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Do We Obsess Too Much?


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I love this quote from Curve: "I believe our audiences appreciate the results of our experimentations much more than we realize sometimes. They LIKE the freaky-deaky stuff we come up with. They don't necessarily care HOW we come up with it, and they ESPECIALLY don't care if it's "real" or synthesized. They just know what they like, and if it sounds good, it IS good." He also goes to point out obsessing over miniscule individual elements for hours (e.g. a hihat, snare, shaker, whatever). I've gone over this topic for years, so I feel a kinship with Curve and a magazine writer a year ago. I get hired to mix some people's projects because they love how my mixes sound. I work a certain way, with certain goals in mind. One of those goals is to do mixes where each element has its space, but yet it gels with the other elements. I would say that's many people's underlying goal. For a couple of years now, I've worked with a variety of producers who live to "solo". Bring up the kick, process that (effects, EQ, etc.), bring up the snare, mute the kick, give it the treatment, etc. There never is a case where everything is brought up to hear what needs to be done...it's all about how each element sounds, with NO care as to how it fits in the overall picture. I HATE working like that. My point is...there are a LOT of people who work like this, particularly in "urban" and "electronic" music. But NOBODY buys a record for the snare drum. People may just want it to sound good...clear and audible. We want our projects to hit the shelves with a sound that satisfies us, but do we obsess a little too much getting that sound? Peace
If at first you don't succeed, keep on sucking 'til you do suck seed!
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There is a danger of not seeing the forest for the trees, like your solo-happy friend. I find that it requires a fair amount of obsession to get the overall sound so that it's very accessible to the listener- so they can just step inside and live in the song for a while. But it's easy to geek out. I want to record things that bear hundreds of listenings over years, not just to sell the record one month and forget it the next. So I obsess a bit... but when something sounds right, that's it, I don't touch it.

A WOP BOP A LU BOP, A LOP BAM BOOM!

 

"There is nothing I regret so much as my good behavior. What demon possessed me that I behaved so well?" -Henry David Thoreau

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What's the point in obsessing over individual elements if the end result is garbage? I'd much rather spend my time making sure the songwriting is at the top of the craft and the performance is captured. I can't work by inspecting even miniscule detail. Complusive behavior like that is why, for example, MJ's "Invincible" is now invisible...

Yamaha (Motif XS7, Motif 6, TX81Z), Korg (R3, Triton-R), Roland (XP-30, D-50, Juno 6, P-330). Novation A Station, Arturia Analog Experience Factory 32

 

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I do understand your point, but I do tend to solo alot during the earlier stages of mixdown. Keep in mind, Im a producer and not an engineer, so most of what Im doing will revolve aroung the lead vocal and the melody, and I really need to know where the power/groove/soul of a song is, and where it isnt. Initially I like to hear where the frequencies are compared to the lead vocal to help me determine that. I do it just to listen to see if certain frequecies need to be seperated from on another. Usually I have a good engineer who's on top of that for me, like if I have too many things sharing the lows-mids for example I have to solo keys, vocals, sometimes the bass, to kind of curve out all the frequencies I dont want there. Mostly if Im doing R&B, I want the vocals real big and up front. The sub bass and bass need "tuning" then you want nice mids without your keys taking too much away from your vocals. I dont mind guitars sharing the middle space because it doesnt hurt the track as guitar is much lower in the mix, at least in R&B or Neo soul etc. Once Im confortable with my mids and subs in the mix, then I agree, it's time to go for a big picture mix and determine what tracks add to the groove, and what tracks are hurting the song etc. Most of the time things sit well if recorded well but every verse or so, you get certain words or phrases that arent intelligible but the rest of the mix sounds fine. Usually a little soloing and eqing will fix this, and you can move on.
TROLL . . . ish.
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[quote]posted by MusicWorkz: [b]What's the point in obsessing over individual elements if the end result is garbage? I'd much rather spend my time making sure the songwriting is at the top of the craft and the performance is captured. I can't work by inspecting even miniscule detail. Complusive behavior like that is why, for example, MJ's "Invincible" is now invisible...[/b][/quote]This was basically the point I was making in the post that aliengroover had paraphrased. It's the vibe that folks are looking for in your music. If the vibe is right, you don't have to polish every little bit to perfection - most likely you'll kill the vibe this way. But we still want works that we are proud of in their technical excellence, so some obsessing can be productive in that regard. One has to find a balance.

Eric Vincent (ASCAP)

www.curvedominant.com

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Soloing tracks has it's place, for sure. It's just when each track gets it's EQ etc. based on how it sounds soloed, then even more EQ becomes necessary for other elements to compete. Not that I'm the Wiz or anything, but I like to try to get used to the unhyped straight up (hopefully carefully tracked) sounds first, and then add processing carefully here and there to optomize the overall sound. A hard balance to strike is during tracking- it's so crucial to get the sounds right to begin with, and so easy to bog down and lose momentum. No substitute for experience (i.e., making a lot of mistakes!)

A WOP BOP A LU BOP, A LOP BAM BOOM!

 

"There is nothing I regret so much as my good behavior. What demon possessed me that I behaved so well?" -Henry David Thoreau

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This is such a funny thread to me. Mainly because it's true. The guy who tracked our last album is a good friend. In fact, the drummer from my band and I are in his band as well. This guy is VERY meticulous about everything -- he loves to solo instruments, and he will spend HOURS mixing stuff to get it the way he wants it. He loves that part of the recording process. He's got great ears, and he'd constantly present us with "alternate" mixes of our stuff. He really gets into EQ, compression, etc. To me, recording is all about the song and the take. Mixing is kinda boring to me. I'm definitely far more interested in the big picture when it comes to recording. I wanna get the songs down when the band is hot, do minimal experimental overdubs and be done. He hates that. I'm bored silly listening to him EQ the kick drum 36 ways and compressing the bass -- "Ya think it needs more 1k?" Jeez.. I dunno. I can't even hear anymore. It sounds like a bass to me. Needless to say, he'd cringe a little when I'd come into the studio with walkie talkies and some friends and tell him I wanted to track gang "whisper" vocals with them and to run the mess through a wah for a filter and a ton of delay for "texture." He made sure all my bass takes were PERFECT for his record. His vocal harmonies could cut glass. His guitars are doubled without a glitch. Nothing appears on this album unless he specifically wanted it there. Our album has a lot of odd crap on it. Dumb little things I said when the tape was rolling appear before our songs start. The aforementioned walkie talkies were used with delay to make a pseudo-theremin instrument for one track. We even re-created a scene from [i]Goodfellas[/i] just for kicks. I recorded divergent guitar solos for one song, and left them both up in the mix at the same time for a textural effect. You can hear our bassist screaming at the end of one track because he bumped his head on a doorframe as he dropped his bass onto the stand. It's messy and kind of wacked, but that's us. I am pretty sure that nobody who listens to my band could give a crap about 1k, compressors or "texture." That stuff is definitely just for us. The overall musical effect is what matters to them. I try not to lose sight of this. Somehow, between our semi-clashing ideologies, we have managed to record two albums that make us ALL proud. His CD is definitely "cleaner," while ours has more "attytood." He wanted to make an album that shows off his songwriting and engineering abilities. We wanted to make an album that represents our live sound pushed a little further. Ultimately, when people get to hear them, I think both will achieve what they set out to accomplish -- his record will appeal to recording heads and pop lovers, and ours will appeal to obnoxious kids who just want to jump around and throw things at each other. Both were labors of love. Ain't music great?

\m/

Erik

"To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting."

--Sun Tzu

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I knew a producer who cut 75 masters of a tune. He couldn't sell the tune, so the masters just sat. Eventually he did get a deal, so he pulled out the masters to listen to them and pick the best one. Know what? He couldn't tell the difference among all the different versions. All those little tweaks that seemed so important at the time meant nothing.
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If anything is worth doing, it is worth overdoing to the point of harmful obsession. My method also makes use of the solo button, with the idea being that I want to put everything under the microscope individually at first, and then put the whole mix under the microscope a bit later. What helps in the process is soloing with the whole product in mind. -Danny

Grace, Peace, V, and Hz,

 

Danny

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