Self-Producing Album Efficiently - Not Getting Jaded?

Discussion in 'Mixing & Song Critique' started by JoshHPMusic, Jan 15, 2017.

  1. JoshHPMusic

    JoshHPMusic Active Member

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    Hi all,

    I'm currently in the process of crafting an EP from start to finish, all my own writing, recording, and producing. I have a deadline to meet and it leaves me with about two weeks to mix and master five songs.

    My question is, what can I do to avoid becoming "ear-blind" in the process of working long hours close together on the same five songs? And tips for being able to effectively mix and master five songs in such a short time window? It seems all too easy to fall into not being able to accurately assess how something sounds when it's your own, but especially when you have to listen to it non-stop.

    Thanks a bunch,
    -Josh
     
  2. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 18, 2008
    Location:
    Western Pennsylvania, USA
    The first thing I would say is, don't listen to it non-stop. That's counter-productive.

    Marathon mix sessions start yielding diminished returns after a few hours. Take frequent breaks, and walk away from it for a while. You'll be stunned when you go back to that marathon mix and listen to the decisions you made with fatigued ears. Don't panic, two weeks is plenty of time to mix 5 songs. You're worried about making a good first impression with someone hearing for the first time. Come back to it when you have fresh ears and put yourself in that mode like you're hearing it for the first time. If you get tunnel-vision and focus on one thing every time you lose sight of the big picture.
     
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  3. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

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    Good advice from Hawk. The only thing I would add is that I find it useful to do the mixing in sessions of not more than a couple of hours, and then, before coming back to it, listen to a few varied tracks of commercially-produced material of a similar style to what I'm mixing.

    This listening acts to re-zero my hearing, which could well have drifted away from neutral during the intensive mix phase, as well as going some way towards helping to compensate for remaining deficiencies in my monitoring gear and room. A particular state I need to re-set in my head is the difference in sound with and without a sub-woofer.
     
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  4. Smashh

    Smashh Active Member

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    Oct 12, 2012
    Location:
    Australia
    Im not a pro engineer , but I have been dabbling for a few years now and my 5 cents worth if you don't already do this is to have
    a workflow in your session so you don't have to spend as much time listening over and over .
    Its taking a long time to get to a point where I know how much my computer can handle, and figuring which plug ins (assuming your ITB )
    your gonna use for each task . I used to think I was mixing , but really I was just experimenting and going in circles because I didn't
    know my plug ins properly and overdoing it at the same time .
    I will always be learning new things , although now I feel I can go into a session with some clarity about whats gonna happen at the other end .
    Your probably beyond that .I hope you are at least at that point to do the songs in 2 weeks and feel creatively satisfied .
    All the best
     
  5. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

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    A few thoughts...

    Start setting up a mix as you are recording the project. Nothing finished, of course, ( because you can't until the tracks have all been recorded) but something that at least gets you on your way.
    Sometimes, you'll find that as a song/mix morphs, and as you start to get basic balances and tones and such on the tracks you've recorded, it will determine what you need - or what you might not need - to happen next.

    Then, as stated by my colleagues, walk away from it for awhile, don't listen to any music, and then go back to it. Often, the first few mixes you've constructed will be the best.

    But producing is more than just recording and mixing
    . A good producer will know ( or should know) the techniques of recording, but unlike those who are engineers alone, they have to be musicians, too.
    A producer's job is a big one; to schedule sessions, make sure everything is set up and ready to go for the sessions, working to arrange the song into the best presentation, and to bring the best out of the performers - all while providing a safety net for everyone's creativity to happen naturally and for the project to blossom.

    If you plan on bringing in session players, it doesn't do you any good to have great players come in and then have you tell them "exactly" what to play. Ostensibly, the reason that you've brought in outside players, is because you already like the way they play and want to hear what they can bring to the project themselves... (unless it's an orchestral piece or something, where everything is charted beforehand).

    Creating an environment that is conducive to creativity is mission-critical. But, that also means that sometimes you have to let certain people go, if they aren't cutting it musically, or aren't the type who can get along with others. The project is first and foremost, and to that end, you do have to control the how's and the why's, and the people involved, too. In short, don't have a friend come in to play on the tracks just because he's your friend. Choose people who are good at what they do.

    Have a direction, but keep an open mind for unplanned ( pleasant surprises) to happen... in fact, create an environment where that can happen, if possible.

    And, don't discount the value of having another engineer or producer listen to your album with fresh, educated ears. On the last album I produced, I enlisted the ears of many RO pro's to tell me what they thought, where and when I was doing good, where I when I was maybe suffering from fatigue and overcooking mixes. Your colleagues can listen for things that you aren't able to hear when your ears are fried... things like over-compression, overcooked EQ, dynamics, bit distortion, too much FX, etc.

    But, also consider other sources when you are asking for critiques and advice, too. Often, those with the good ears for music aren't engineering inclined at all. These "civilians" ( as I refer to them) can be just as good at listening to music for the sake of the song, without dissecting it track by track. These are the kind of people who have good ears for music, who know what they like, but at the same time, couldn't care less if you said to them "hear what I did with that hi-hat right there?" They don't listen that way. They just know a good song when they hear it, and they listen with more focus on the entire song and how it makes them feel as opposed to each track and subtle nuance.


    All the processing in the world, the best consoles, external racks, DAW's that are loaded for bear, boutique preamps and top end converters don't mean a thing if you don't have a good song first.

    My two cents, anyway.

    -d.
     
  6. ChrisH

    ChrisH Active Member

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    Location:
    Salt Lake City, Utah
    Amen
     
  7. JoshHPMusic

    JoshHPMusic Active Member

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  8. DogsoverLava

    DogsoverLava Well-Known Member

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    Good for you man. I went to your bandcamp page and spun a few more. The Race is a great song and I like what you are going for in some of the others as well. I also love how much "playing" there is on this. You do everything? All instruments? I wont offer you any critique at this point because this is new and fresh and you should enjoy riding the wave. The question I do have for you as a self producer - did you use or seek anyone's specific advice on the overall mix/production of these? And if so - to what affect? How did you use that help (or not) and did it align or conflict with your own sonic vision for the project? Also -- how close did you get? Did you bump up against any of your own limitations either technically or experientially?

    Thanks again -- great job. I also enjoyed "somewherescape" once the Pink Floyd influence faded a bit - Loved a couple of the specific vocal turns you used on that and a couple of the cadences you used as well -- this one was Beatles meets Floyd all in a good way. "A Song" was great too -- enjoyed the keyboards you played there and how you mixed all the instruments.... you had that big wall of sound at once point that was very powerful.
     
  9. JoshHPMusic

    JoshHPMusic Active Member

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    Hey, thanks so much, I really appreciate it. I did in fact play all instrumentation heard on the EP, yep. I do value being able to have "real" instrument tracks and the expression that comes with that as opposed to only being a pusher of buttons. But I like to push buttons too.

    I tried to make this as much an independent project as possible, so I did not actively seek a whole lot of help, but did show the tracks to a few friends and family, and the one major thing I took away from it was to push the vocals up front and ensure intelligibility. I think that was good advice. I got pretty damn close to the vision in my mind for all of it actually, I'd say I could've gotten closer only with a slightly better monitoring setup (HS5's with little bass, no sub, in a small dorm room), and maybe a little more time. And more experience. But we all wish we had that, right? I ended up making some pretty significant mastering adjustments after listening to the music on the car stereo, and realized overall bass-heaviness, and I also brightened the top end a little. That went a long way. If only I had a subwoofer!

    Thanks about those last two, I like those too. What you're hearing in A Song is actually three separate guitar lines, with the tone knobs turned all the way down, and synced up together to create triads. Fun effect!

    -Josh
     

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