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Trying Out a New Mixing Technique...


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They call it the "ear-brain combination" for a reason...I've noticed that ears are really good at acclimating. We all know the stories of people who live under an airport approach path, and "learn" how to tune out the sound.

 

I've been working on a new song, so it's in early stages. I've noticed that when I come back the next day, I might have a "what was I thinking?" moment about the mix, like having the bass too high. But what if the reason why the bass was too high was due to paying so much attention to the drums, or voice, or whatever else, that I tuned out the bass?

 

The odds of that happening when I'm at the actual mixing stage are less likely, because then I really am listening to everything as a unified piece of music. Still, the main changes that I make to a mix are within the first five minutes of listening to it with fresh ears. I can't help but wonder if instead of taking a song from start to finish, I should take, say, six songs up to the mixing stage and then stop. Then when it's time to do the real mix, open one, work on the mix for five minutes, save it, open the next one, work on its mix for five minutes, save it, etc.

 

I'm sort of assuming the end result would be the same, but this approach might get me there faster. Thoughts?  

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That's actually how I work on projects. 

 

I didn't do this as a mixing strategy. It's just the way I work on projects because songs are in different stages of development, so I often work on multiple mixes simultaneously and keep working them up. 

 

However, I did observe that I seem to respond well to that "what was I thinking?" moment or that I see the forest for the trees or whatever. Fresh ears. I never really knew what to make of this, but value fresh ears and perspective.

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My first thought is always "Try it and see if it works for you."

 

It would be a different way of working for me, very different. That doesn't mean it wouldn't work for you, we are all different. And I might learn to like it but there would be some huge changes in my approach. 

Two of the bands I've been in, one of them the most recent of them all, did not have set lists or practice much. That's 16 years of 3 night a week gigging and sometimes more with day gigs etc. 

 

Over time, I would evolve my guitar or bass parts. In many instances, I'd never heard the original version of the song and/or couldn't be arsed to bother with it since the singer played it in a different key or it's that thing where the record might have a choir, strings, horns, organ and piano at the same time, tamborine, drums, bongoes etc. 

And there you are with bass, drums, 2 guitars and 2 singers. It's not going to sound like the song and the crowd doesn't care as long as they can sing along with the chorus and shake their collective ass. 

 

The Motown band I was in dealt with the same thing, so did the Country Top 40 band (you are not getting a Shania Twain song to sound like the record without at least a dozen musicians!!!!). So make that 19 years or so. Habits form, tendencies win out and you become who you are. I can't really argue in favor of any of this but it is who I've become over the years. 

 

I swap between 2 or 3 songs that I am currently allowing to evolve. I'll track anything and everything that comes to mind, knowing that I may only keep a few seconds of one of those tracks, or that I may decide to go in another direction entirely and start over. The part that I really want to be right (and has only been pretty close at best) is the bass line. I'll be tracking that again for High Velocity eventually. I've moved on for now. 

 

I have an interesting time getting a signature lick for a tune, that can take a while and still not happen. Other times, I get it on the first take of the day. 

 

I'll toss in a different drum beat pattern just to see what it does to what's already there. I'll have a bridge come to me from nowhere and toss that in to see if it works. 

In the end, I do decide and the mix always starts with getting rid of everything that I don't need or that gets in the way. It doesn't bother me, I just chop and toss until I've got it back down to something. 

 

That may all sound like Crazy World to you but it's been fun for the most part. It probably takes me a lot longer to get anything done, so it goes. 😇

It took a chunk of my life to get here and I am still not sure where "here" is.
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Personally I like to finish all the material before doing the mixes...not that I don't premix a bit during the writing and recording stage ;)  I like to mix everything one after another no matter how long each one takes just to try and keep consistency so at the end it sounds like everything belongs together instead of various pieces shoved together. Especially when you get into a project that takes a loooooooooooooooooong time! :)

 

Bill

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http://www.billheins.com/

 

 

 

Hail Vibrania!

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2 hours ago, Bill Heins said:

Personally I like to finish all the material before doing the mixes...not that I don't premix a bit during the writing and recording stage ;)  I like to mix everything one after another no matter how long each one takes just to try and keep consistency so at the end it sounds like everything belongs together instead of various pieces shoved together. Especially when you get into a project that takes a loooooooooooooooooong time! :)

 

Sounds like we kind of split the difference. I still regard mixing as a "it's time to mix and stop tracking" process, but getting a realistic balance while tracking seems to help the song take shape faster. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'll try this method. Actually I got a little bit of insight in this direction over the past week or two when I opened some projects I had finished and had a couple of "Wait a minute..." moments, thinking about changing them up as soon as I started listening to them again. Often I get to a stage where I'm so accustomed to hearing what I'm working on that once it's done, I don't go back to it, maybe ever. But after re-hearing what I thought was "finished" and wanting to change what I had done, maybe keeping things fresh would be better. I got the sense that in focusing on each of those projects without anything else to break up the intensity, maybe I was beating them to death.

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