Thread: The Mixing Learning Curve

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  1. #41
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    Default Re: The Mixing Learning Curve

    With enough of that kind of interaction, you can get to the point that you are prepared to make future decisions on your own that will result in mixes that successfully convey the music as intended by the artists, and as desired/enjoyed by the audience.
    +1

    At the beginning you find yourself aiming for certain sounds you've already heard (learning by imitation), and then after a short while you realise there's more to it than that, and you start creating your own goals to achieve based on what you've got to work with, what is physically possible, and most importantly what will really WORK. I'd love to say that's one of the turning points, but it's not really a point, I think it gradually happens (or at least it did for me).
    I'm probably talking shit.

    "Mixing most 'heavy' records is like trying to find order and lucidity in a recording of a Cathedral Pipe Organ, all stops out, randomly veering between Handel's Messiah, Ginestera's 2nd and a coupla Bach Fugues, in a Titanium kitchenware foundry, while a gaggle of enraged PCP snorting gorillas with bullhorns conduct a demolition derby with cement mixers against the soothing cacophony of a nearby landslide/tsunami/heavy artillery exchange."- Slipperman
  2. #42
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    Default Re: The Mixing Learning Curve

    I think one of the turning points (or phases) is when you begin to realize how much creative control you actually have as a mixer, or as a producer, or even as an engineer for that matter.

    The music is conveyed through sound (unless it is just notes on a page of sheet music). Without the sound, the music is pure concept. So the musician understands the basis of the music in theoretical terms, but whoever chooses and plays the instruments, and whoever captures them in recorded form, and whoever assembles and polishes the final mix, they control what the music really ultimately turns out to be.

    A simple example of this is just to imagine sweeping the cut/boost knob on a low shelf EQ set to 120 Hz over the 2 buss of the final mix. Now that's power in shaping what the music ultimately becomes.

    And, of course, it just goes from there in greater detail and finer shades of control in all the various things that can shape a mix.

    This I think is one of the most significant realizations a mixer can have, and the same goes in cases such as mine where the composer has recorded his or her own music and is now trying to make it happen as a final mix. You see just how much work, thought, and clear comprehension it takes to realize the original vision and translate it into something people can hear and fully enjoy.

    I was a bit shocked five or six years ago when I went from being a musician who had spent years and years mostly practicing various instruments and improvising, to one who was trying to make completed recordings. It was then that I really woke up to the fact that the recording process is one more big challenge along the way to creating and sharing good music, and it's one that has all its own obstacles that have to be overcome and skills that have to be mastered before the whole process can come together in anything approaching a professional form. It is in this way that you unlock the music and give final manifestation to the composer's idea.

    That was long winded, but I'm trying to make the point that the mixer is intimately connected to the process of music making, and that is one of the biggest thresholds that one has to cross in progressing towards being someone who excels at that particular part of the process.
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  3. #43
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    Default Re: The Mixing Learning Curve

    My turning point was realizing how much I was capable of completely screwing things up!
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  4. #44
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    Default Re: The Mixing Learning Curve

    My turning point was realizing how much I was capable of completely screwing things up!
    Ah, yes, the other side of the coin. Draining the artistry out of everything you touch.

    Yea, I think that's how it starts for everyone. I was saying to myself for a long time "what is wrong with me that I can make everything sound so damned awful??? Is that my special skill??"
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  5. #45
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    Default Re: The Mixing Learning Curve

    Oh dear, Bob, I forgot to list mastering engineer among the people with creative control. My bad.
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  6. #46
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    Default Re: The Mixing Learning Curve

    My turning point was realizing how much I was capable of completely screwing things up!


    ...same here! Mostly due to lack of knowledge. Back in the 90s my bandmates and me were trying to record a demo. So we've bought some gear - a used fostex 8-track reel2reel, 16/2 HK mixing desk, microphones (some basic dynamic stuff, no sm57, no royer, no ldc) and tried to get our hands on it. Don't know how long we've been fiddling around to make it sound somewhat decent but it was a h o r r i b l e kind of puzzle work. No compressors. No effects. Back then we didn't even know that something like that existed. Somewhen we had the glorious idea to run the vox through a guit-effect-pedal and added some reverb/delay stuff to it. We were blown away by the result and thought, that's an awesome innovation. So we had a gig some time later in a town nearby, open-air. Time to reveal our newest gimmick. I'll never forget the look on the soundguy's face when we told him we wanted to run the vox through that stomp box. And he'll never forget the look at our faces when he told us there's an effect unit in his rack, especially developed for such cases. Embarassed doesn't nearly close enough describe the feeling we had in that moment.

    But I guess such things are part of the learning curve as well.
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  7. #47
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    Default Re: The Mixing Learning Curve

    Yea, for the self-educated among us, there was at least one moment (hopefully fairly early on) when we were racking our brains saying "why doesn't it sound like a record, why doesn't it sound like a record???"

    Shortly thereafter we discovered compression.
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  8. #48
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    Default Re: The Mixing Learning Curve

    Oh.

    I dunno.

    I think the day I like anything I've mixed I'm gonna bail out.

    I just try to stay happy to be here and glad that things DON'T get any easier.

    LESS EFFORT = LESS FUN/PAIN.

    In the meantime, in both my work, and my assessments of the work of my peers, I tend to focus more and more on hearing PAST our awkward intrusions and hear the INTENTIONS of the song authors.

    Which, if they have ANY REAL or RESONANT POWER turn us into a largely embarrassing and earthbound footnote which does much more to tie them(our clients) to a specific time period via mix fashion than much of anything else useful.

    In the long run I don't think any one part of the musical chain of fools has done as much damage to modern music's ability to "reach and endear itself to audiences" as the "mix AE" in the last 4 decades or so.

    Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    The framers have taken over the canvas.

    In fact, in terms of IMPACT in the casual perception in recorded music:

    We're pretty much MORE important than the artist these days.

    Not that that is good or cool.

    In fact, in almost every respect: I think it REALLY sucks.

    But, my sad assessment is: It's a sliding floor WE have built as a community of neurotic, micro-managing, technology worshiping, sonic megalomaniacs.

    Now everybody has to live with it.

    Too bad our sliding floor empties directly into a cistern now largely filled with our litany of audio adjustments/lies.

    So... like I said in the front of this post. In the meantime... I just try to concentrate on having fun/learning/growing/whatever in my silly little "adjusting the stereo" efforts.

    Best regards,

    SM.
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  9. #49
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    Thumbs Up! Re: The Mixing Learning Curve

    ^^

    Yum, Slippy, YUM.

    : J
  10. #50
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    Default Re: The Mixing Learning Curve

    I think that as much as it is AE's guilt in gomogenisation of today's music it is a guilt of artists who want to sound like someone else. There were some talk on another thread (about drastic EQing @ University) and while I understood (well, maybe I'm wrong) that it doesn't happen that often with others it was my experience that band rarely (well, never) come to you saying - "just capture our sound and make it as original as you can".
    And that fuels many of todays ugly phenomena in AEing. Like volume wars. One example of this is the mastering of debut album by the band MUTEMATH. It is crushed to hell and in fact it was mastered by the member of the band (singer/keyboardist), and the album was released first by their own label and later distributed by Warner, so I think (on the beginning) there was no pressure from the label people on how loud should it be.

    Yeah, and on the subject. I'm learning by myself with a big help of this place! When I started my attempts at mixing and started to look for some advice I often heard folks claiming that the sound is in some "magic trics" or "magic gear" or that band X sounds so cool because it cost $XXXXXXXX to record an album (I don't mean that money doesn't help=)). I remeber reading one comment by one guy who runs pretty well-equipped studio, who wrote - now I have the gear that is used on major american releases but it still doesn't sound that cool. The biggest revelation to me was when I came to the womb forums and read Slipperman's stuff and I felt that it is PEOPLE and THEIR SKILLS and THEIR WORK that make a difference and I have a possibility to learn from them.
    Last edited by meLoCo_go; July 24th, 2008 at 10:50 AM.
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  11. #51
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    Default Re: The Mixing Learning Curve

    In the meantime, in both my work, and my assessments of the work of my peers, I tend to focus more and more on hearing PAST our awkward intrusions and hear the INTENTIONS of the song authors.

    Which, if they have ANY REAL or RESONANT POWER turn us into a largely embarrassing and earthbound footnote which does much more to tie them(our clients) to a specific time period via mix fashion than much of anything else useful.
    This is what you get when you start gazing at your navel folks...

    Slippy's BS detectors are on sale in the foyer...

    Seriously though...

    I agree with your point about "ego mixing". As an artist, I've been a victim of that. *stands up and introduces himself to "the group"*


    However, I think that most people I've spoken to starting out - their first desire is to be "invisible" as a mixer. It's only after they learn what they're doing that the "wilful damage" can creep in.

    I think one of the refreshing things about this post is hearing about that point in time when even the greats amongst us struggled with the basics and the strategies they adopted to deal with it - before everyone started annexing the canvas.

    Got any stories/advice Slippy?

    Any plans to release a video/book/manifesto soon?

    Paulie.
    Cheers,

    Paulie.
  12. #52
    Most friends are "on the inside". Aussie brothel sheep herder
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    Default Re: The Mixing Learning Curve

    However, I think that most people I've spoken to starting out - their first desire is to be "invisible" as a mixer. It's only after they learn what they're doing that the "wilful damage" can creep in.
    Dunno. I sorta think that when I get a mix really right I am quite invisible... but the thing is - how would I know? Your perception of yourself is skewed at best and it's more akin to seeing red color in a dark room illuminated with a red light - you really won't be able to differentiate red colored things of the white ones. Anyone that's ever developed B&W photographs themselves knows exactly what I'm talking about - everything looks red and red looks white... or red, depending on what red is to you at that particular time.

    My point is, nobody can objectively say if they are being visible in the process ot not and thus have no powers whatsoever to steer the outcome into invisibility in any meaningful way. However, we can of course steer the process so that we are visible in every second of the song. But that doesn't mean, that if we ourselves don't see us anymore we really aren't there in plain sight for everyone else to see. We've just been too long in the red dark room.

    I can say that with my best mixes I am not hearing the mix anymore, I am listening to the song. That is as invisible as I can get, but I still can't hear this shit through other people's viewpoint and to them it might still seem all me-colored.
  13. #53
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    Default Re: The Mixing Learning Curve

    I agree with you Holm. I guess what I was trying to say is on a slightly different tack - that most people when they start out are just trying to get the individual instruments to sound good and gel as a whole. Now what your perception of "good" is, as you say, entirely subjective.

    My point was, at a novice stage, a mixer most likely isn't trying to put his or her stamp on it. Merely to get the track to sound appropriate to what's out there.

    Once you learn how to do that, that's when you start trying to impose your "artistry" on a mix.

    Sometimes that brings the magic and sometimes not. Again that's subjective.

    Paulie.
    Cheers,

    Paulie.
  14. #54
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    Default Re: The Mixing Learning Curve

    Ahh...

    I just re-read my last post.

    I'm so full of shit.

    Whatever.

    Just ignore me.

    Have a blast, do yer thing, damn the torpedos as long as you keep sailing with the very best of intentions.

    It's why they hired ya.

    If it's NOT why they hired ya...

    Fuck 'em.

    Let 'em go to somebody else.


    The process is a marriage, ya don't uphold yer end of the bargain by doing the "seen and not heard" bullshit.

    Not unless you're a fucking pussy.

    And nobody but pussies like a fucking pussy.

    Dead soon.

    Smash everything in joyous noise.

    XOXOXOX

    SM.

    PS. Go ahead, shoe me in the nutz. I love it.
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  15. #55
    D minor, the saddest of keys! Holistic Hooligan
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    Default Re: The Mixing Learning Curve

    I just wanna say this, and I am nowhere near an experienced mixer.

    But the most important click I made was when I stopped trying to do it right and started trying to make it "rock" (since it was a rock record and all)

    So I said to myself "fuck it, I'll probably do everything wrong, but I don't care as long as it rocks"

    And it turned out a pretty good record that sold a few copies and got some singles on the radio.
  16. #56
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    Default Re: The Mixing Learning Curve

    Sorry about the seemingly conflicting posts.

    I guess they just express the "left and right margins" of my mindset on the subject.

    I suppose the bottom line is.... Ya gotta find a balance that both you and your clients can live with.

    One side usually being "Simple revealing" of what the artist intended, the other side being your "Creative embellishment" to(hopefully) increase the musics impact and focus.

    I don't know if I will ever be at peace with the process... much less the end result.

    As I have said here and elsewhere: If we MUST judge a persons work in mix art(excluding our own work)... then maybe we would be best to focus our attentions on our assessment of somebody's INTENTIONS, more than "hard and fast" judgments of his "sonic choices", as WE WEREN'T THERE. And therefore are LARGELY, and quite possibly WHOLLY ignorant of the UNIVERSE of circumstances and their attendant ramifications which have impacted his end decisions.

    2 of the biggest being: What he was handed as a source recording and the WISHES AND AGENDAS(Sonic and, unfortunately often Political) of his clients.

    Best regards,

    SM.

    PS. I feel like my original kinda morose post sorta killed Charlie's wonderful thread. If so, my apologies. Not my intention.
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  17. #57
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    Default Re: The Mixing Learning Curve

    ...
    And nobody but pussies like a fucking pussy.
    ...


    I do.
    Amongst my favourite things.
    Really.


    but I digress...
  18. #58
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    Default Re: The Mixing Learning Curve

    ...
    As I have said here and elsewhere: If we MUST judge a persons work in mix art(excluding our own work)... then maybe we would be best to focus our attentions on our assessment of somebody's INTENTIONS, more than "hard and fast" judgments of his "sonic choices", as WE WEREN'T THERE. And therefore are LARGELY, and quite possibly WHOLLY ignorant of the UNIVERSE of circumstances and their attendant ramifications which have impacted his end decisions.

    2 of the biggest being: What he was handed as a source recording and the WISHES AND AGENDAS(Sonic and, unfortunately often Political) of his clients.

    ...

    exactly!


    Who decided it should sound a certain way?
    What was he given, and WHY?


    While I make records so that the mixing shouldn't be a big deal (it's all already there), other people make them with the express INTENT that they will take a radical turn to elsewhere in the mixing that will bring it all together into someone's artistic vision. (we call these people: suckers, more often than not, but...)
  19. #59
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    Default Re: The Mixing Learning Curve

    I do.
    Amongst my favourite things.
    Really.


    but I digress...
    Oh dear, how could you have given it that interpretation?

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  20. #60
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    Default Re: The Mixing Learning Curve

    Just thoughts on my own continued development...

    I got married back in May, so before and after the wedding was obviously hectic. Basically I had to forget about audio for 2-3 months ahead of it and maybe a month afterwards.

    So after 3 or 4 months our of the game, what do you think happened to my mix skills? Oddly enough they had improved! Maybe I was subconsciously working on things while I was away from it, but it's amazing how much simpler things are when you spend some time away. Maybe that applies to a lot of other things in life too.

    I wanna quote Bruce Lee here because what I think he had to say about martial arts could be directly applied to what we do -

    "In JKD, one does not accumulate but eliminate. It is not daily increase but daily decrease. The height of cultivation always runs to simplicity.
    Before I studied the art, a punch to me was just like a punch, a kick just like a kick. After I learned the art, a punch was no longer a punch, a kick no longer a kick. Now that I've understood the art, a punch is just like a punch, a kick just like a kick. The height of cultivation is really nothing special. It is merely simplicity; the ability to express the utmost with the minimum. It is the halfway cultivation that leads to ornamentation. Jeet Kune-Do is basically a sophisticated fighting style stripped to its essentials
    ."

    So maybe if a punch is just a punch and a kick is just a kick, then bass is just bass? That is, if I'm struggling to get the low end of a guitar to sound right using a plugin EQ - but I can get it to sound exactly the way I want using something like RBass - then should I waste time debating with myself over why "I shouldn't use RBass because I should be able to get the right sound with EQ"? I would say no.

    In short, my brief time off has taught me to trust my instincts more.



    Pete
    "Yep there are delays and also an old 910 harmoniser on the snare on that album, with the feedback turned up and pitched down to give some length to the snare on BIB. Pretty standard trick in them olden days" - Mike Shipley

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