By Mixerman. For the best reading experience, it is recommended that you view this ebook on a device that has a web browser, connectivity to the internet, and speakers. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form, without written permission, except by a newspaper or magazine reviewer who wishes to quote brief passages in connection with a review. Sound recordings—Production and direction—Vocational guidance. Popular music—Production and direction.
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By Mixerman. For the best reading experience, it is recommended that you view this ebook on a device that has a web browser, connectivity to the internet, and speakers. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form, without written permission, except by a newspaper or magazine reviewer who wishes to quote brief passages in connection with a review. Sound recordings—Production and direction—Vocational guidance.
Popular music—Production and direction. Sound recording industry—Vocational guidance. Anyone who is familiar with my writings knows that I do all that I can to avoid discussing technical information beyond the very basics. Recording is an art that requires some measure of technical understanding. This was especially evident on the Internet, where I found literally hundreds of posts asking how to set the attack and release times on a compressor.
Many posters just wanted to know a preset that they could use for a particular source, which ignores a fundamental principle of what we do—listen. As humans we are exceptionally good at recognizing patterns. For the rest of us, we must learn how to solve the puzzle, and if you experiment with the toy long enough, you will eventually pick up the patterns that will help you solve it. Music also has patterns, as does recording music, and you will come across recognizable patterns over time that will help you to streamline the decision process.
This requires you to develop and fine-tune your hearing to the point that you trust it above all other senses. I could play three notes in such a way that most all of you will sing the next note in the series without prompting.
If you play the notes C, up a fifth to G, and down a minor third to an E, most all of you will sing an F. Scales are patterns. Chord progressions are patterns. There is no doubt that we are far more comfortable with our sight than we are with our hearing when it comes to evaluating information.
The whooshing of the Enterprise flying past is far more obvious sans the picture, mostly because it seems almost random in nature. When we discuss sound we often use terms that relate to our other senses, such as warm , dark , brittle , bright , like ass , transparent , etc. These are all feeling terms, which makes sense since the whole point of music is to evoke an emotional response. We tend to use feeling terms to describe sound because music and sound are inextricably attached.
Frequency information is often viewed more within the purview of the recordist than the producer, but this would ignore the fact that frequency relates directly to musical notes. Therefore, arrangement decisions can be made based not only on a part, but how all the parts work together within the frequency spectrum.
Tone is also often viewed within the purview of the recordist, but good tone requires good performance. As a producer, I listen to tone as an indicator of performance. As a recordist, I first need to pull a tone that inspires a performance. The musician is therefore an integral part of the tone. Which would explain why some people can make an instrument sing, and others can only make it sound.
A musician who makes her instrument sing feels the sound as music, and that in turn will often evoke a reaction from the listener. There was a time when a recording session required a designated engineer—one whose only job was the capture. These lines have been blurred significantly over the years, and more often than not, the recordist is operating in some other capacity, either as a musician, artist, or producer.
Fortunately, many processes that I must perform as a recordist are nearly automatic, which allows me to prioritize the musical decisions. Stereo miking alone, done improperly, can cause auditory anomalies that will weaken the overall impact of a recording. The good news is, once you learn the sound of negatively interacting microphones, you will become virtually allergic to it such that it becomes difficult to make that kind of mistake in the first place. The thousands of tiny decisions that you make all day long are subjective in nature.
This requires some modicum of self-confidence. Taken to its extreme, tonal decisions are often left in flux with the idea that you can make it all work somehow come mix time. There have been several scientific studies over the years revealing just how difficult a time we have when we are presented with too many options.
Our brains are built to choose between A and B. Given the choice between chocolate and vanilla ice cream, a selection is relatively easy to make. Given the choice between 30 flavors, you will likely find yourself nothing short of overwhelmed. This is no different in recording. If you leave yourself every option imaginable, you will only manage to paralyze everyone on the session. I personally find an overabundance of options so overwhelming that I often ask someone from the team to produce my dinner for me.
Perusing a menu full of options as my brain is subconsciously sorting through dozens of recording decisions can make a simple dinner selection tantamount to making a choice with potential global repercussions. Since every decision in recording affects the next, everyone on the session can quickly find themselves confused, as there is nothing concrete to work on.
Those times in my career that I was working purely as a recordist, I was able to focus my creativity on recording techniques alone. This allowed me to geek out on sound rather than performance, as I had a producer who was in charge of that. I sought to apply my daily observations of how sound travels— especially how it reflects, as parabolas and long corrugated drain pipes can be used to harness and direct sound.
It means my creative energy was best served elsewhere. Such are the pitfalls of working as both producer and recordist simultaneously—at all times one is suffering. The good news is great performances usually result in great sonics, so long as you put the effort in to pull the appropriate tone in the first place.
Balances and tones often fall apart as a result of performance issues. Good performances tend to manifest as good tone. And bad tone is inconsequential in the context of a poor performance. Make no mistake, if you pulled good tones before making your take, you would do well to keep your hands away from all knobs—virtual or otherwise.
Limitations force creative adaptation, which is an exceptionally good skill set to have in this business. Meanwhile, as the price of entry into the digital world of DAWs and plug-ins has come down considerably, analog compressors and microphones still require significant capital investment over time.
Which means your initial investment into recording will provide you enormous power to mangle, and limited power for accurate capture. This book is about recording music, so just about everything I present to you will be from that perspective.
Not the recording. Even as a designated for-hire recordist, you must often put the needs of the music first and foremost. Recording technique is nothing more than a means to an end—to capture a performance. Quite the contrary. I encourage it. The more skills you develop, the more effective you are in the studio, and experimentation is a great way to learn new things. As a producer, I give my recordist the latitude to get creative with technique.
Unfruitful ideas often lead to useful ones, and there is almost always something to be gleaned from your failures—even the little ones. That may seem strange. Because as a producer-for-hire, I have to constantly consider time, and the closer the mic is to my performer, the sooner I can start recording her. The best recordists will protest my choice, and I will often acquiesce, so long as I can record my performer in relatively short order. Time restraints push us forward, as creative forces pull us back.
A balance must be achieved between the two, regardless of whether you have stupid amounts of time, or far too little. An unlimited budget removes time pressure as a tool for pushing the session forward. Recording an album without time constraints requires the kind of discipline that would prevent most of us from attempting it in the first place.
I know several musicians who have been remaking the same album for over a decade. But how many great albums took 10 years to make? Nothing can live up to the inherent hype of that. Great art is made with intent to its completion. No album requires years to make.
Conversely, a work in progress has no intent whatsoever. How could it? The prima facie evidence of intent can only be found in a completed work, one in which no excuses can, nor should, ever be made.
One of your more important duties is to keep your artists and musicians in the right mindset—inspired. Given the opportunity, I want to make my decisions along the way, and record towards a vision. If I want the cymbals distorted, I record them that way. If I want the guitar to swim in a spring reverb, I choose an amp with a good spring and record the tone that way. Of course, this methodology has its pitfalls. Sometimes you fuck up, and bad. Working aggressively creates good decision-making habits that will benefit you in the long run, no matter how badly you might fuck up in the short run.
When you record aggressively, you will make mistakes. Working aggressively will force you to think about the end game. A phobia of flying I can understand—irrational as it may be, death is a possible consequence. So what are you worried about? Your reputation? Well, you should be worried about that!
Zen and the Art of Recording
Zen and the Art of Mixing. Technical Reference. In his first book, The Daily Adventures of Mixerman , the author detailed the frustrating and often hilarious goings on during the process of recording a major-label band. Musicians, engineers, and producers laughed and cried at the crazy goings-on they'd never imagined or recognized all too well. Now Mixerman turns his razor-sharp gaze to the art of mixing and gives followers and the uninitiated reason to hope if not for logic and civility in the recording studio then at least for a good sounding record. With a firm commitment to art over technology and to maintaining a grasp of each, Mixerman outlines his own approach to recording success, based on his years mixing records in all genres of music for all kinds of artists, often under trying circumstances.
Zen and the Art of Mixing
Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Want to Read saving…. Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Other editions. Enlarge cover. Error rating book.
By Mixerman. For the best reading experience, it is recommended that you view this ebook on a device that has a web browser, connectivity to the internet, and speakers. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form, without written permission, except by a newspaper or magazine reviewer who wishes to quote brief passages in connection with a review. So you want to mix.
Are you completely happy with all of your mixes and see no reason to attempt to learn more or get better at this craft? Then read no more — you might not need this book. Mixerman, whose identity is a much less veiled secret than when we talked to him in Tape Op 34, mixes albums for the likes of Ben Harper, Guster, and others. With Zen and the Art of Mixing, he runs through what one needs to know in order to successfully mix songs and albums. I started reading this book thinking I would learn something.
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