how do you decide when a mix is done? tweaking and tweaking.

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joninc
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how do you decide when a mix is done? tweaking and tweaking.

Post by joninc » Fri Apr 11, 2008 2:40 pm

lately i am spending more time than ever on mixes and in general - i am much happier with how they are turning out BUT i feel this tension like there is always more i could do - and it's not that stuff is played/recorded or written badly - it's just really micro level stuff and featuring things more prominently rather than a static mix where everything is set and left etc...

how do you guys decide when to stop and move on?

when do you stop tweaking and leave it alone?

(btw i am talking about a pace of maybe 6 or 7 hours on a song as being long compared to previous 3 or 4 hours. and also - the bands i am working with can't afford to work at this new pace - so as a result i have been giving some additional time on the house for my own sense of satisfaction in the end product. considering it the cost of my education i guess - i can't afford to do
much more of that tho either... )

in case you are wondering - i mix with a DAW through a console and outboard so it's not as simple as working for 2 hours and then moving on and recalling to tweak a few things quickly later - i know that might be a different process.
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Post by drumsound » Fri Apr 11, 2008 3:16 pm

Records are never finished, they are merely abandoned.

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Post by joninc » Fri Apr 11, 2008 3:19 pm

HAHAHA. some much needed friday comic relief.

THANKS! :lol:
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Post by Anthony Caruso » Sat Apr 12, 2008 5:43 am

I find that there is a definite time when I can't tell if changes I am making are actually improving the mix. Yeah, it sounds different, but better? I don't know. That's when I "abandon" it (so funny, so true!). And this is usually well after most other people (including engineer-y type friends, not just my mom) think the mix sounds done. My head just gets too far into it. And most times after a week or two of not listening to it, it sounds fine. If the mix is speaking as a whole, it's done.

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Post by asmara » Sat Apr 12, 2008 6:54 pm

Well I am about ready to abandon my current project mixes. After about 4 critical passes and re-listens with a notebook full of minor changes and tweaks I simply cannot stand it anymore. I am also usually the writer and performer of the tracks and so I get numb to the songs and yearn to write new material. Good Luck

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Post by caffiend2049 » Sat Apr 12, 2008 7:30 pm

asmara wrote:Well I am about ready to abandon my current project mixes. After about 4 critical passes and re-listens with a notebook full of minor changes and tweaks I simply cannot stand it anymore. I am also usually the writer and performer of the tracks and so I get numb to the songs and yearn to write new material. Good Luck
That's about how it happens for me as well.
I generally try to get things pretty close and then give it a listening period (a couple of days) during which I note minor changes to make.
After I do those, I usually take a break from those tracks for a week or two and then revisit them after my mind has cleared and a little perspective has returned.

I realize that if you are on time constraints or working with a client this is not always possible....but it is highly recommended.

Luckily, I'm getting much better at recognizing early on which "mistakes" I will grow to appreciate and which will drive me slowly madder.
Sometimes I am still surprised by what bothers me after a week off, though.
bigger and better....sooner than later

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Post by Professor » Sat Apr 12, 2008 7:40 pm

Yup, it's a popular and old saying that no mix is ever finished, you just decide to stop.

That's easier of course when you are working with clients, but harder when it's your own stuff, as it is for so many folks here.

And like so many other things, it depends on a lot of factors. Do you like the music, band, etc.? If not, I'm sure you'll find the mixes are done faster. When we like the project, we work longer. And I just say this straight up to the clients, "I'm doing this because I care about you and the project and I want it done right. If I didn't care, we would be done already." Now, of course, deadlines help whether it's a planned release date, a budget expiring, the next group coming in, etc. and that's where the home/self recorders have trouble. If you're trying to reach some tough example, or the reference recordings aren't matching the sounds on tape (we want to sound like Rush and we play like Green Day or whatever) that can send you chasing your tail in the mix. You have to recognize when the mix might not be able to get to where you want it.

If you have spent more than 3 or 4 hours on true mixing (not editing, overdubs, etc.) in a single session, then it's time to stop working on that song for that day. At that point you won't be making good decisions anyway.
Now this one is tough because it depends on how you are working. If you're running an analog board with lots of outboard, then you probably don't want to switch songs every two or three hours. But if you're in a DAW or runninng across a digital board with recall, then it ain't so bad, and can really help.

I also try to keep my mind focused on what the eventual destination of the tracks is.
If I'm making a 3-song demo for gigs, I'm going to cut myself (and the band) off a little quicker. If it's EP tracks for a self-release, I dig in a little more. When it's an album project, I dig in a lot more, and some times I have to drag the band along with me. But even within an album project, there are the tracks you want to release as singles for airplay, and tracks that are kind of filler/bonus material.

Ultimately, you want to put your best into every project that you do. After all, that's going to go out into the world with your name on it too. What makes it hard is that you have balance this with the reality that every track can't be Bohemian Rhapsody and on every album project isn't meant to be Dark Side of the Moon. Don't chase after cool new techniques on every song - some of them just need a little level, pan ,EQ ,comp , & verb and then need to succeed or fail on their own merit.

-Jeremy

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Post by @?,*???&? » Sat Apr 12, 2008 8:34 pm

It's about ironing out displeasure. Take ADD pills and you will stop feeling. This will be perfect. No more discomfort!!

I do think this a cause for the reason that people say music sucks today.

If the band is medicated in THIS WAY, then they can't possibly know whether what they are creating is good or not.

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Post by drumsound » Sat Apr 12, 2008 9:49 pm

For a more serious post I wil say this.

The reason I like working alone for a good part of the mix is that when the client is called in, they have fresh ears and can instantly hear what's right, wha't wrong and what's almost there.

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Post by mjau » Sat Apr 12, 2008 9:54 pm

@?,*???&? wrote:It's about ironing out displeasure. Take ADD pills and you will stop feeling. This will be perfect. No more discomfort!!

I do think this a cause for the reason that people say music sucks today.

If the band is medicated in THIS WAY, then they can't possibly know whether what they are creating is good or not.
For the sake of clarity, are you saying that ADD medications are the reason why music sucks today?

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Post by rwc » Sat Apr 12, 2008 10:03 pm

I will do one song over the course of a day, at home. nowhere else.

I start out and do stuff that usually makes it way worse. once the song is at a point where a monkey can make it better I start over, knowing what to avoid because I did it to make the shitty initial mix. I listen to other music of the genre to gain perspective and then work towards a final.

After I say "hmm. this doesn't suck", I'm done.

any changes after this will result in a worse product, I make sure to save and backup at this point incase I make a small change thinking "this won't hurt" and hit ctrl-s without saving as another file.

IMO a mix is never finished but there is a point beyond which any change you do to the session will be downhill, not forward. thank god for DAW based workflow and recall so I know when that happens!

I just made that mistake http://messageboard.tapeop.com/viewtopic.php?t=54274 here. I made a quick rough mix, and decided to go back. I made some changes that made it better, then I made changes that I thought made it better that made it sound like crap, but I didn't save as separate files inbetween. so I'm stuck with a session of a crappy mix forever!
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Post by The Gibbon » Sat Apr 12, 2008 10:08 pm

When is the mix done.......A question I ask myself way too much these days. On a recent project with a band that had no experience recording we captured 9 songs, everything live (bleed and all) As I've been mixing I discovered that the number they like the most is the first song I mixed within the first 24 hours....consequently on every other song I seem to be getting further away from the initial intention.

That being said, I'm beginning to feel as though the immediate gut feeling is what I should be trying to maintain rather than trying to make more out of it than it really is. The songs are theirs...not mine...they pay me to capture their energy and the mixes should reflect that simple fact.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I've discovered that sometimes I'll screw with and tweak a mix so far that the client feels a disconnect with their original intention...They seem to be happier hearing something more organic...and now, back to my vodka tonic.

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Post by joninc » Sun Apr 13, 2008 12:41 am

some good thoughts here guys - much appreciated.

it's just really hard work. to create a soundscape that you can really enter into and believe. making space.

i just spent about 65 hours mixing an album this week and today i think it all sounds about half as good as it should. blech. then i put on "heard it through the grapevine" marvin gaye and it sounds brilliant. how did they do it? (don't answer that - seriously). i find it extremely humbling to listen to lots of music that sounds SO good. one day....

the thing for me is that i really feel the stuff i get to work on (i like really most of all the music i record these days) deserves to sound really good. these are artists i really respect who create beautiful songs and sounds - i really want to do them justice.

it's hard work.
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Post by Jay Reynolds » Sun Apr 13, 2008 12:57 am

rwc wrote: I start out and do stuff that usually makes it way worse. once the song is at a point where a monkey can make it better I start over, knowing what to avoid because I did it to make the shitty initial mix. I listen to other music of the genre to gain perspective and then work towards a final.
Thanks for this. I thought I was the only one :D
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Post by Professor » Sun Apr 13, 2008 1:14 am

Ah see, now you're talking about a completely different issue. It's not that you aren't sure when the mix is done, but not sure why you can't get the mix to where you want it.
Specifically, you mentioned a sense of space in a soundscape.
What exactly do you mean by that? Are you looking for more separation between instruments, more depth of field, more spaciousness in the mix?
If that's what you're talking about, then I would also be curious about how you are tracking. Are the instruments mostly acoustic, or acoustically recorded (mics on amps count as acoustically recorded to me), or are you using lots of synth or direct tracks. Are you right up on top of all the instruments or back a little bit? Are all the tracks mono, or are there some stereo tracks? etc.
After that, the question is how are you mixing? In the box or across a console? Are you layering on lots of processing per track (in tracking or mixing) or are some of them passing through without EQ/comp/delays/etc. What about reverbs - are you plugging them in per channel, or doing one or two fed from an aux bus? Are you going for rooms/chambers/halls, or are you using plates, springs or other types of reverbs?

That should be enough questions for now.

-Jeremy

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