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Production vs Mixing

Discussion in 'F.O.H.' started by Machinated, Sep 1, 2017.

  1. Machinated

    Machinated Member

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    So this has been something that on my mind quite a bit recently and I thought it could be cool to discuss... (a

    The past 2 years or so has seen me working on a lot more pop music and other genres than what I was doing before. I learnt much of what I know from this forum in the same way as many others here, and picked up a lot of good habits (and a ton of bad ones too!).

    One thing I consistently notice as a bit of an oddity in metal and some rock music is how raw tracks are when they're sent to be mixed. Even a quick look on any thread sharing multitracks on this site, its not uncommon to see MIDI drums, DI guitars, no EQ/compression/FX on anything, lots and lots of tracks (often of the same parts/multiple mics etc). To actually mix a song that's sent like that, it involves a stage of production/puzzle solving to work out which sounds will work together, where things will fit, which things need to get deleted, identifying what's important etc.

    If I compare that to one of the better tracked pop projects I work on, the files tend to be sent with all the plugin chains printed (sometimes with a dry folder in case I need to rework something, sometimes you ask the client to resend it dry). If I drag the files into a track and hit play, it sounds like the mix they're familiar with and it immediately sounds like a song.

    Now, granted they're on other ends of the spectrum, I think there's a lot to benefit from adopting an approach of committing to sounds and sending something off to be mixed that already sounds great. To me, things such as guitar tones, drum samples, bass tones etc are way too important to avoid deciding until the very end - further more, so much of the "sound" is built into the performance/instruments etc that it'll be hard to beat the sound of the initial intention (unless someone really has no idea what they're doing). Sure they can be handy if someone has made a really bad mistake on the sound choices, but its almost at a point where people aren't even considering what sound they're capturing so someone can transform it at a later point.

    A great production/mix will choose complimentary sounds that work with each other - swapping guitars/basses/drum tunings to get things sitting together right. Each sound will only make sense relative to whats around it. With DI's and MIDI, the goalposts can always be moving and getting things to sit together is MUCH more difficult. Furthermore, having to make these kinds of decisions for 100+ tracks all at the same time can be a huge challenge (not least if you don't have direct dialogue with the artist/producer).

    Its generally a good attitude to have things sounding great as early as possible in the process - if something isn't working, sort it sooner rather than waiting and hoping the mixer might be able to solve it. I think its a great practice to send a session off to be mixed where you can put all the faders at 0 and the song sounds like a solid representation of what it should be. Include the drum samples you like, commit the guitar sounds that work, combine backing vocal parts into stereo tracks, combine multiple mic'd tracks into the blend that works best. They're all things that are POSSIBLE to do in a mix but if they can be done earlier, then everything benefits. Also, INCLUDE A DECENT REFERENCE MIX. A good reference mix is so helpful to a mixer to understand the vibe of a track, what the artist considers important balance wise, what areas may need looking at to be more effective, and even a solid target to beat.

    I know for a fact I can do a better mix on less tracks than with more - even a REALLY busy dense mix doesn't need 100's of tracks available to mix, there'll only be so many important tracks at any one time and other things can be combined down. Its much easier to focus on less things and to prioritise what is important, and what can be simplified down.

    There definitely seems to be a huge focus on mixing at the moment, what with youtube/blogs etc and the attitude seems to encourage doing some kind of transformation miracle salvaging job at the end to make it into a great mix, rather than building it into one from the very beginning.

    I hope this post comes across more positive than negative - I personally feel pop music is sounding better than ever, while metal on the whole is sounding pretty bad compared to what it could be. Many metal mixes seem to be built on indecision, compromise, stubbornness, cliche's, timidness - lets try and address that and push things to sound better and not cut corners. It would be cool to see more of those multitrack threads take braver decisions on the production and to deliver files that really sound great before the mix has even begun.
     
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  2. tedtan

    tedtan Member

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    I agree 100%. The mix will be better if you can track (or print MIDI and reamped DI tracks) it to sound close to what you want from the start. Those giant projects with lots of indecision are abominations that make for a much more difficult, and probably worse sounding, mix.
     
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  3. MrBongo

    MrBongo idiot at work

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    Thank you! Exactly what I´m thinking for years as well.

    I can only guess what your original guitar tone sounded like. "Dude, that´s not the sound we had, do another one." - "NO!"
    I need several hours of work to make your MIDI drums any usable. "Dude, we don´t have any money, can we pay in weed?" - "NO!"

    On my own projects I go for the final sound very early, and record guitar amps so that they barely need any eq in the mix. Gotta blend 6 mics? No problem. That´s much easier than recording DI only, not caring about the actual sound in any way, and then fiddle blindly for hours with sims to find anything usable at all. Easier on the mind as well.
     
  4. schwinginbatman

    schwinginbatman It's shittay!

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    I think with a lot of the stuff on here, it's mostly practice, so it's letting the people who are mixing also experiment a bit with finding sounds and building their own mix, in a sense doing their own production and engineering. I think both sides of the coin are skill-sets that need to be built; experimenting with your own sounds and making a good mix from what you're given. Speaking outside of a practice context, I absolutely agree, there's a lot of indecision in rock and metal. Being given raw drums is my preference, unless the client really likes a given sound. I always like being given reamped guitars from the start; while finding my own tone is more satisfying, I find it frequently means I lean on the same sounds I know are safe.
     
  5. KillFrenzy

    KillFrenzy Member

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    I agree too.

    And I'd add that some people think that if they are able to get everything sounding good before to sending for mixing, they can mix themselves. That looks specially true to metal bands that record themselves.

    1000% that! I commented on that on another topic one of these days. I tend to make things sound too much the way I like
     

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