sings in the band] but a lot of those FX were coming from the guitar amp i bet. if someone is over the top with FX live, then hell yea... but cheap thrills added later become cheesy.

and michael jacksons thriller? could there be a shittier song? that whole album, shit... his whole career is nothing but velveeta, ditto with bryan adams, dead lepper too. those people might of been big at the time but their music DOES NOT hold up over time. now its just cheese.

put in hendrix if you want something timeless, or some miles... zepplin or the stones, and ironically not the most superb recordings made either. those are the groups who kids will buy well into the future, i doubt you will see many buying bryan adams.

Member for

21 years 3 months

archived member Sun, 04/29/2001 - 16:48
I'm thinking of Steve Lillywhite's mixes on U-2's 'Joshua Tree' album which are more "effected" than the other mixes on the record,

great to hear someone finally mention Lillywhite.

He is one that I find myself buying anything he mixes just to study the mix.

I feel he helped take the emotional value of U2s work to the next level - as the the chills down your spine type of stuff on the Joshua Tree.

He then in the 90s did the same for the Dave Matthews Band. I had seen this band play before they were on RCA, and although they are a great live act - Steve's mix is what took them to the next level - and he kept it goign for another two albums.

Just wondering what band he will mix for to become one of the large acts of the 00s

Member for

20 years 9 months

drumsound Sun, 04/29/2001 - 21:56
I've got to agree with those who are concerned with the song and performance. One of my favorite albums ever is Night and Day by Joe Jackson. If you listen to it you can tell it was done and a "meat and potatoes" basic type studio. The rub is that it is a fantastic artistic expression. The performances are wonderful and the songs are stellar!

One of my favorite sounding records is Pearl Jam's Versus (I think, it's the one with the lama on the cover). Brendan O'Brien produced and mixed is and it is huge sounding, especially on vinyl. Some of the songs and "musical choices" are not my favorite things though. I'd rather listen to Night and Day and do so more often

My $.02

Member for

20 years 9 months

Mixerman Sun, 04/29/2001 - 23:03
A great mix does provide a great feeling. I'll agreee with that. Unfortunately, that's not what makes a hit.

It's easy to look at a song that was a hugely successful hit, and argue that the mix was what made it. But that's rarely the case. It's overwhelmingly more common for a bad mix to ruin a potential hit. It's just you don't know about those, because you never heard them. That's why the record companies will pay so much money and even profit share with mixers. Record companies can't afford a potential hit to lose its shot because someone didn't bring the mix home.

A great mix will reach the maximum potential of the song and production. Nothing more and nothing less. You should read that again. A great mix will reach the maximum potential of the song and production So if it's a shit song, it could be well mixed, but it's still a shit song. If the song is great, and the mix and the production are great, then all the elements are in place for a possible hit. After that, there's 50 more things that can go awry.

There's nothing black and white about this. There are plenty of 'hits' that are shit songs, and there are also plenty of 'hits' that are poorly mixed (ever listened to Oasis?). Just because you could name a hand full of examples that sound really good to you, doesn't mean you've just figured out the business.

I was sent a CD of mastered album that I mixed. I listened to it in my car, and was very dissapointed. I convinced the record company to re-master it with my preferred Mastering Engineer. When I got it yesterday, I was singing the songs, I stopped even analyzing the sound of the CD, forgot what I was doing and was singing the songs. I called the A&R guy, screaming "this is going to be a huge hit". That's how it made me feel, anyway.

Every step in this process can make a song feel better, and bring it that much closer to a hit. Each and every step in the process of making and selling a record can be the step that stops it from happening. Starting with the song all the way up to getting it in the stores. The mix is just one step in that entire process.


Member for

20 years 11 months

RNorman Mon, 04/30/2001 - 03:06
Originally posted by Jobola:
But I'm talking about brilliant mixes that blow the fucking ears off the band and engineers.

Great mixes are performances in themselves, no? It is this art of mixing that I wanted to bring into discussion. Not just getting the kick and bass to sit together, or eq-ing the vocal so it has some air on top of it. It's more than all that...

The best answer to this is a quote from Bob Olhsson, who said "A good recording almost mixes itself." And Fletcher has mentioned the same thing in saying that the song will tell you what it wants. A good mix results from the mixer hearing and understanding what the song wants, and you can hear the difference easily between a song you struggle to mix, no matter how good the resulting mix is, and a song that just jumps up and tells you what you're supposed to be doing to it. And it's audible to people whom had no part in the mixing, nor were even available during the mixing.

So I'm not arguing that a mix isn't a performance, but it's not a performance or dance of faders and such. It's the performance of the mixer's listening to what the music is telling them. At least that's what I think. Take it with all the salt you need!

Member for

20 years 9 months

alphajerk Tue, 05/01/2001 - 17:41
my gawd, mixerman and i agree on something... and he is totally right.

one thing though. manufactured "hits" can quickly suffer from a bad mix but GREAT MUSIC doesnt fucking matter how bad it is as long as you can comprehend whats happening, and you gotta REALLY suck to not be able to do that. i can mix better than a lot of CD's i own [which isnt bragging, the recordings absolutely suck] but it hardly stops the music from moving me.... of course i wish i could remix it :D... maybe in 5.1 :eek:

Member for

21 years 3 months

archived member Tue, 05/01/2001 - 21:04
yes, yes, yes ... makes a lot of sense that each stage of the production is key to the success of a song. Thanks Mixerman !! :p It takes several different people with different talents, different responsibilities, to make a hit; seems like just too much work for most individuals (there are exceptions) and may be the biggest downside of the whole new pro tools community where everyone's wearing as many hats as we can -- we pre-produce, we record, we mix with automation, and we master.

still, I'm wondering ... what is it about a pro's mix that sets it apart from the rest?

Member for

21 years 3 months

Guest Wed, 05/02/2001 - 05:45
Originally posted by Jobola:
still, I'm wondering ... what is it about a pro's mix that sets it apart from the rest?

As you pointed out, not trying to wear all the hats helps a bit. Talent and experience are other contributing factors. A great mastering engineer at the end of the chain has saved my balls on more than one occasion...budget to work in a good place with good acoustics and all the tools you feel you need...oh, and did I mention talent and experience?