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#512346 - 04/16/04 01:53 PM Why I Prefer To Mix Alone...
LawrenceF Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 10/11/01
Posts: 481
Loc: ,,UNITED STATES
Lynn Fuston and other great engineers have a much higher level, talent and experience wise, of client (generally) that I do. Much of my studio traffic is aspiring performers who know next to nothing about the studio process. Hence the mixing rule...

1. Mixing is $35 per hour. $45 if you attend.

2. I will take 20-40% more time than you pay for on your mix if you don't attend and the results will reflect that.

3. Any corrections that need to be done after an unattended mix that take less than an hour are free. Beyond that, $45 per hour including the first hour.

4. If you don't like the unattended mix, you do not have to pay for it, consequently you cannot have a copy and any new mix will begin from scatch at your direction at the attended rate. No effect, eq, automation or other processing or creative decisions will be saved for your use.

I got this idea from another engineer and it has worked wonders for my final product, client satisfaction, my peace of mind and my growth as a mix engineer. Now let me answer the inevitable questions.

Q: How will you learn to take direction from producers if you mix alone?

A: I won't in those cases. These rules apply to groups who really have no producers, contrary to what they think. That's part of the problem, everyone is giving direction. Usually a good solo artist will attend a mix and that's where I learn to turn "I need more depth" into adjusting a delay or "can you give it more ummph?" into a two-buss comp setting that the client likes. That is a important part of growing as a mix engineer, translating the not so clear expression into an action.

Q: How often do clients not like the mix?

A: About 10-15% of the time they'll ask for minor adjustments. Only one guy wanted to start from scratch because of his ego. Read below.

Q: Does anyone ever accuse you of cheating them?

A: Once. A "producer" said "there's now way that mix took 6 hours!" After he paid for 3 hours and I took close to six finishing it. I said "fine", gave him 3 hours credit and proceeded to mix at his direction. 3 hours later it wasn't even close to a professional mix although he thought so and took it. When he played it elsewhere it was bass heavy, sibiliant, and generally out of whack. The backing vocals lacked depth and power. The lead vocal had way too much reverb. Things that I knew to be true as we went along. Later he asked to revert to the mix I did (that I had played for him again on a real stereo and in a car) and I said, "sure, for six hours of pay." He refused to pay six hours and tried to negotiate. I erased it.

MORAL OF THE STORY:

I know what I'm hearing in my room and how it translates to the real world. I ask my clients to trust my judgement on the initial mix and they'll get more than what they paid for. The only thing I ask before I begin an unattended mix is if I have the authority to make creative decisions or should I mix "as is" and leave any creative choices (musical mutes, creative edits) for the "tweak" if any.

I love it this way. My best mixes were done this way. Every now and then a group "leader" will ask to attend at the unattended rate so he can ask questions and see what I'm doing to learn more about the process. That's not a problem as long as he doesn't start "producing" and telling me what to do. I'll mix and explain at every step what I'm doing and why and allow him to hear the differences. If he starts telling me what to do he's asked to leave or pay the attended rate.

It's just at my level of client it's hard to convince some people that there's more to mixing than what sounds good in the studio and that a certain level of objectivity is required for the best final result.

When I can be alone I get into a "zone" and I can do great work. The studio is not my major source of income and I take great pride in delivering the best possible mix and often sacrifice a couple of hunred bucks to do so.

That's ok. I love what I do. \:\)

Lawrence

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#512347 - 04/19/04 05:45 AM Re: Why I Prefer To Mix Alone...
Mark Lemaire Offline
Gold Member

Registered: 03/21/00
Posts: 930
Loc: Emeryville, CA USA
Thanks for that post, Lawrence. I'm a little suprised that it has gone without any responses (until now).

I also have many of the feelings that you have about less experienced clients 'helping' with the mix before the mixer is ready for their tweaks & suggestions. But I never developed your methods and pricing techniques. I'm not sure that I could make those 'rules' work with my clients. But what I DO do is something like this:

I get at least a couple hours (at full rate) to work on the mix before the clients show. Ideally, I work on the mix for a session and the client comes in the next day to provide their fixes. If the client gives me this freedom, I'll often charge them for less time that I spent -- tho I don't usually tell them that I'm giving them this deal. I just charge them less because I then can give myself the freedom to fix little things that they might not approve me spending their money on but that matter to ME. I also might charge them a little less because I have a lot more FUN by myself at the early stages of a mix. Until I start to zero in on a mix that works for me, I just get frustrated with (most) suggestions.

BUT ! I want and NEED the client's suggestions and thoughts to FINISH the mix. Ideas that are the kind of creative ideas that artists provide easily because they are ARTISTS, not professional mixers. The client often has input that takes my mix to the next level-- ideas that are creative and sometimes fun.

But many/ most artists have little to offer on 'tech' issues like balance or bass/mid/top or compression stuff. If that stuff is not together when they start to offer ideas, a LOT of their ideas will be unconscious efforts to fix balances and top/ bottom stuff that it takes a trained person to do. If this starts, mess and trouble will ensue.

But once I have something I think is presentable and my list of balance fixes is mostly over, I find it EASY to incorporate the client's ideas and thoughts. Their suggestions are simple to implement because the mix is mostly there already. And believe me, most clients have a LOT fewer things they want to change in a mix once I have it where I try to get it.

I don't want the artist's help to balance and MIX the song, but I do need their help in the end to make the song their individual creation.

does this help?

ML

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#512348 - 04/20/04 05:42 AM Re: Why I Prefer To Mix Alone...
Extreme Mixing Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 01/03/01
Posts: 440
Loc: Van Nuys ,CA,UNITED STATES
Lawrence,

I actually like to mix with people in the room. I do what I do, but hearing their conversations in the background can give me insight into their creative vision. It puts me more in a performance mode, which can be good. Especially if there are GIRLS.

That said, these days I do most of my mixes alone. The client comes in to tweak several songs at a time, or I send out mp3s and talk with them on the phone or via email.

My feeling is that as a mixer, your clients should like about 95% or what you do, otherwise they should be working with someone else. You would probably be happier without the stress of working with someone who isn't getting what you feel you are giving, too.

It sounds like I have a more pro clientele than you do, so that could make a lot of the difference. Most of the time, they have great ideas, they respect what I have brought to the party, and our collaboration makes for a better mix than either of us could do alone. These guys are good! I am really impressed by the ones who can chart a song in real time, on the first listen down. I'm not talking 3 chord songs here either! And when they are finished they say, there seems to be a bad note in the rhodes part at bar 53. And they're RIGHT. Maybe it's just me, but when I encounter someone who hears the music with that much detail and clairity, I tend to listen when they say that the guitar seems a little wet, or loud, or whatever.

Either way, life is too short to spend it working on music you don't like for people you don't respect. It sounds like at a certain point, you get pissed, and threaten to erase the disk, or to charge more as a way to protect your artistic turf. You take your ball and go home, satisfied by you power and superiority. I'm not sure that's a working metholody that's worth emulation. It certainly won't work when you rise to a decent level in the record business.

Steve

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#512349 - 04/20/04 11:27 AM Re: Why I Prefer To Mix Alone...
djwayne Offline
MP Hall of Fame Member

Registered: 08/23/03
Posts: 2816
Loc: Northeastern Ohio
I took a course in music production at a local community college. The teacher was a real pro, and had his own thoughts about mixing. When he took on a mixing job, he would say to come back in a couple of months. And he would take that much time, tweaking and re-tweaking everything to his standards. At first, when I saw him at work, I thought he was nuts, and being ridiculously, obnoxiously, nitpicky, trying this, and trying that. Then later on in the course, our test was to do a final mix of a band we recorded during the class. You had 2-3 hours to complete your mix. Everybody had the same master recordings. A week later he did his critque on our mixes, and played his mix. At the time I did my mix, I thought it sounded great, but when he played it back a week later, I could hear many things that needed to be changed. I was humbled. The teacher's mix's sounded fantastic, and very professsional.

The point is that he would go back and re-do his mixes until he was totally satisfied, no matter how many times, or how long it would take, and would never settle for a quick one-time mixing session, with or without, people standing around talking. He would not release the mix, until he was totally satisfied with it.
_________________________
Living' in the shadow,
of someone else's dream....

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#512350 - 04/20/04 01:57 PM Re: Why I Prefer To Mix Alone...
Extreme Mixing Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 01/03/01
Posts: 440
Loc: Van Nuys ,CA,UNITED STATES
dj,

I don't know...If you are going to be successful as a mixer, you're going to have to be able to mix a song a day, or so. And your clients have to be happy with your work for a long time, or they won't come back.

Some musicians play great parts after they pracitce and play the songs for a few weeks and get comfortable with the parts. That's great. But there are other musicians who can hear the song and play a perfect performance, laying down several parts, rhythm, pad swells and acoustic guitars with a double track, and do it all in an hour or so. Those are the guys who become studio musicians.

Some engineers are that way with mixing, too. They just do the right things. The follow their instincts and get the right sounds and do the right rides without practicing or thinking about it too much.

Three months is a little too long for a professional mixer. At that rate a record would take about 4 years to mix.

Steve

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#512351 - 04/20/04 03:32 PM Re: Why I Prefer To Mix Alone...
djwayne Offline
MP Hall of Fame Member

Registered: 08/23/03
Posts: 2816
Loc: Northeastern Ohio
Well, the teacher mixed for Pat Methany, and it sounded really nice. There'a also the problem with ear fatigue, that many people don't understand. He was also aware of proper phasing, and tonal qualities, and their effect of interacting between each of the instruments on their various tracks, and speakers, and spend lots of time, making sure everything was correct. I too thought he was nuts for spending lots of time eq'ing each track, over and over, but eventially it did pay off. He even spent a great amount of time micing a drum set, to get that "Special Sound", and it too paid off, as the drums sounded fantastic by the time he was done. He did many sound checks, back and forth into the control room, re-arrainging mics, changing mics, changing mic positions, drum tunings, before he would start recording, and that drum set, never sounded better. At the time, I thought he was a fanatic, but the drums did sound very good, and much better than from when he started.

In fact, many professional artists do take 4-5 years between cd's. Yes, I can rush out a recording, a quick mix on the same day, heck, even have it posted on the internet for international distribution, same day service, but he looked for a higher quality mix, which did show up in his mixes. He was an interesting cat.
_________________________
Living' in the shadow,
of someone else's dream....

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#512352 - 04/20/04 04:37 PM Re: Why I Prefer To Mix Alone...
LawrenceF Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 10/11/01
Posts: 481
Loc: ,,UNITED STATES
Quote:
Originally posted by Extreme Mixing:
It sounds like at a certain point, you get pissed, and threaten to erase the disk, or to charge more as a way to protect your artistic turf. You take your ball and go home, satisfied by you power and superiority. I'm not sure that's a working metholody that's worth emulation. It certainly won't work when you rise to a decent level in the record business.
Steve
I don't get pissed at all, at least not in front of the client. I politely told him (the one guy) I would not negotiate for my best work after he decided which way the original deal would go. I have no power or superiority, hell there's 3 studio's every three miles here in Michigan. He can always go somewhere else.

I erased it because he refused to believe that I spent six hours on it and didn't want to pay full price for it. I very politely told him "we have to agree to disagree...", and refused to give him the mix for 3 hours of time (which by the way was the original deal that he backed out of).

Lawrence

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