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Author Topic: Mixoff Contest with Mike Senior - Win Mike's New Book!  (Read 196752 times)

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April 23, 2011, 02:58:04 PM
I'll try to respond to everyone in one go if I can!

my view is, fixing *recording*-problems is one thing (and i think that is what dave meant with his "quote"), but changing the production another. young griffos track is fine as it is, but just needs some fixing here & there, but no additional production gimmicks. maybe its not a perfect radio single, but it could have a good place on an album. i think it doesn't need additional production stuff, since it is authentic independent rock & doesn't need to be forced to converted to be fully compatible for the radio-play (it won't be authentic anymore IMO). young griffo had the idea to have the track like that & as an mixing engineer i don't turn a track into something else if everything (regarding the production) is fine from my view.

It's funny, because I actually agree with all of this. It's a question of degree, though, especially in the context of the band (rather than a manager/A&R) being the client, and everyone will drawn their own line in the sand there -- but that's a really good thing, because otherwise everyone's mixes would be the same and the art of mixing as a whole would be stifled. This is why I'd hoped that we'd all disagree on this. (Even if that means me taking on the role of whipping boy! :))

From my perspective, the one thing that all these mixes have is BALANCE, in stereo especially. So if balance is number one on the importance scale, then this makes a lot more sense to me. If not, then I remain confused.

You've certainly put a finger on one of my own personal hobby horses, as far as mixing is concerned, but to look at this from a more general standpoint for a moment... As I see it, any mix you do without the band's direct feedback is a first draft. Yes, there are clear problems with all these mixes (as Guitar Zero correctly highlights), but the bits that they do get 'right' for me contribute to a general 'spirit' in each case which is what I wanted to hear. To put it another way, if I were a member of the band, I'd personally choose one of these five mixes, even though I'd know I'd want to follow it up with a list of revisions (as I would expect any band to do with a mix in which they'd so far had no direct input). It's a question of me liking the ballpark, rather than counting the bases. (Wow. I think that's the first baseball analogy I've ever used. ;D) Or, to put it yet another way: it's probably easier to get ask someone who's submitted a first-draft mix to sort out some duff tuning than it is to ask them to add 'vibe', 'richness', or anything else more subjective.

I did however feel that the arrangement was hugely lacking. No multi tracked guitars, nothing to build the sense of epicness that I sensed the guys wanting. And that lead part in the chorus robbed the song of the opportunity for a really strong hook. Plus some of the ideas clashed. The clean rhythm part in the chorus distracted from the bass, it would've been better just to layer some chords in and leave the bass it's own rhythmic space.

[...]

I think fixing issues like this is somewhat dishonest and makes things sound homoganized and sterile. I think a little dissonance can make things more interesting.

Comparing these posts to those of karumba, Guitar Zero, and others just underlines the point that things like this are a judgement call, and they reflect the personality of the engineer. Which, again, is exactly as it should be.

(That's not to take away from Lastrite's relevant point, though, that pitch-correcting to the wrong note (as quite a few people did -- presumably by relying on some kind of automatic pitch-correction) is pretty easy to categorise as a clear mistake. Still, it is again a mistake that's a whole lot easier to remedy than a lot of less tangible things.)

So how do we compare mixes that have obviously been mastered with ones that have not?

Usually by deciding first whether I think the louder track has taken the processing too far, and (assuming it hasn't) by applying my own loudness processing to the unloudness-processed mix to achieve a reasonable match. Again, though, people have very different views on this issue, and while I'm not about to dismiss the importance of loudness issues in mixing, I'm not sure it's necessarily in everyone's best interests to pursue that particular well-worn topic on this particular thread when I reckon it'd be better to use people's energy critiquing each others mixes instead. So far we've heard a lot of my opinions, and I think some other viewpoints on specific mixes would help round things out, especially when it comes to top-five lists. In fact, it'd be rather interesting to see different posters' top-five lists, if only to give context to their comments. (As my own list clearly points to my own personal mixing agenda! ;D)

The way this contest is ending could be a learning lesson...perhaps it would of been better if the band just picked the winner and then maybe mention one or two mixes that came close...top 3 or something.

I rather hope that they will do exactly that, and will encourage them to do so. And, as mentioned earlier, I've encouraged them not to restrict themselves to my shortlisted tracks. As I see it, the premise of this competition has always been that you're mixing this track with the band as the client, so it would be the most appropriate ending if the band were indeed to act as the client in making the contest decision. I can't speak for them, though, but will keep everyone posted.

Phew. ;D Time to go hide some Easter eggs! Look forward to reading the continuing comments early next week.
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  • **
April 23, 2011, 03:32:44 PM
mike, thx for your reply.

As I see it, any mix you do without the band's direct feedback is a first draft. Yes, there are clear problems with all these mixes (as Guitar Zero correctly highlights), but the bits that they do get 'right' for me contribute to a general 'spirit' in each case which is what I wanted to hear. To put it another way, if I were a member of the band, I'd personally choose one of these five mixes, even though I'd know I'd want to follow it up with a list of revisions (as I would expect any band to do with a mix in which they'd so far had no direct input).
ok, it seems i fully missunderstood the whole contest. my understanding was to not prepare a "first draft", but to provide a finished mix. so from a different viewing angle: i expected your decision to be not from "a bands perspective", but from a mixing engineer perspective. the band itself has their own perspective which you can't pretend. your decision is now based on your taste, not on the "objective" professionalism of the mixes. (yes i know, what is "objective"?).
so the question should have been (IMO): "which mix could be released *as it is*?"
but i think you already understood my view. and even if don't agree, i understood yours too :)
« Last Edit: April 23, 2011, 03:37:23 PM by karumba »

  • ****
April 23, 2011, 08:15:48 PM

The way this contest is ending could be a learning lesson...perhaps it would of been better if the band just picked the winner and then maybe mention one or two mixes that came close...top 3 or something.

I rather hope that they will do exactly that, and will encourage them to do so. And, as mentioned earlier, I've encouraged them not to restrict themselves to my shortlisted tracks. As I see it, the premise of this competition has always been that you're mixing this track with the band as the client, so it would be the most appropriate ending if the band were indeed to act as the client in making the contest decision. I can't speak for them, though, but will keep everyone posted.


Ah-ha!

So them of us what thought we were out might still be able to getta hit! (My first baseball analogy{s}, +  ...   ;D )
« Last Edit: April 23, 2011, 08:17:23 PM by vvv »

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April 24, 2011, 01:45:58 PM
I did however feel that the arrangement was hugely lacking. No multi tracked guitars, nothing to build the sense of epicness that I sensed the guys wanting. And that lead part in the chorus robbed the song of the opportunity for a really strong hook. Plus some of the ideas clashed. The clean rhythm part in the chorus distracted from the bass, it would've been better just to layer some chords in and leave the bass it's own rhythmic space.

I agree completely.  If I was mixing the bands track for real, I would have urged them to go back and record more parts and get a better arrangement.

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April 24, 2011, 04:24:43 PM
Hi,

I know its late to hand in a mix for the competition but i was thinking that i post it here anyway just for fun so you guys can listen and give feedback if you want :).

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/4384939/Mixoffrock.mp3

Nice song !

Cheers
« Last Edit: May 08, 2011, 05:10:42 PM by Mavro »

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April 27, 2011, 01:49:23 AM
Hi Guys,

    Just wanted to thank all of you for your efforts in this contest. I understand that anything creative rolled into a competition is bound to get a bit divisive but I just wanted to underline that we have and will continue to listen to more than the shortlist of submissions. Not giving anything away just yet but I wanted to be clear on that  :)

We've though quite a bit about some of the feedback on the track and I just wanted to post some experiences and thoughts. At the end of the day, this process sort of simulates working with a customer for you guys so here is some of our thinking -

I appreciate that there is a philosophical discussion about the levels of mixing versus fixing occurring. Looking at it from a band's perspective, we had a pile of tracks consolidated with some good performance bits and some not so great in B2B. We never recorded or arranged the track for analysis from over 70 mixers and would have perhaps been a little more vigilant in what we provided if we had known! This was taken from the first day of tracking we actually recorded as a band (ever) and I feel there is a level of roughness that reflects this.

While no band of our genre wants pristine mixes and Kanye autotuned vocals, I feel there is a happy medium between mixing and fixing. I think many mixers in the industry will now correct a note here and there to enable it's placement in the mix. How far should a mixer go? Thats a tough one. I don't want a "creative replacement" of a song to a drastic extent but I think I have to also respect the ears and talent of the mixer too. My preference as a vocalist would be to nail all tracks up front and after some very painful reflection via this process, I would probably re-record this track if i wasn't so horribly scarred by this discussion  ;D
 
But we have worked with two mixers on our EP and i want to share the customer experience with the different philosophies.
 
Mixer 1

Involved himself in the creative process, definitely fixed some issues, clearly added character to the mix and as a result we were thrilled. We smashed him with revisions and really collaborated on a balance between imperfections, character and polish. Did we take liberties with the fact the mixer was a perfectionist and passionate about getting a good result? Probably. The tracks aren't perfect but they now sound great and Mixer 1 has squeezed every bit of potential out of tracks that were not brilliantly recorded or perfectly performed. We knew the passion, message and delivery was there and we wanted the best from this. Thats the key for us.
 
Mixer 2

Was used for one track (Mixer 1 was unavailable). Mixer 2 is actually a US based pro who boasts a huge resume of working with grammy award winners. His online service was moderately priced, his samples were impressive and it was the best we could find - even if it pretty much killed our budget for the EP. But then - Mixer 2 returned a "level correction" mix. He offered us a tin can drum kit sound (because thats how it arrived), ignored the reference track (which was actually from Mixer 1) and generally sprayed flange all over the guitars ("I added some effects you see") and called it done. Nothing was corrected. Nothing was touched and perhaps, from a moral perspective, the mixer decided - "You give me a budget standard recording, I will give you a budget standard mix. It's too much of my time to do otherwise". He argued that the recording is what it is and he mixed it and this is the outcome.

Perhaps he is right. Perhaps we should re-record it at a higher priced studio and perhaps the track lacked quality. Perhaps all of the tracks lack quality.  But as a customer, it sounded like we got a 45 minute level fix and a clear avoidance of any great time investment or effort. Of course the track would sound better in a $1000 a day studio recording. Obviously! But we had just worked with Mixer 1 and had some new expectations  :)
 
I'm not saying this answers the "mix or fix" argument. But I will argue that the "mix and will fix" experience is much more pleasant than the "mix but won't fix" experience for a band. It's much better for a band and much worse for a mixer as I see it. But it is what it is.

This is the point of reference tracks in the process. It's not to say - emulate Abbey Road quality for us and we will give you junk. It's about tonal goals, fresh creative ears and there needs to be an honest upfront evaluation from a mixer. Maybe a mixer should feel free to say - "I can't give you these sounds guys". I think we would respect that - and we respect this feedback here on the forum. But I can assure you that Mixer 2 never said that. He mentioned that he was sorry we were unhappy with his mix and reminded us that there were no refunds (job done).

So my advice as both a happy and unhappy customer in recent months, is listen to the reference tracks and evaluate a track before you start. Mixing can bring out the best of a track - but it shouldn't recreate it. We also respect that there needs to be a decent track in there to work with. The mixer needs to feel a decent track is in there too - irrespective of taste. You can resolve imperfections but you can't completely overhaul a bad performance There is a creative balance in there and thats the collaboration a band needs. I guess it all starts and grows with that first conversation and the lines of acceptable effort need to be drawn up.

Cheers,

Mat
Young Griffo

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April 27, 2011, 04:08:24 AM
Mr Tuesday,

When I heard your revised mix, which included "the drop", I was like, he just punked my idea. The truth, howver, is that you made my "stunt" look silly in comparison. So props to you for that. When I heard it, I was like, "Damn, I can't beat that"...yet!! I will have my revenge lol

woops - it does look a bit like that doesn't it...
I hadn't actually listened to your mix (honestly) but obviously we had (almost exactly) the same idea about what that moment in the song needed!

MatG - great response & explanation to the mixing/fixing debate that's developed here.
Personally I've found the recent arguments a bit strange & have been tossing up whether to chime in or not.
I don't want to re-ignite things too much so I'll just make a couple of points:

a) if the song had been recorded perfectly, everything spot on timing & tuning, amazing sounding drums, awesome arrangement etc - it wouldn't have worked nearly as well for a mixing competition. Surely part of the idea was to see what people would do with less than perfect tracks?

b) in the brief for this competition it stated "you're completely free to use any means you wish to create your mix. So if you want to remove tracks, edit things around, do replacements/overdubs, or anything else, that's fine -- whatever it takes to deliver the most exciting mix you can and blow the band's socks off!". The band has said it's open to any and all ideas. If you don't like the ideas other mixes had or didn't want to add any yourself fine. But to say you shouldn't have to add/change anything when the brief clearly says you can seems a bit pointless.

c) on the mixing/fixing thing - I've never (yet) been in a position where there's a separate recording engineer, producer & mixer each with their own clearly defined roles. In my (limited) experience lines have always been blurred. As a mixer I can't help but get invested in the material & if I hear things that need fixing, or added, or chopped I would always suggest or try them. Obviously the client has the final say but I think in general people are open to ideas in the studio at any stage in the process - the whole fresh ears thing. Plus some ideas (or "gimmicks" as some have called them) could only happen at the mixing stage (no one's going to think of a reverse reverb re-entry in the rehearsal room for instance). I guess I'm just saying - if it sounds good it sound good, regardless of whose & when the idea came up.

Finally big thanks again to Mike - I don't think I can imagine what listening to & critiquing 70 mixes of the same song would be like! I think I listened to about 10 (plus Mike's "final five").
Plus thanks to the band - very generous & I think in the end quite brave to let everyone muck about with their song (I don't think I'd like 70 people commenting on my vocal performance & pitching!)

ok - i'm done

Cheers
Malcolm

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April 27, 2011, 06:33:39 PM
Hi Guys,

    Just wanted to thank all of you for your efforts in this contest. I understand that anything creative rolled into a competition is bound to get a bit divisive but I just wanted to underline that we have and will continue to listen to more than the shortlist of submissions. Not giving anything away just yet but I wanted to be clear on that  :)

We've though quite a bit about some of the feedback on the track and I just wanted to post some experiences and thoughts. At the end of the day, this process sort of simulates working with a customer for you guys so here is some of our thinking -

I appreciate that there is a philosophical discussion about the levels of mixing versus fixing occurring. Looking at it from a band's perspective, we had a pile of tracks consolidated with some good performance bits and some not so great in B2B. We never recorded or arranged the track for analysis from over 70 mixers and would have perhaps been a little more vigilant in what we provided if we had known! This was taken from the first day of tracking we actually recorded as a band (ever) and I feel there is a level of roughness that reflects this.

While no band of our genre wants pristine mixes and Kanye autotuned vocals, I feel there is a happy medium between mixing and fixing. I think many mixers in the industry will now correct a note here and there to enable it's placement in the mix. How far should a mixer go? Thats a tough one. I don't want a "creative replacement" of a song to a drastic extent but I think I have to also respect the ears and talent of the mixer too. My preference as a vocalist would be to nail all tracks up front and after some very painful reflection via this process, I would probably re-record this track if i wasn't so horribly scarred by this discussion  ;D
 
But we have worked with two mixers on our EP and i want to share the customer experience with the different philosophies.
 
Mixer 1

Involved himself in the creative process, definitely fixed some issues, clearly added character to the mix and as a result we were thrilled. We smashed him with revisions and really collaborated on a balance between imperfections, character and polish. Did we take liberties with the fact the mixer was a perfectionist and passionate about getting a good result? Probably. The tracks aren't perfect but they now sound great and Mixer 1 has squeezed every bit of potential out of tracks that were not brilliantly recorded or perfectly performed. We knew the passion, message and delivery was there and we wanted the best from this. Thats the key for us.
 
Mixer 2

Was used for one track (Mixer 1 was unavailable). Mixer 2 is actually a US based pro who boasts a huge resume of working with grammy award winners. His online service was moderately priced, his samples were impressive and it was the best we could find - even if it pretty much killed our budget for the EP. But then - Mixer 2 returned a "level correction" mix. He offered us a tin can drum kit sound (because thats how it arrived), ignored the reference track (which was actually from Mixer 1) and generally sprayed flange all over the guitars ("I added some effects you see") and called it done. Nothing was corrected. Nothing was touched and perhaps, from a moral perspective, the mixer decided - "You give me a budget standard recording, I will give you a budget standard mix. It's too much of my time to do otherwise". He argued that the recording is what it is and he mixed it and this is the outcome.

Perhaps he is right. Perhaps we should re-record it at a higher priced studio and perhaps the track lacked quality. Perhaps all of the tracks lack quality.  But as a customer, it sounded like we got a 45 minute level fix and a clear avoidance of any great time investment or effort. Of course the track would sound better in a $1000 a day studio recording. Obviously! But we had just worked with Mixer 1 and had some new expectations  :)
 
I'm not saying this answers the "mix or fix" argument. But I will argue that the "mix and will fix" experience is much more pleasant than the "mix but won't fix" experience for a band. It's much better for a band and much worse for a mixer as I see it. But it is what it is.

This is the point of reference tracks in the process. It's not to say - emulate Abbey Road quality for us and we will give you junk. It's about tonal goals, fresh creative ears and there needs to be an honest upfront evaluation from a mixer. Maybe a mixer should feel free to say - "I can't give you these sounds guys". I think we would respect that - and we respect this feedback here on the forum. But I can assure you that Mixer 2 never said that. He mentioned that he was sorry we were unhappy with his mix and reminded us that there were no refunds (job done).

So my advice as both a happy and unhappy customer in recent months, is listen to the reference tracks and evaluate a track before you start. Mixing can bring out the best of a track - but it shouldn't recreate it. We also respect that there needs to be a decent track in there to work with. The mixer needs to feel a decent track is in there too - irrespective of taste. You can resolve imperfections but you can't completely overhaul a bad performance There is a creative balance in there and thats the collaboration a band needs. I guess it all starts and grows with that first conversation and the lines of acceptable effort need to be drawn up.

Cheers,

Mat
Young Griffo

Great post that adds some great perspective.  Thanks for taking the time to chime in, and thanks again for letting us all butcher your tracks.

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April 28, 2011, 09:49:14 PM
I know Im way too late and really new to the forum but I just wanted to put this up here for everyone to listen to! Thanks!
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/27635459/Final%20Blood%20To%20Bone.mp3
« Last Edit: April 29, 2011, 01:36:47 AM by carcruzjo »

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April 29, 2011, 12:13:10 PM
Hello everyone,

Quick update: I've just received preliminary feedback from the band, and it looks like we're on target to announce a winner on May 2nd as I'd hoped! In the meantime, though, I noticed that the poll has currently only had a dozen responses, and it'd be great to have a more representative sample of general opinion for the band to draw upon during the decision-making process if possible. If you've found the multitracks and critiques useful, then it'd be great if you were able to 'pay it forward' by giving the band this useful additional input. Thanks!

Stay tuned! ;D
Mixing Secrets For The Small Studio
A complete mixing method based around the techniques of the world's most famous producers.
Free Mixing Resources On-line!