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the Mixing of Acceleration

Discussion in 'Andy Winter' started by rammpeth, Nov 28, 2010.

  1. rammpeth

    rammpeth Member

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    Hey guys, so i was recently talking to someone who knows clearly much more about music than i do (he lives off it, for one) and i told him how much I loved acceleration. Hearing it, he said that he thinks songwriting wise its great but he doesnt like the mix, his biggest complaint being how loud and up front the drums were. Whats your take? personally i only wish the guitars sounded a bit "sharper" sometimes, and wouldve liked to have heard more of the bass.
     
  2. Andy Winter

    Andy Winter Winds

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    Hey there!

    As someone pointed out, I am working on new music right now. So much so that I kind of forgot all about the opening of my forum... eeeh!!!

    Regarding your friend's comment on the mixing - and this is NOT specifically meant for your friend but it is rather a general remark on mixing - and the criticisms of mixes - in general. I will say one thing regarding this issue above all else: That if I had a dime for every time a journalist or other person (be it a fan, musician, engineer, etc.) disagreed with how someone else's music was mixed, I would have more money in my bank account than I could ever dream of.

    It has become this big trend, seemingly, by music listeners and others, to criticize mixes now. Sometimes these people act as if "their" opinion was the golden rule of mixing and that their opinions are above reproach. My belief when it comes to mixing is that everyone should listen to Mike Patton's advice, which states "there is no right or wrong answer, it's all about what works for you and what you think is good".

    Personally, I would have enough respect for a fellow artist to NEVER criticize their mix of a fellow musician or engineer, unless it was blatant and obvious that they either didn't know what the hell they were doing, or if obvious and blatant technical mistakes were made (such as on Metallica's latest).

    In my own case, consider that Age of Silence, like all my projects, are mixed not by a hired producer or engineer, but by the artist who wrote, arranged, performed and recorded the music. Nothing I have ever done so far in my career was just handed off to someone to mix (would that be ever so convenient, but that's not how I work).

    With my music I tend to have a vision from the get-go about how I want it to sound, and I therefore execute that from the first note is composed to the last track is mastered, and for everything in between. This is quite rare in the music industry in general. What is much much more common is that some hot shot mixer or producer is hired in to mix the entire record, and said person will just mix it and give it back to the band (this is by far the most common way music is mixed, and band-input is rarely taken into consideration at all).

    And there are often good reasons for this - because mixing is a very complicated and technical procedure that requires a lot of skill to properly master. Consider that a performance of music might have one kind of volume balance in one part, and can then suddenly sound totally different in another part just a few seconds later, with all the same instruments in place, but only based on such minor variations as e.g. what notes are played on the bass, how loud a singer sings on that word, etc. So one has to "make room" in a mix to make everything come through, and then fine-tune everything to perfection.

    It took me a lot of trial and error over several countless hours before I came to the decision of how I wanted my music to be mixed. I am at this point comfortable about my decisions to not second guess them, as I have done mixing enough times to know what I want and what I don't want, and what I prefer vs. not. So whenever I hear someone simplify it to something like "drums are too much in your face" or "vocals are too loud", etc, etc. I am really lost for words. To do so is, in my opinion, quite disrespectful towards the artist, and perhaps even a bit ignorant. Why is it that some people feel entitled to act like a "besserwisser" when it comes to how someone else's music should be mixed, as if they know that better than the artists themselves?

    I have no idea...

    Then there are also a lot of general (and perhaps very misguided) opinions out there on how metal (in particular, but also other musical styles) "should" be mixed. And from my personal point of view, this is just utter BS. However, if I were to apply that rule against my own personal opinion and taste, then I would say that perhaps as much as 90% of metal is mixed wrong!

    What is the point of having drums there at all if they are just puttering in the far background while the guitars are cranked up to the highest setting? I think this is definitely a symptom of guitarists writing music and being the "band representative" during mixing, and therefore have an idea that their guitars need to be in focus and "steal the show" - so they crank the guitars up beyond belief to make themselves sound good (but at the expense of ruining the record at the same time)...

    When it comes to music, I like dynamics. I don't like everything staying the same volume and I don't like it when the drums or vocals are buried deep down in the mix to where they almost didn't need to be there. A common misconception about drums is that they should be turned down if the loudest point in the mix is the snare, rather than something like a guitar or a vocal for instance. Because the drums (kick and snare) are not "there" all the time, they are only present for a fraction of a second and only a few times for every bar of music.

    So if you want a dynamic mix, don't be afraid of loud drums. In metal in general, drums are under-mixed. Same with vocals, or any instrument that does not deliver a constant amount of sound. Such elements can very easily be turned up quite loudly to give you more dynamics and punch and make the music come more alive. Guitars, for instance, (distorted ones) are more or less the exact same volume throughout most of a metal-based performance. So while you want to hear the details, it is also something that is more static than drums, vocals or even bass. Also they tend to eat a lot of the soundscape. Loud guitars means you often must compromise everything else. Turning them a bit lower will often make everything else come out more. So if you like a balanced mix with everything in focus, this is a way to go. Metal heads will probably like heavy guitars cranked very loud, and don't really care about bass, drums or even vocals. And too often than not, sound engineers will give people what they want, rather than educating them about better ways to do things.

    But as with the drums, the vocals are only there when the singer sings, and in metal, vocals are the least frequently used feature, yet even so it should be the most important thing because it is not just another instrument, it is the voice that "tells the story" and conveys the lyrics. If for some bands, vocals don't matter to them, by all means treat it just like another instrument. This isn't my philosophy, but then my approach is also very non-metal, and more progressive, based on creating an end result with dynamics and fidelity. I don't expect everyone to agree with my philosophies or even like my mixes, but one thing I can at least say is that I do not "need" anyone to second-guess my decisions or think they can tell me better how my music should sound. If I wrote it, I kind of have the "ultimate" say on how it is mixed as well. Just like a chef has the ultimate say on how the food he cooked is laid out on the plate.

    So my advice: Enjoy the music the way it is presented to you by the artist, rather than trying to analyze and over-think how the mix could have been done better (and what that means is really just "more to your liking", and not "better/worse". This kind of focus will only take away from the enjoyment of the music and in the end give you a lesser experience. I know whenver I listen to music, and whenever I work on music, I have two different sets of ears for each situation: My "appreciation" ears and my "analystical" ears, and each have their usefulness for each situation, but they also don't really belong in the sphere of each other's counterparts! ;)

    Regards,
    Andy
     
  3. rammpeth

    rammpeth Member

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    Thanks for such an extensive response Andy. Im sure you know i meant absolutely no offense when i posted the topic, its just something i wanted feedback on by people whom i suppose have similar tastes as I do, being that we post in this forum.

    I recently got into actually trying to record my stuff and i never realized how much production, mixing, editing, mastering, etc. really are an art by themselved. I will take much from your comments into consideration when the time comes to actually mix and stuff like that, seeing that im barely a third of the way, songwriting wise :cry:
     

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