Mixing Resolutions – Part One
In the first part of his new “Mixing Resolutions” series, Logic Pro Expert team member and Groove3 music software trainer Eli Krantzberg reflects on the catch-22 situation he often finds himself in: How can I improve my mixing techniques by trying new ideas, without having the time to try these new ideas?
Different Mindsets, Different Workflows
There is a singer I work with regularly in my studio. She is a talented experienced pro, and knows her craft. When we are recording, it often takes her several takes to warm up and get into the zone. After several more takes, creating comps from the take folder, and listening back, she’ll often want to punch in and replace certain words or phrases. Three or four hours later, an open take folder on a finished track looks like a full screen multi coloured checkerboard right in Logic Pro! She is a perfectionist, as many musicians are, and there’s nothing particularly unusual about this sort of workflow.
Another singer I work with from time to time, also an experienced talented professional – but coming from somewhat more of a jazz background – has a completely different mindset. She was here doing a lead vocal the other day. After warming up on her own before she arrived, we recorded three or four takes into a take folder and listened back. It sounded pretty good and I asked her if she wanted to continue with more takes, or if there was anything in particular she wanted to replace or repair. She said no, that usually her first three or four takes are her freshest and best. She gives it her all and after that her voice starts getting tired. We chose the best take, and that was it. So she happily left after an hour or so, completely satisfied and content with her performance.
New Ideas, Better Mixes
Two different performers, two different personalities. It got me thinking about my own approach to mixing and where I fall in the spectrum between these two extremes. When I am mixing for a client, my time is metered (I charge by the hour). The clients are usually here with me, and they are not, generally speaking, wealthy. So naturally, I fall into a pattern of using what is efficient and familiar to me, some tried and true habits, settings, and plug-ins and processing effects I use regularly. There is usually not an abundance of time and opportunity to try and experiment with new ideas.
Am I really doing the best mix I can? The answer inherently has to be no. I say inherently, because there is a built in limitation on me as to the time I can spend on any given mix. But the more time I spend on a mix, the more layers of detail I can delve into, the more nuanced the choices and parameter tweaks I can make are, and the more there are different directions I can take things in. Unfortunately though, trying all the ideas we hear or read about costs time. Now I’m not saying my mixes are lousy, they’re not. In fact I pride myself in being efficient and being able to crank out a good solid mix based on the amount of time the client is willing to invest in it. I give good value, and clients are happy about that. But I want to give better mixes too.
So, I find myself in somewhat of a catch-22 situation. How can I advance my mixing techniques by trying new ideas, without having the opportunity to spend the time to try these new ideas? Of course I am always experimenting and trying things on my own. But that’s not the same as working on a real world mix. So my mix resolution is to push myself more when I am mixing, rather than relying on falling into familiar habits. But in ways that won’t cost the client a lot of time. I figure if I can introduce a few new ideas to try slowly, over time they will develop into solid reliable and efficient workflows. In my next post I’ll outline some of the habits I want to reform, and ideas I want to take the time to try going forward.
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