Grow Some Balls - You'll Make Better Music

07-26-2013 06:05 PM

One common job when mixing tracks for someone else is going through the mixes track by track and trying to figure out what the vision was of the guy tracking. Sometimes mixing is easy, it’s been recorded pretty close to how the final mix should sound. Conversely, if that means listening to 20 guitar tracks, 30 vocal tracks and 20 drum mics that job gets harder. It gets even harder if the guy tracking had the ‘vision’ (cue huge dose of sarcasm) and recorded everything clean to ‘keep the options open’, they may as well have sent you a box full of tape cuts and asked you to splice it all back together. As one Grammy winning producer friend of mine said to me ‘my first job with some mixes is deleting and muting tracks.’
Fixing in the mix is a pretty much common phenomona, seldom done before countless tracks and endless plug-ins were part of the deal. In the “good old days” less tracks and one compressor meant you were forced to make decisions. Often stems were created out of necessity not to make mixing easier.
Take a talent like Buddy Miller and his recording of Robert Plants ‘Band of Joy’, he used a minimalist approach and put the entire album on 16 tracks. You can see the track info here and the Pro Tools mix here, read the whole SOS article on how it was mixed here.
To do that takes vision, planning and balls - it means making decisions and committing to them - it’s not fixing it in the mix. It’s hearing the sounds as you put them down and then using those commitments to help make informed choices as you build up the song.
If you are used to leaving every option open and then fixing it in the mix then I encourage you to make your decisions as you record, after all if it’s done right then it shouldn’t need ‘fixing’!
Irrespective of who ends up mixing your tracks, make some commitments and you’ll make better music. Discuss.