Mixing yourself?

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Post by bannerj » Fri Mar 31, 2006 1:44 pm

Fletcher said,
Mixing is only a bitch when you have to spend the bulk of your time doing "resurrection" work instead of "creative" work.
I completely agree with this. And unfortunately what I have to learn to mix at this point is my own tracking. I wish I could learn to mix on tracks that Fletcher or some one better had tracked so that I could hear what it should sound like from the start, but alas my learning curve includes my amateur skills. And most of the people I get to work with are not prepared technically or arrangement wise to track things live. They are using the studio as a writing tool. So there is already that pasted together feeling of their performances that I have to work against.

I tracked a day of prepro for a friend all live. Five players with a full drum kit...three mics on drums...into my 5050 8track. Yes yes it was very easy to mix. The performances already had "the vibe" and the sonic glue and gel and all that shit that everyone says a good live perfomance should have. It was a group of pretty well seasoned players too...so I (an acoustic guitar player) didn't have to guess with the drummer what his snare should sound like...which I often find myself doing sometimes.

So I agree with Fletcher that mixing probably should be easier, but it is not yet for me. But even if it is difficult...I still love the chore of learning to get it better next time!

Fletcher also said,
I don't feel that anyone can even start to call themselves a professional until they understand that "getting fired from a gig" isn't personal... it's about being the wrong person to accomplish the goals of the artist/production team.
I really like that you said this. I had to get over this issue within the last year when I lost some business from a guy who still will not tell me why. It has completely changed my attitude. I feel like I am genuinely interested in what is best for the artist and the song and the record instead of being territorial or panicked by aquiring work, and I am positive that this has changed my attitude while working with the people who I am working with.

Fletcher, I wonder what you think of a guy like me charging $20/hour with only three years tracking experience? I explain to each client (which is mostly friends who already know what they are getting in to) where I am at in my development. They have all heard the records that I have already worked on. I explain that I charge the $20 to hold them accountable to my time. I started by charging $100/song, but some of these friends would take advantage of so much time...writing a guitar part in the studio!

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Post by brianb » Fri Mar 31, 2006 8:38 pm

Thanks Fletcher. What a great reminder that, for me, this is just a hobby.

I'm the Studio Projects guy recording into a DAW and even though I've been around and should know better, I can honestly start to convince myself that I'm going to make a recording with this crap I've got that would make Daniel Lanois sit up and take notice.

The reality is that I probably need to buy one or two more things (like for instance the dbx patchbay I bought a few months ago) to get me to the point where I'm not fighting the gear to the point of distraction and leave it at that.

Alright I'm off to actually play some fucking music for a change. Thanks again you pissy old fart.


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Post by Fletcher » Sat Apr 01, 2006 8:37 am

bannerj wrote:I wish I could learn to mix on tracks that Fletcher or some one better had tracked so that I could hear what it should sound like from the start, but alas my learning curve includes my amateur skills. And most of the people I get to work with are not prepared technically or arrangement wise to track things live. They are using the studio as a writing tool. So there is already that pasted together feeling of their performances that I have to work against.
Mixing my tracks wouldn't teach you much that you couldn't learn on your own. My "philosophy" is "ABM" [Always Be Mixing]. When you are getting the sounds together make sure you have signal in solo... but "get the sound" in context. For instance... when setting up drums... we check that each mic is indeed working and coming up where it's supposed to come up and then have the drummer hit that drum individually to get a "rough level". Then the drummer plays the kit [like the microphones aren't there] and we work on getting it to sound like the drum kit in the other room. It ain't rocket surgery... and while we want to make sure the kik moves some air and the snare goes WHACK the fact of the matter is that it's all about the drums being one instrument that needs to sound like one cohesive instrument [instead of a collection of different tones from different instruments].

When we add other instruments... we do a "line check" [signal passing/rough level] then have that instrument play with the other instruments. Like having bass and drums play together. Sometimes the bass sound needs to be tweezed at the amp or in the control room... sometimes the tuning on the kik drum needs to be altered to accommodate the bass sound. The idea is that both of these sounds are going to work together in a cohesive manner when they play together in the song. Now add guitars [keys, Sousaphone, Glockenspiel, whatever] and make sure their sounds work in context to the other sounds... and sometimes it's the other sounds that will need to change a bit to fit the new sound into the presentation.

If you're doing this via the overdub process then you obviously can't go back and tweeze the sounds you've recorded without shit like equalizers, etc. [so if you do that, make notes or hit "save" early and often]... but the idea is that with everything you record you're recording it "for the song" as you'll never hear the individual sound on the radio... only the sound as it relates to the other sounds in the context of the song makes it to the final product.

Some days it just amazes me that they don't teach this shit in recording schools and don't talk about it enough on the internet... it's always this "you need more equipment... BUY, BUY, BUY" horseshit [which I suppose is kind of ironic coming from someone who pimps gear for a day gig]... the fact of the matter is that you need to develop your ears and learn to use your instrument [your studio] to present the artist's intention of their music... to me, that's the crux of the craft... the hardware just makes the job easier and the results come out better... which in turn attracts even better musicians who make you look like even more of a genius because they're giving you so much better sounds and performances that your shit smells like pumpkin fuckin' pie.
Fletcher, I wonder what you think of a guy like me charging $20/hour with only three years tracking experience?

Being a NY Jew let me answer a question with a question... what do you think of a guy like you charging $20/hr.? Is that all your time is worth? Is your time worth more than $20/hr. or less than $20/hr.

I was talking to a friend the other day who was lamenting that he had well of $750k wrapped up in his studio and could only get $60/hr. for the joint... he had a problem with a toilet in his house... he called a plumber, the plumber came; fixed the problem in like an hour and a half and gave him a bill for $150-. There was no "well there's another plumber who'll do the job for $125-, can you match the price" bullshit. The bill was $150- and that's what my friend paid... $150- for 90 minutes of work [a larger hourly rate than this guy's studio gets with a 3/4 million dollar capital investment!!]. The plumber showed up with a "plumber truck" [say it cost him $50,000-] and tools [$25-30k... let's say he was armed to the teeth... $40,000 in tools]... that makes his capital investment less than $100k for his tools of the trade for which he is able to charge a higher hourly rate than my friend with like 8 times the capital invested in his business.

What my friend doesn't realize is that he hasn't created a VALUE for his facility that is greater than $60/hr. There are tons of "sound hotels" in NYC that are more than happy to drop their rate to get bodies in the door... which turns into a continuing downward spiral until you end up with the "very top" studios and a bazillion low level facilities as all the "mid-level joints" will have cut their prices until they've cut their own throats and move onto another business.

Back when I was managing a studio we had a pretty simple formula for how we priced our rates. Our goal was to achieve 85+% occupancy. This studio sold time 24/7/365 [yes, on the odd occasion motherfuckers did work on Christmas!!]. Now the way we got to 85+% occupancy was by doing excellent work. By turning out excellent product with 'house engineers' that were the draw... not the equipment in the room [is this starting to sound at all familiar... like it's kinda the same model you guys with the $20/hr. home studios are kinda running].

When we could sustain 85+% occupancy we'd raise the rates. This would often drop us down to like 50% occupancy... but as we were charging more per hour we were still bringing in the same money. As our occupancy grew back toward that 85+% point we now had the capital to buy additional equipment that would make the work we did sound better when it hit the street... which made more people want to have their recording done at this particular studio... which added to our occupancy rate, which meant we could charge more money to buy more gear [and give the employees pay bumps so they would feel loved and appreciated and part of the team!!]... and the business grew.

There were "rate wars" back then... we just didn't play them. We played a "competency war". We're better than everyone else so we can charge more than everyone else... if you're looking to save money and get a mediocre product... mazel tov... if you're looking for superior product, this is the fucking price... pay it or don't pay it but we're not going to haggle about it [because we had business that wanted to come through the door that was willing to pay our price because we did superior work]. This was an upward spiral.

Y'all can do the same thing if you think about it. If you're booked 85+% of your available time at $20/hr... try charging $30-35 and get your bookings down to 50%. Then, as word gets on the street that you're doing really excellent work... and your occupancy rate begins to climb... make capital investment purchases in your facility that will permit you to do even better work... so you can charge even more for that work [and put a couple extra bucks in your pocket so you can go from Ramen Noodles to "Annies" Mac and Cheese"!!!!]. Build your client base; build your facility; build your career.

Rule number one of any business... if a buyer is willing to buy, and a seller is willing to sell... and they can agree upon a price for the transaction then you have established the value of the item. In your case you're selling your services and time in your facility. In this case they're buying your services and time in your facility. If you can only book 1/2 your available time for $20/hr. then you need to improve your level of work, and get word on the street that you do a superior level of work.

Satisfied customers is the best way to get word on the street... [Ads do a little... but there are so many in the local music rags and frankly they all say the same shit so the only thing that might attract customers would be low prices so that's kind of a jerk-off]. When you're not recording go meet the people in your area. Introduce yourself. Go to their gigs and say "hey"... I mean if you're only working 50% of your available time then you should work on promotions the other 50% of your available time so you can get to the point where you're working 85% of your available time and your satisfied customers are out there doing your promotions for you [by saying "we got this fucking amazing sounding album from ____ at _____ studios... you should give him a call... believe it or not, that's the way "word of mouth" actually works].

So you ask me what I think of a guy like you with 3 years of experience charging $20/hr.? I don't give a fuck. What do your clients think of a guy like you with 3 years of experience charging $20/hr.... that's what matters.

In a few minutes I'm going to leave the house and drop my daughter off at her "Cheerdance" rehearsal then head off to the studio for the day. I have an overdub session today. Last night we did a replacement B-3 part [with my B-3 that's been living at a friend's studio for the last decade or so and two Leslie 122's... I got a hardon that could have cut glass!!!], and because of the new B-3 part we went back and reworked the electric guitar parts to match the meanness of the new "B-3" part. Today we're going to recut the vocal so it's as tough as the other stuff we cut last night, then if there's time recut the acoustic guitar part and maybe add some percussion. The bass player will drop by to "toughen up" his part at some point in the future.

So... what do YOU think of a guy with 30 years of experience doing this shit for free? I think it's fucking awesome because I love the band, and am teaching two of the new kids who work at M-A how to "be engineers".

I have a guy coming in next week to cut some guitar stuff. I'm charging him $150/hr. $100/hr. for me; $50/hr. for the room. That's a "cash money gig"... I really don't give a fuck about the guys record [which doesn't mean I won't do everything short of killing myself to get the guy exactly what he wants]... but in reality "I'm only in it for the money".

Oh... and at the end of the night last night when I ran a rough mix of the song... the faders were pretty much in a straight line at around -5 across the console... and the instrument separation was good, and the relative volumes about right... because I was "mixing" the entire time I was recording.


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Post by @?,*???&? » Sat Apr 01, 2006 12:01 pm

drumsound wrote:I'll mix a song on spec.
Me too. This is what I usually do to procure a gig. I can beat what I'm given if I've always given a reference of the original.

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Post by bannerj » Sat Apr 01, 2006 1:10 pm

Fletcher....thanks for your thoughts on mixing and business...wish I could sit in on one of your sessions. The 85% rule seems great if I was in a city that had a bigger music scene. I am a teacher by day and do this in the evening/weekends for many of the same reasons that you might do extra work on a project for free. I want to be a part of the creative process and help friends who might not otherwise get a chance to document their ideas. If I wasn't married I might even pay money to sit in on sessions...I love this so much. Of the spare time I have...my wife would say I am at 110&. Maybe I need to raise my rates.

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Post by joelpatterson » Sat Apr 01, 2006 9:22 pm

Raise your rates.

You're worth it. I say that without having ever heard anything you've done, just because of your attitude. If you keep your rates low, you'll never be able to transition out of teaching and into working in audio full time.

The people I work for have this orientation: they want really exceptional quality. They're not "shopping around for the best deal" or anything like that. When I tell them what the rates are, then they do a little calculation of how much of what they want to do they can afford. Maybe they'll have to split their project into chunks. Maybe they'll only do three songs instead of all of them at once. If I was charging $5,000/hour instead of $50/hour, well then yeah maybe they'd give up.

But no customer in their right mind is gonna say, "gee, there must be someone else who's only $45/hour, and then I'm saving almost 10%!" They want brilliant, stunning, rockin' quality. They don't want to go where it's $60/hour on the chance that quality might be 10% better... they've found what they want, and they'll pay whatever it takes.

This is the heart of the whole entire matter: even the best gear on earth CANNOT MAKE DECISIONS. IT DOESN'T KNOW WHEN THINGS ARE "RIGHT." You only get that with a person who's living and breathing this stuff constantly. Be that guy. Be the guy when they hear your stuff their eyes grow big as saucers.
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Post by joeysimms » Mon Apr 03, 2006 12:14 pm

stop it Patterson, you're making way too much sense. plus, you don't have any race care analogies going, wtf??
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