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How can I learn to love mixing?


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It's almost 2 AM and I've been mixing for the past I-don't-know-how-many hours. Things are starting to come together, but I can't help but feel that mixing is my least favorite part of recording. It doesn't help that I wrote/performed/engineered the song and have already heard it over a billion times... I don't have the option to pass my recordings off to someone else to mix, so what psychological tricks can I play to convince myself that I actually [i]love[/i] mixing? I mean... Where's the joy in mixing? It seems like drudgery until you get close to the finish line. :(
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[quote]Originally posted by popmusic: [b] I mean... Where's the joy in mixing? It seems like drudgery until you get close to the finish line. :( [/b][/quote] The joy for me comes when the mix is starting to sound like what I was hearing in my head. Up until that point, it's a battle. :D
meh
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I have to say that the better I'm at doing it, the better I like it. It seems like now a day the mixing is not a sperate task, it is from recordng the first note. I used to start a mix from scratch when we felt a song was finish , but now I just mix as we go. The best advice I can give you, try to finish the mix apart from finishing the song. ie, once you worked on a song for ever (a few days/hours) give it a rest (a week at least) then when you'll get back to it you might enjoy it more. HTH Danny

Rotshtein Danny - Studio Engineer

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Mr. Darling beat me to it. Get away from the material for at least a week; if you can afford the luxury, try two. Listen to anything and everything else. It'll clear your head, but it'll also plant ideas in it for your mixes. It's like framing art...you don't want to try and build a frame for it in the same workspace you painted the thing, and right away. Too, like Mr. Darling, I try to mix as I go. Not always the greatest option, depending on the material, but usually quite sufficient. Sometimes, there's no harm in making it sound like you want it to, right then and there.
I've upped my standards; now, up yours.
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See i'm the opposite. There's few things i dislike more than tracking....it just bores me to pieces....well, except for finding a good kick sound...that excites me to no end...maybe i can get a job just bouncing from studio to studio trying to get a good kick sound for people ! (not that i get fantastic sounds, i just like looking for them :D ) but i find mixing to be a real good time. I wish i had better compressors, because that would make it even more fun. I have a bit of a system that i really like. 1) play all channels, gain at 0, all tracks at once. Gives me an idea of what's happening and what's not. 2) i go through and start eq'ing once i've got a decent relative balance with everything, sometimes solo. 3) then i go through and set all my compressors ( i loooove playing with compressors) 4) then i start setting delays and reverbs. The i get totally irritated that everything sounds like shit, and then i go smoke, and then i smoke and then i smoke and then i smoke............and then i'm okay....It definately helps if you give it a week or two to get a fresh perspective. Cheers, Shiver
Rule #2: Don't sweat the petty stuff, and don't pet the sweaty stuff.
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[quote]Originally posted by offramp@earthlink.net: [b] Too, like Mr. Darling, I try to mix as I go. Not always the greatest option, depending on the material, but usually quite sufficient. Sometimes, there's no harm in making it sound like you want it to, right then and there.[/b][/quote] It's not that I decided to work this way - it's just happened. The process of finding sound calls for using effects and eq's - and you do have to set the levels right to see if something is missing etc... While I was mixing on hardware - it was pull all the faders down , reset the eq's and start all over , but now that I mix mostly in the Mac (Logic) and that my mixes sounds better and better I don't see the point in that. It still takes me about a week to deliver a good mix (a couple of hours in the studio, burn a cd, check it all over - then back to the studio etc..) I might be doing other stuff in the studio meanwhile... Don't you just love total recall. :D Danny

Rotshtein Danny - Studio Engineer

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Visit DarlingNikkie.com To discover the sounds of "Darling Nikkie"(aka Jade 4U). . . .

New exciting project Goddess of Destruction

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The better the tracking is done, the more fun the mixing is. I like mixing because it's the last chance to get really creative. It's like orchestrating or painting to me. I can do literally anything to make the song work somehow -- what's that going to be? I often shove up all the faders when I'm just beginning to mix. What does it sound like? If it sounds reasonably like the song already, with everything fairly audible, separated, sounding pretty good, well, the tracking has helped the mix. I feel that if I've done my tracking with enough care and forethought, the song will almost mix itself. Then I can get on to the more creative stuff, really trying to bring out the feeling and emotion in the song. What will it be? Carving away the low mids to makae room for other stuff perhaps? Panning? EQing some of the highs to make the vocals pop out? Compressing something to make it sound tighter? Removing some instruments from the mix? What happens when i take out some instruments? Does it sound better? What if i bring it in during certain parts of the songs and not others? Does this track sound better with a delay? This is the last chance to make the song "right". After this, no amount of mastering is going to fix a f***ed-up recording (mix, etc.). Leave the mix up. Does it sound pretty good the next day? Does it sound better than the rough mix?
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popmusic, Not to sound unsympathetic, but there is nothing I love more than mixing a good song, I live for it. I can say this though (as did everyone else here), if you are 'wrenching' the tune to sound correct, there is probably something tracked wrong. When I find myself wrenching the mix, I go back to square one, ie: flatten all the eq, faders, efx, comp. & take another listen to figure out what is the problem, sometimes after taking a break and flattening all the settings, the problem will be quite obvious. Good luck to ya, Matt [ 12-29-2001: Message edited by: Hippie ]
In two days, it won't matter.
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These guys beat me to it. I was also gonna suggest taking a break. I dunno about a week. But I usually try to not work on a single mix for more than a couple hours at a time. After that, it seems like the sounds just all mumble together. Its just like when I used to do computer animation. It was so funny. I would be working on something with text. I'd be zoomed in really tight editing a word and after a couple hours, the word wouldnt even look a word anymore. I'd stare at it and stare at it, thinking, "Did I spell the word 'One' right? That cant be it. Is that even a word? What are words? What's with this...." I'd drive myself batty. Thats when I learned to take breaks. Even if its an hour. Move on to something else and come back to it. I have a friend who used to work on mixes until they were done. 10, 12, 16 hours if he had to. Needles to say, he doesnt do that anymore. Hopefully you guys dont think Im crazy from my ramblings! LOL Duhduh

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Not that I'm a "mix expert" (see the "expert" thread ;) ) but I certainly have to DO a lot of it... so here's a few observations: 1. You may never learn to "love" mixing. If you don't like it now, you may never like it. But mixing is ultimately about LISTENING! It's a chance to hear things and "get into" things in more depth than is possible while performing. Beleive me, if you really develop your listening skills, you'll learn a lot about yourself and your music. So listen, and if you don't like something, change it. Change the levels, EQ, effects, panning, whatever - or retrack it. Maybe you'll find the part doesn't work, so CUT it. Just because you have X amount of tracks doesn't mean you always have to use them. Same goes for tracks that were recorded. If it doesn't fit, don't feel obligated to use the track, just because it's on tape / disk. You're in control. So listen to it, and change what you don't like... 2. I agree with the idea of getting away from the song for a while, especially if you were wearing multiple "hats" - playing, recording. producing, etc. etc. It's certainly possible to get too "close" to everything, and lose perspective. And on the same subject, doing it all yourself is VERY hard to do, and do well. You have to be very good at simultaneously doing right / left brain type thinking, which can be difficult for many people. 3. So after considering point #2, you may want to get a second opinion. Maybe you can't afford to bring in someone else to mix it, but I'd imagine there's SOMEONE whos "ears" you trust who would be willing to come over and take a listen and give you an outsider's perspective. It doesn't have to be a pro engineer - it could be a fellow musician or even a "music lover" who just has some developed listening skills... 4. IMO, the better the sources, the better the mixes. Trying to get a $100 Mitchell to sound like a $3,000 Martin is going to result in nothing but frustration... You may make it sound "better", but never as good as the Martin, all other things being equal. 5. The better the acoustics, the better the mixes. If your acoustics suck and you didn't close mic and have gobs of room ambience all over the tracks, you'll never get rid of it... 6. The better the arrangement, the better the mixes. I CAN'T STRESS THIS POINT ENOUGH! I've seen tons of demos where people arrange everything in the same frequency range... guitars and keyboards and vocals all playing in the same range, similar tones, same rhythmic figures, etc. And then people wonder why they can't get the mix so that they can hear every individual element when they play the song back... 7. The better the gear, the better the mixes... sometimes. IMO, people get too caught up on this one, constantly searching for ways to get the gear to make them sound better. And truth be told, better gear CAN make you sound better, and open up your eyes a lot of times, but I've heard some great mixes that were done on some pretty humble setups. Which leads me to what I feel is the most important element... 7. PEOPLE are the most important element. All the gear in the world isn't going to turn me into Geoff Emerick (drats!) or CLA (thank goodness! ;) ). Give a great engineer so-so gear, let them get to know it, and they'll consistantly come up with better mixes than a so-so engineer with a lavish gear budget. And the performers too - I can deal with less than stellar equipment, less than great instruments, and so-so acoustics, if the music and performances are great. My job's a joy if you give me great songs, great arrangements, performed with passion, feel and emotion by talented musicians on good gear, in a good acoustical environment with nice recording and monitoring equipment available. It gets harder and harder the more of these elements that fall short, but IMO, it's the "people elements" that make things the most difficult - or the most rewarding. Okay, that's enough rambling for now... :) Except for one last suggestion: Don't OVER analyze everything - it's too easy to get wrapped up in every tiny edit... try to learn to know when to say "it's finished". Then live with that mix in your home and car CD player for a few days, and if you STILL like it, it's REALLY done... if not, go back and try it again. ;) Good luck Pop! Phil O'Keefe Sound Sanctuary Recording Riverside CA http://www.ssrstudio.com pokeefe777@ssrstudio.com
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Pop Music, Yet [i]another[/i] perspective. (sorry!) It seems that you have already figured out what you like to do best. Don't fight it. Work with it. Find somebody that will do (what you consider) this "grunt" work. Even if you have to pay 'em. If it takes you ...say 4 hrs to get a mix where you want it, you could have put 2 of those 4 hrs into what [i]you[/i] do best, then use the money you'd have (hopefully) made towards "compensating" a mixer you trust. I recognize there are some things I am not good at, and probably ever enjoy. For those things, I try to put in the extra hrs on the job, to make the dough to pay for those things I can't be bothered with. NYC Drew
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[quote]Originally posted by pokeefe777@msn.com: [b]6. The better the arrangement, the better the mixes. I CAN'T STRESS THIS POINT ENOUGH![/b][/quote] I totally agree. I have been in situations where I had to mix stuff where the arrangement or performances stunk and... That's [i]really[/i] not fun. :mad: Fortunately, since I'm doing all the writing/playing/arranging and I'm not under any time constraints, I don't even consider mixing until I'm happy with the arrangement and the rough mixes. [quote]Originally posted by pokeefe777@msn.com: [b]1. You may never learn to "love" mixing. If you don't like it now, you may never like it. But mixing is ultimately about LISTENING! It's a chance to hear things and "get into" things in more depth than is possible while performing. [/b][/quote] I think this is maybe the perspective that I'm missing and that I need to develop. The "fun stuff" for me is writing, performing, recording, and arranging... When I know that the arrangement is there, then I feel like my job is done -- even though mixing is really the final step for bringing clarity to the arrangement. Maybe if I approach it as a way to truly "get into" the sonics behind the arrangment, I might learn to like it a little more. Lots of good ideas in this thread... Thanks, everybody!
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[quote]Originally posted by macle96@yahoo.com: [b]Just curious as to what exactly makes it a drudge for you?[/b][/quote] A couple of things... By the time I'm ready to mix, I am [i]tired[/i] of hearing the song. Although if a song made it to that point and I'm only starting to get tired of it before mixing, then I tell myself it must be an OK song, as I get tired of the bad songs [i]waaay[/i] before then. :D I think my DAW somewhat makes me dread mixing. I am *always* pushing my DAW to the limit with EQ, compression, and reverb plugins, and inevitably I end up having to print new tracks with effects. Then I have to take notes on the effects settings I printed... (Murphy's law dictates that if I *don't* take notes, then somewhere later in the mix I'll need to get those effects settings again. :mad: ) Lastly, I'm not too concerned with getting my mixes to compete on a one-to-one basis with multi-million dollar productions -- as long as the mix matches the way I hear it in my head, I'm happy. I know how to get a mix to that point, but -- I think this is the main reason for my drudgery -- [b]there's usually not much creativity needed to get there, because most of the creative stuff happened in the writing/performing/arranging stage.[/b] The way I work, mixing just clarifies what's already been done... I generally don't approach mixing as a heavily intertwined part of the production (like, say, any Daniel Lanois, Brian Eno, or electronica album). I know there are many engineers -- sometimes it's dependent on the style of music or the way the song was produced -- who will cross their fingers and hope they'll be able to make it all work when they get to mixing... I don't really work that way, minus a few odd bits here and there. If the arrangement and the rough mixes work, then I know the mix is gonna work too... It's just boring to put in all the hours to get to that stage. [quote]Originally posted by macle96@yahoo.com: [b](what happened to happiness is putting all your faders up, and it sounds good! :D )[/b][/quote] That's still true, but just because it sounds suprisingly good for simply putting the faders up doesn't mean that it's good enough for other people to hear! :D [ 12-30-2001: Message edited by: popmusic ]
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[quote]Originally posted by macle96@yahoo.com: [b]I see. Well, eventually someone will come out with software that will automatically mix, with different presets: George Martin Abbey Road mix, that Lord Algea dude mix, that Albini dude mix. Just press a button. Macle[/b][/quote] Do you think they'll invent this software befor the software that actualy write the songs? And then they'd probably have to invent a software that simply f*ck the artist... :D

Rotshtein Danny - Studio Engineer

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Visit DarlingNikkie.com To discover the sounds of "Darling Nikkie"(aka Jade 4U). . . .

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Interesting thoughts... I imagine that in the not too distant future, there will be computer "artist modelling" software, for performance, writing, and mixing. You'll be able to pull up a "Fab Bass" model that will give you a McCartneyesque bass part, and you'll probably be able to morph that with certain elements of the "60's Detroit" bass player model and come up with a part that combines elements of Jamerson and Macca. Like the current Amp and synth modelling software, it will, of course, be a great tool that will be creatively used by some people and abused in a negative way by others... What leads me to believe that this is going to happen? Well, there's already signs that things are heading in that direction. Algorithmic composition programs (Jammer / BIAB) are old news, computer generated actors for movies have been played around with for some time, programs like Steinberg's "Free Filter" allow you to ape the overall frequency response of another mix, and of course, instruments and amplification / mics have been modelled for years now... Will this lead to the total elimination of musicians and engineers? Probably not... no more than drum machines spelled the demise of "real" drummers... but I do forsee that it will get abused, and, at least for a time, could adversely affect musicianship levels - much as sampling, autotuning and computer editing have done. And before I get flamed for that last comment, let me just say that all of these things are just TOOLS - and tools are not evil - they can be used for good purposes, or be totally abused... that's not something the tool decides upon, but rather, it is in the hands of the user. Just as there are legitimate uses for all the current tools, and abuses thereof, so too shall it be with ANY such new tools. You can use a knife to cut your steak or kill someone - it's not the knife, it's the person that wields it. Phil O'Keefe Sound Sanctuary Recording Riverside CA http://www.ssrstudio.com pokeefe777@ssrstudio.com [ 12-30-2001: Message edited by: pokeefe777@msn.com ]
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Well Popmusic, let me put it this way: I would love to shoulder the burden of mixing your music. For an hourly fee of course. ;) :D Sorry. I almost always look forward to mixing. To each his own, though. (I fully understand your position, and you have my empathy.) -Danny

Grace, Peace, V, and Hz,

 

Danny

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[quote]Originally posted by Danny M: [b]I almost always look forward to mixing. [/b][/quote] What is it about mixing that you look forward to? Just trying to find more "fun" things about mixing other than "it means you're almost done"... :D
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[quote]Originally posted by popmusic: [b] What is it about mixing that you look forward to? Just trying to find more "fun" things about mixing other than "it means you're almost done"... :D [/b][/quote] I'll try to put things into words in the best way I can: I love soloing a track and sweeping the EQ to cut out low mid "mouthiness," or nuking an irritating chunk of an electric guitar's harmonic content. I love hearing drums gain power and "thwack." I love hearing guitars gain focus and richness. I love taking the tracks that I've kept (mostly) mono throughout tracking and panning them out. (It's like a flower that blooms on command, and you can change the arrangement of the petals if you don't like it the first time.) I love putting a subtle effect on a track to give it a special character. I love putting a wild effect on a track and discovering something. I love hearing all those dry tracks take on new meanings and feelings as reverb is added. I love seeing what happens when you turn all the knobs on an effect as far as they will go. I love the problem solving and creativity. I love figuring out what's clashing with what. Basically, I just love the process. -Danny

Grace, Peace, V, and Hz,

 

Danny

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Sounds good to me Macle, but since a lot of what you're deciding in this scenario is "production", (and I LIKE doing the production...) I think I'd like my computer "assistant" to be named "Geoff", have the voice of a 23 year old Englishman, and smoke virtual Everest cigarettes... Everything else sounds perfect! Phil O'Keefe Sound Sanctuary Recording Riverside CA http://www.ssrstudio.com pokeefe777@ssrstudio.com
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You'd think some voice-activated stuff could be incorporated into some DAWs today. Y'know, simple stuff, like "stop", "rewind", "play", "punch in" (you could tell the program where you want the punch in point to be), "new track", etc. I've used some voice-activated stuff, and while it's still not 100% perfect (I'm told it gets better the more you "train" the voice activation software), having a "hands free" DAW for tracking would come in handy for solo home studio guys who have a guitar around their neck (it's a pain trying to do a bunch of mouse/keyboard commands while hanging onto a guitar) or are laying down a track somewhere that's physically somewhat far away from the mouse/keyboard. And yeah, I'll take that Geoff model as well. ;) [ 12-31-2001: Message edited by: popmusic ]
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If you're mixing with a mouse I can understand how you can get annoyed. Having a hardware controller could make a difference. It seems a lot easier when you can close your eyes and adjust the fader moves by touch while focusing on the music.

Mac Bowne

G-Clef Acoustics Ltd.

Osaka, Japan

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I fucking HATE mixing. I am an engineer producer, non performer, hired gun. I LOVE: Tracking & overdubbing Conterpoint invention Harmony creation Structure selection Recording folks & playing it back :mad: But the final blend? YUK! A nessesary evil, a task that must be done & I do it. Least favorite part of the overall production.. I sweat blood doing it. :)

Jules

Producer Julian Standen

London, UK,

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[quote]I am *always* pushing my DAW to the limit with EQ, compression, and reverb plugins, and inevitably I end up having to print new tracks with effects. Then I have to take notes on the effects settings I printed... (Murphy's law dictates that if I *don't* take notes, then somewhere later in the mix I'll need to get those effects settings again. ) [/quote] I dunno about Pro-Fools and stuff, but in SONAR you do it this way: 1. Have your track(s) with whatever effects you want 2. Do "Bounce to Track" to a new track w. effects on 3. Archive and Hide the original track(s) Voila - processor unloaded, but you still have the original IF you need to go back. This not only unloads the processor, it alsos sorta-forces-you to "commit" (if ever a little, since you CAN go back) to something, and I think this "everything is changeable until the CD is pressed" mentlity of a DAW is actually *BAD* for creativity!!!!! :eek: !!! Coz I remember when I did 2-casette deck overdubbing with my home built computer and home build software ( [url=http://www.master-zap.com/presskit/oldies.swf]see here[/url] , [url=http://www.mp3.com/youngzap]hear here[/url] ) it was super-commit :) you played (to some primitively programmed backing) until you got the first one right, then overdubbed the second to the tape of the first live, while singing on top, and repeated that until you got it right... and then you had your master :) Aaah those were the days. :) /Z
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[quote]Originally posted by popmusic: [b] I think my DAW somewhat makes me dread mixing. I am *always* pushing my DAW to the limit with EQ, compression, and reverb plugins, and inevitably I end up having to print new tracks with effects. Then I have to take notes on the effects settings I printed... [/b][hr] You actualy use a pen and paper... We are in the digital age, and you are using an Digital Audio Wrokstation :D All DAW I've worked with, have an option to save the plugin setting. So make a folder for each song, and save all plugins - thay why you can turn them off without any cpu load... [b] That's still true, but just because it sounds suprisingly good for simply putting the faders up doesn't mean that it's good enough for other people to hear! :D [/b][/quote] Nothing wrong with rough mixes... If you read around you'll see that a lot of pro's prefer their rough mixes as opposed to mixes that took days... Ant Fucking is nice, but sometimes you loose the feel of the song.. So ask your self - why do I do all this Sh*T for? Are you just having fun in the studio ? So only do what you like... Do you hope to release a track? most A&R will recodnize a good track and will pay for a pro to mix it. Bottom line : If you tried to hard - it wont work. Just have fun. Rough mix your song as you go. In the end you'll suddenly find that you rough mixes sound way better, and you might even start enjoying the process. HTH Danny

Rotshtein Danny - Studio Engineer

Jingles show-reel

 

Visit DarlingNikkie.com To discover the sounds of "Darling Nikkie"(aka Jade 4U). . . .

New exciting project Goddess of Destruction

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