Ok…..so I appear to have told a little fib!
Ahem! Apologies first….I said after yet another dry spell that I’d try to do more writing and keep up to date in a journalistic sense with events and projects I’ve been working on. I haven’t! So, er…. sorry about that! 😉
Well, here’s the rub. I work a bit too hard. When I’ve finished an average 12 hour day if I’m honest I don’t want want to think too much about music anymore. (At least not until the next day!) Even though I love it and consider myself very lucky to actually make a modest living doing it. However, the summer is here now so things may quieten down a little and give me some time to think of something else to write about. These things pop into my mind from time to time but if I fail to jot them down I quickly forget about them. Must try to resolve that practice too!
So anyway, one thing that I would like to share with you this time is as follows.
I’m currently mixing an album of great songs that are a very good example of the genre. But, there are a few issues to say the least. I would like to point out that I didn’t track the album so when agreeing to mix the album I didn’t know what I was going to be presented with. It turns out it’s much less ideal than I’d hoped. Several of the elements are very usable and work absolutely fine but the main issue as you’ve probably already guessed are the drums. THE most difficult aspect of a recording to get right full stop and if you don’t have a solid foundation from the off you’re going to end up in somewhat of a pickle further down the line!!
At this point just so you know I’m not going go into the dozens of factors you have to take into account when tracking drums as there’s plenty of that sort of info (some good, some not so good!) available on the internet.
One major factor above all else with drum recording is the actual performance. If this were a little more consistent I wouldn’t have to spending 90% of my time on each mix on the drums. Why is this taking such a colossal effort you may ask? Well, when you’re having to adjust practically every hit just to get some consistent level regardless of tone you can see where the time is going! Even my geekpertise! with a little compression and automation is fairly useless in this situation. Using compression for that purpose is a mugs game. To use compression affectively i.e if you don’t want to ruin the sound, a strong performance has to be there. So nope, can’t get round it that easily! What I’m having to do is use and combination of the clip gain feature (in protools) replacing the some of the actual hits with the tab to transient technique and also use tons and tons of automation on gates, EQ’s, filters, compression ratios and thresholds plus the use of a plugin called a transient designer to get some consistency. It’s hard work believe you and me!!! But, I’m getting there. I’m actually fairly pleased with some of the results.
I do recall I mentioned something in a previous post a little while ago about getting out of the way of the mix sometimes. Not doing too much so this may sound a little contradictory. Well, it is but I did try that and it really didn’t work. So I was forced into trying absolutely everything I have in my arsenal plus a fair bit of trawling the internet for other workarounds I hadn’t considered or didn’t know how to do.
I was determined not to let this beat me though as short time ago my mixes were criticised by one particular mastering engineer and this knocked my confidence quite heavily. I’m pretty sensitive to this sort of thing as I try so hard to make the music I work on, walk the line between how the artist wants to be represented and how a mix will translate their intention to an audience plus sound good on radio and youtube etc. Looking back on that however it was a great thing ‘cos it actually adjusted my thinking on my approach. Maybe before I wasn’t doing my best, even though I was working so hard maybe I wasn’t working smart enough. So I changed a few things. I’m not entirely sure what I changed but I changed something.
Basically what I’m trying to get at is….. find a way to make things work even if they’re not ideal.
Wow….a lot of words to explain a ridiculously simple concept!! But, if you think about it it’s not that simple. To make something truly work you generally have to go too far to come back. You can get near to a completed mix quickly and give excuses about the quality of this and that, but if you’ve not really and truly explored the many approaches you can take maybe you’re cheating yourself somewhat. I love mixing more and more these days and have enjoyed the opportunity to work on some beautifully recorded stuff……it’s rare but it does happen. That though is sometimes too easy…although I would prefer it that way, because typically music doesn’t make the artist money these days means they have to find other ways of recording. Sometimes it works great to do it yourself, other times it really, really….really doesn’t.
One thing I would like all bands and musicians recording themselves to consider is this – “are you actually doing yourself any favours going the DIY approach?” Yes for sure if you have loads of time and wanna play around with recording go for it so you can get a feel for what the band sounds like. But when it comes to recordings you want to release to your audience my advice is use the best facilities and engineers your budget will stretch to. In Sheffield alone there are several very good studios with great engineers, equipment and rooms (the things most overlooked about a quality recording). Mixing can be undertaken by these people too but if you want to mix it yourself or have someone like me mix it that’s up to you but do seriously consider getting the source sounds good to start with. That way you have the option of taking it in any direction you want instead of it ending up being a “management job” rather than a “mix”.