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joninc
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 29, 2015 4:48 pm    Post subject: Mix Objectivity / revisions Reply with quote

i am working on a project where there's been a lot of mix revisions.

It's typical for me to present my initial mix to the artist and then tweak a bit to their tastes. Maybe end up with 3 revisions or so.

On this project we pushing like 7-12 mixes of every song. That's a lot more and that means a lot more time and $.

I don't dictate to the artist when they have to stop - they are paying for my time and ultimately the mixes need to meet their satisfaction more than mine but they are also coming to me in part because of my own experience/taste/style and I will try to respectfully let them know when I think we are going beyond what's noticeable or beneficial. Usually it's not an issue as the budget dictates that we can't do too many rounds of revision but once in a while I will work with an artist who appears willing to go to almost any lengths to get every detail to their liking - and I guess that really there's nothing inherently wrong with that. Most people just can't afford it.

I guess I want to find ways to explain the process so that it's less painful for some artists to realize that perfection is not attainable. And there's no way that one album can sound like all your favorite things from 20 different albums.

But as you know - there's a lot of different choices that you make during the process and turning down the bass doesn't just make the bass quieter - it makes the mix feel leaner too, maybe it makes it feel more open... What I mean is that the tracks aren't isolated elements that don't affect one another when you adjust them, the whole picture shifts, however subtly. I almost wonder if it would handy to have a little FAQ doc that helps explain "how to listen/what to listen for" etc.. Does anybody do that?

Also I am also trying to find ways to encourage them to take listening breaks for a few days for the sake of objectivity without being condescending because many artists will listen to the mixes almost obsessively. I take listening breaks - they should too.

So - this isn't meant to be a "diss on detail-oriented artists" thread at all.

I would just love to hear how many mix revisions you guys typically do for an artist or band and ways you've found to help artists be objective about their own work (which is very hard!) - specifically in evaluating mixes.
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kslight
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 29, 2015 6:53 pm    Post subject: Re: Mix Objectivity / revisions Reply with quote

I personally think that 7-12 different mixes per song is fine, not excessive at all...as long as you're getting paid for it. I think it's respectable that they strive for perfection, in the days of total instant recall of your mixes (unless you are OTB..) IMHO the only reasons not to do so would be time and money. Many projects I've worked on certainly could have benefitted from a surplus of both!

But yea, I see the other side where there is a point of diminishing returns, and or new changes making old changes not so great ideas anymore, etc.. They will have to let go, eventually, if they ever want to release. I kind of look at it though, that if you were making a record in "the good old days" and the band was attending the mix session, you would be making these revisions as they sit there, but since you are not (I'm assuming) working that way then going back for revisions isn't uncommon.

The last record I mixed that was from the outside (as in, I didn't perform/co-write the music) I did several revisions of each song, over the course of I think almost two years…not constant work, just the guy was kind of flakey and not communicating sometimes. Songs I mix that are on the inside, though often go under serious scrutiny…but that is because I am producing/arranging as we go as well, and the songs may change as a singer gets on it, etc… But these felt much better after letting them go for a long period of time and returning fresh.


Often when I work on an album I'll set a baseline off one of the songs where I'll take that to where they are happy and then use that as a reference for the other songs. That doesn't always work if the songs are pretty different, but usually prevents there from being tons of revisions.

Maybe tell the client you are going on vacation for a week, and that they should also take a vacation from the songs and then schedule a listening session when you "come back."


Last edited by kslight on Tue Sep 29, 2015 7:37 pm; edited 1 time in total
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MoreSpaceEcho
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Joined: 07 May 2003
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 29, 2015 6:58 pm    Post subject: Re: Mix Objectivity / revisions Reply with quote

joninc wrote:
What I mean is that the tracks aren't isolated elements that don't affect one another when you adjust them, the whole picture shifts, however subtly.


this is the crucial point, to me. everything affects everything else, and how you perceive the song as a whole.

i don't really mix any more, so i don't have a whole lot of advice, but i guess i'd say to try and encourage your clients to listen from a more big picture perspective. so instead of focusing on things like "i can't hear the 54th guitar overdub clearly enough", think about "how does this song make me FEEL?"

don't listen for what's "wrong". don't sit there like a scientist, looking for flaws. sit back on the couch with a drink or whatever, listen to the record as a whole. are you tapping your foot? being moved to sing along?

when you listen to records you like, you don't sit there and analyze every little thing. you put it on and enjoy music. try to get your clients to listen to their records the same way they listen to everything else.
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A.David.MacKinnon
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 29, 2015 10:35 pm    Post subject: Re: Mix Objectivity / revisions Reply with quote

MoreSpaceEcho wrote:
think about "how does this song make me FEEL


And there's the rub. Being able to endlessly recall things is a blessing in some ways but what gets lost is the idea of the mix being a performance. So many of the things that I loved about the records I grew up with we're the mistakes. I feel like the bold strokes and happy accidents are getting mixed out of records today. Everything is in its place but you don't have those moments where a new element comes in and its way too fucking loud but sounds amazing because it's wrong.
That said, I'm just as guilty as the rest and the client gets what the client wants. I'm on revision #8 or 9 on a mix project at the moment. Sometimes it's a good thing. Other times I pull up my roughs and feel like they're way better, rawer and focus on the important parts instead of making sure every syllable can be heard in the vocal.
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Nick Sevilla
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 03, 2015 4:38 am    Post subject: Re: Mix Objectivity / revisions Reply with quote

Welcome to "how things are mixed most of the time" World.

Are the artist(s) in the room with you as you mix?
Are their decisions making the songs better overall?
Are they paying attention to what they are changing?
Are they sure about what they are asking for, or just experimenting with different
subtleties?

Sometimes it can be very frustrating to you, as a mixer, to keep making changes.
That is part of the gig.
You must keep going until one of these two things happens:
Either the mix is done to the artists' satisfaction, or the money runs out.
It really is not up to you in either case anyway.

Be glad they are paying you for your time, and try to enjoy the minutiae of obsessively tweaking a piece of music until you vomit. You will gain invaluable experience from this seemingly pointless exercise.

Cheers
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joninc
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 04, 2015 12:35 am    Post subject: Re: Mix Objectivity / revisions Reply with quote

[quote="Nick Sevilla"]Welcome to "how things are mixed most of the time" World.

/quote]

thanks for the warm welcome.
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drumsound
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 04, 2015 5:46 pm    Post subject: Re: Mix Objectivity / revisions Reply with quote

I seem to be in the 2-3 revisions most often. I prefer to mix alone, and the DAW really allows me to work on a few things at once when needed, and that's nice. If an artist wants to keep doing revisions, or even asks for a couple different contrasting mixes, I'm totally cool with that. I want them to be happy. Most clients are happy to have a conversation as to why I think something is better one way or another. I'm happy to explain to them some of the technical things that explain what they are hearing. Things like the aforementioned less bass doesn't just make the bass lower, but it impacts the whole mix. Every once in a while, the client is happy, but on further reflection I'll want to change something. If that happens, I often won't charge for the revision.
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lyman
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 05, 2015 1:54 pm    Post subject: Re: Mix Objectivity / revisions Reply with quote

joninc wrote:
.

On this project we pushing like 7-12 mixes of every song. That's a lot more and that means a lot more time and $.

...

Also I am also trying to find ways to encourage them to take listening breaks for a few days for the sake of objectivity without being condescending because many artists will listen to the mixes almost obsessively. I take listening breaks - they should too.
.


Do you feel like the mixes are getting better because of the 7-12 revisions? Or getting further from the mark? Or are these just really minor tweaks that don't impact the big picture? If it's the former, maybe some clients just need more time to realize and/or communicate their vision. Just curious.

Listening breaks are important, agreed. Short of posting mixes online where clients can listen but not download mixes, probably not much you can do other than advise and hope they listen. Er, I mean don't over-listen. You know what i mean.
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Gregg Juke
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 05, 2015 3:16 pm    Post subject: Re: Mix Objectivity / revisions Reply with quote

>>>>when you listen to records you like, you don't sit there and analyze every little thing.<<<<

Weeellll........


But seriously, do you have reference tracks they have suggested? While you can't make their mixes sound like every one of their favorite records, you can ask them for three of their favorites, and see if you can find the commonalities in them. You could also do a listening session with them re: the reference tracks, and point out differences they may not have noticed (like drums or vox being in completely different worlds). They might start to piece together that you eventually have to make some decisions and stick with them.

GJ
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MoreSpaceEcho
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 06, 2015 1:33 pm    Post subject: Re: Mix Objectivity / revisions Reply with quote

Gregg Juke wrote:

Weeellll........


i know. can be hard to turn that off sometimes. but that's our problem. the band shouldn't listen like that!
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joninc
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 06, 2015 4:40 pm    Post subject: Re: Mix Objectivity / revisions Reply with quote

lyman wrote:

Do you feel like the mixes are getting better because of the 7-12 revisions? Or getting further from the mark? Or are these just really minor tweaks that don't impact the big picture? If it's the former, maybe some clients just need more time to realize and/or communicate their vision. Just curious.
.


better to whom? Laughing

the artist is happier and that makes me happy.

but I think the last several rounds we are going back and forth adjusting things up and down in very sublte increments that don't affect the big picture IMO. I think maybe the artist just needed to hear for himself a bunch of slight variations to feel confident with going a certain way - but it's a costly lesson and i actually feel kind of guilty for charging for this.
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SpencerMartin
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 06, 2015 6:02 pm    Post subject: Re: Mix Objectivity / revisions Reply with quote

joninc wrote:
I think maybe the artist just needed to hear for himself a bunch of slight variations to feel confident with going a certain way - but it's a costly lesson and i actually feel kind of guilty for charging for this.


One thing that might alleviate that feeling is to charge an initial mix rate that includes a free draft (or two) of revisions in the future. I always prefer the client to hear the mix on my system (when possible) for the first time before they take it home and then once more to make any small revisions after they've had time to listen on their own. That way they feel a sense of responsibility and commitment to the decisions that are made. Also, if they want something adjusted it's by the exact amount they settle on in the moment - there's no going back and forth over the course of days/weeks/months.

7-12 revisions definitely seems a little excessive - but kudos to you for going the extra mile to make sure your client is pleased! I'm sure a lot of people would find themselves getting annoyed after that many.
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joninc
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 06, 2015 6:25 pm    Post subject: Re: Mix Objectivity / revisions Reply with quote

SpencerMartin wrote:


One thing that might alleviate that feeling is to charge an initial mix rate that includes a free draft (or two) of revisions in the future. I always prefer the client to hear the mix on my system (when possible) for the first time before they take it home and then once more to make any small revisions after they've had time to listen on their own. That way they feel a sense of responsibility and commitment to the decisions that are made. Also, if they want something adjusted it's by the exact amount they settle on in the moment - there's no going back and forth over the course of days/weeks/months.



I have tried hard to avoid flat rates for anything except mastering (which includes 1 free round of revision on the house) - there's just way too many variables to have the mix or recording process be that open ended. i charge a day rate for my time and we estimate the time needed to do a given thing at the outset. but i also try to be quite clear that if the artist wants to go beyond that time, i am fine with that but they will be charged for it. I used to say 2 songs a day for mixing for "average band production" not i estimate a bit more like 3 songs in 2 days to allow for more time.

also i'd say 90% of the mixing i am doing these days is unattended and often the artists don't live close to me so they listen in their environment, which I find more helpfui anyways. That's their space where they most typically listen to music and it's a better spot for them to be objective in. They aren't used to my system and it should translate to most systems reasonably well.
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SpencerMartin
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 07, 2015 10:59 am    Post subject: Re: Mix Objectivity / revisions Reply with quote

joninc wrote:

also i'd say 90% of the mixing i am doing these days is unattended and often the artists don't live close to me so they listen in their environment, which I find more helpfui anyways. That's their space where they most typically listen to music and it's a better spot for them to be objective in. They aren't used to my system and it should translate to most systems reasonably well.


Yeah, when they don't live nearby it definitely makes sense to do it that way. Out of curiosity, what do you usually send out? Do you do 24 bit uncompressed mixes with headroom intact or do you send 16 bit mixes with some limiting and/or bus compression applied that you'd later remove before mastering?
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joninc
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 07, 2015 1:08 pm    Post subject: Re: Mix Objectivity / revisions Reply with quote

I send out hi res m3s (320 kbps) for approval.

I typically always have some limiting ITB on the mix buss to get it in the ballpark of where mastering will put it. These days I am mastering more and more of the stuff I mix as well so I don't even treat it as a separate process - but if its going to someone else to master i'll turn off the limiting. ]

I want it to sound as finished as possible.
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