David KellerManor Recording Connection

Chapter 12- Mix Theory (or mix fact?) Posted on 2015-09-16 by David Keller

Mix Theory- Sounds so complicated, doesn't it?

Well for one, it is not theory, it is fact.  Too many have come before, and too much has come after, for there to be any methods left to question.  The problem therein is, THERE ARE STILL NO ABSOLUTE RIGHT OR WRONG WAYS TO DO ANYTHING (when it comes to studio work).  

So as not to confuse, the simple statement I have just made only refers to the means of operation in the real world.  For class purposes, there are indeed right and wrong things to do.  However, when in the industry, everyone is looking for the "unique" method to their madness to set themselves apart.  THAT, my friends, is where things get screwy.  For my life now, I like the structure, and I'll start with what has worked for a majority of SUCCESSFUL producers of quality music.

What works:

1. Organization of the mix - levels, panning, group naming, color coding, marking song sections, etc.  This, in my opinion, also should adequate mastery of short keys and efficient workflow preferences (more subjective to the individual's likings).

2. Knowing the song, doing your research, and ultimately go with your EARS (or gut in other contexts)- What I mean by this is, you MUST ultimately trust what you hear, and not what the computer tells you, and do not take the enjoyment or creativity out of the mixing process.  A wise audio engineer once said, that if you stop enjoying the music, then what is the point?

3.  Label and Save (properly and constantly) - My mentor is a genius.  You know why?  Because I get to learn through his mistakes!  He has been chewed out by other engineers for mis-labeling tracks/busses/sends/etc., lost entire sessions in the middle of sessions (in front of the artists), and mis-organized.  Thanks to him SHARING those stories, I now know to a.) Save every 30 seconds, and b.) Save your data in at least 3 places.  Secondly, proper labeling is SUPER important, because as my mentor says, "You never know who is going to end up touching your work."  With that said, leaving other professionals with an understandable trail is only courteous, and makes them want to work with you again in the future.

What Doesn't Work:

1.  "You can't polish a turd!" - Yep, you heard it hear first.  Another fine quote by my mentor Andy Sharp.  What this quote is referring to, is that NOTHING, I repeat NOTHING, can substitute quality musicians playing quality music.  What will always stand out as nails on a chalkboard is a un-tuned guitar, and what will NEVER stand out, is a chump engineer using digital effects and loops excessive over-dubbing, to fix a BAD recording (BECAUSE EVERYONE DOES THAT), and you must find a way to stand out (in a good way)!

2. Trying to be the coolest guy in the room. - In fact, it is quite the opposite that is required as a successful engineer.  My mentor has told me on numerous occasions, "You have got to be the LEAST cool guy in the room."  Why you ask?? Well, because first and foremost, it's NOT about you, it's about the musicians and their paid time.  Recording is a very personal and emotional and taxing task, and noone needs the engineer throwing off the creative vibe.  Secondly, the less you talk, and the more you mix quietly ahead of time like a ninja, the more you are likely to be that guy everyone wants to work with.  You want musicians to think, "Man, I don't know what it is, but there is just something about David's mixes that really sound good!" and "Man, I don't know how he did it, but he sure made our recordings sound gooooooood!"  Least cool guy in the room, means coolest reputation later.

So, I leave you with that folks.  To be continued...

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Chapter 13- EQ Time!Posted by David Keller on 2015-09-25

EQ is the best/worst thing ever! Why do I say that you say?? So, what comes to mind with EQ is that, unfortunately, it is yet another way for kids these days to manipulate and skew poorly-recorded, poorly-done performance... Read More >>