Tracking is my fav. I am not good at mixing. When I play my guitars, come up with a song idea and sing out loud a melody, I feel creative and alive. I haven’t ever done a cover. Most have. I am thinking…that is someone else’s work?? ha ha I do enjoy all the tips and help here. That’s all I got
I understand where you’re coming from. If it didn’t take me so long to complete an original song, I would enjoy it more. When I record cover songs it takes me between 18 and 30 hours of total time spent at the computer (not counting the time it takes to learn the different parts ex., guitar, bass, drums, lyrics, etc.). When I record originals it takes MUCH MUCH longer. I find that creating the arrangements is the thing that slows me down the most, as well as my mixing skills. I probably need to get a song template set up so that I could get going quicker right out of the gate, also.
The main think I don’t like about tracking is changing instruments. Having to reset and dial in your levels on the mic pre-amps, tuning the guitar and bass, stretching strings if they’re relatively new, setting up mics in a limited work space…That’s not very fun when you just want to get down to recording and creating your art. I used to enjoy recording a lot more when I understood it less. Now, I am so attuned to micro-faults in my playing and the sound of the recording/ mix, that I’m just working harder and harder to get the best sound I can, where as, I used to hit the record button and let 'er rip.
That’s the exact reason I don’t enjoy it as much as I used to. It’s where the hardest work is. It’s where the most vital choices are made. It’s where the biggest decisions are made. It’s the stage that will most likely make or break the song. If the tracking is done well, then the mix will come much easier, but if you track a crappy song with poorly chosen arrangements, pitchy vocals and bad timing things will be much tougher when it comes time to mix. The first priority would be a good song, followed by good arrangements, then good performances. Maybe I should say that it’s the preparation that I like the least, not specifically the tracking.
I think the one advantage of tracking is having your standards met prior to mixing. If you are fortunate enough to have assistants who know what that takes, then by all means use them. At the same time, think of how many times you’ve been given a project to mix and you wish you could have had input on the arrangement, or noticed timing or pitch issues that you end up having to work around. Good tracking is integral to a great mix; there is only so much you can hide. Tracking good musicians should be a lot less tedious, so being selective in who you work with may overcome some of the bad parts of tracking.
Well said. I can think of many who would do a lot better if they embraced this. I can fully understand you not liking tracking for these reasons, but at least you acknowledge that this is the make-or-break part of the process, rather than placing the focus on some largely-inconsequential mix process.
Im the opposite and mixing is what ruins the buzz most the time, mainly I think due to playback room/results and the mixing spotlights the sub-par tracking skills etc.
I think of two schools by reading the Geoff Emerick book on his Beatle years.
The first guy Norm Smith had the approach every session was exactly the same almost, taped x on the floor, amp sat here, vocal mic chain is this etc…etc…the Albums from the first to Rubber Soul…was very factory like…Tracking being predictable and therefore the MIX was probably predictable…like a factory.
Then the weird shit approach, the craziness of effects and moving things upside down and edits and more edits artisitic creative wild and many flop ideas and mixing was like a totally different scene and the MIX might be as big or even bigger than than the tracking… Revolver to the Sgt Pepper then MMT…(then burn out and they tried going back to simplicity but with overdubs…but less craziness)
so overdub madness started right? then Track available grew and grew and grew to unlimited tracking and never ending editing…but with a computer, not a razor and reel to reel tape, so editing and plug ins makes mixing overwhelming in a way because the choices have grown to an overwhelming amount.
Ive made myself overwhelmed now just thinking about mixing…I need to take a break.
I second that. I used to wonder why producers were higher up on the food chain and made a hell of a lot more cash than mix engineers. Its seems pretty clear that its because they carry so much more responsibility. When you say mix is largely inconsequential, I can’t disagree with that in light of the big picture. When I think about it, its rare that an experienced engineer would butcher an immaculately tracked session. However, its common for a mix engineer to be unable to salvage a poorly produced/poorly tracked/poorly arranged production.
I also hate to say this, but many mix engineers are damn well expendable. Including myself to be honest. Some indie artist have to hunt for years before they find a producer who is a decent match for their work. You can throw a rock off the top of a building in Nashville or Atlanta and probably clunk someone who can mix. That isn’t doubting myself, its just recognizing that there are a lot of qualified people out there that do what I do.
I’ve read through the replies, so I can see how and why you feel the way you do. This is why in the real studio’s, you have tracking guys, producers, and audio editors. Each excels in their field. In the world of having to wear numerous hats like most of us do these days, it’s understandable to not enjoy the tracking side of things as well as feeling the need to produce and be the reason someone may fail. LOL!
It’s all art. Just like some musicians are fantastic, but they blow in the studio as far as engineering goes. I’ve always felt this way about Malmsteen. Killer player…horrible recordings for the most part. And I think you are wise to not get involved in the producing part if it’s not something you feel confident in. At the end of the day, you’re charging for services…it’s best to be at least “good” at them. "Good’ depends on how much you charge too…as well as how your studio operates, your clients etc. It all walks hand in hand. Some guys can get ferocious sounds but they can’t put it all together. I got this friend of mine who is creating guitar tones so huge, it puzzles me when he told me how he went about them. BUT…the rest of his core instrumentation is suffering so bad, it matters not how good the guitars are.
We also have to know a bit about music in my opinion as well as being somewhat familiar with different styles of music. This alone helps you to be the right producer for the clients you may get. Being a solid rock or metal guy will only get a person so far. Doing just rap, hip hop or R&B sort of stops you from helping someone who may need a modern country sound. Then again, some studio’s are chosen because of what they excel in. But even there, being an engineer/producer that can help get the best out of clients comes from life experience as well as being open to a wide array of different musical styles.
Me personally, I enjoy tracking, producing, coaxing better performances out of clients, and even sometimes intimidating them to the point of where they dig so deep down, they literally come out with things that could have never happened. When I say “intimidate”…sometimes I may sing a vocal or play a guitar passage that they may not be able to play at the moment so that I may inspire them. Sometimes it backfires and it can deter them. But, when they ask my opinion or pay for my services…they get everything I am capable of. Comments, playing examples, manipulations, whatever it takes. You sometimes have to be that way while other times you can sort of be a little more compassionate.
What I hate? A little off topic…but, I hate playing all the instruments on the new album I’m working on with a deadline from both labels approaching soon. It’s beat me to a point of nearly retiring from music. My band and I parted ways after 6 years of writing an album. We worked on it one day a week (which is why it took so long) from 2010 to 2016. We parted ways after all the pre-pro was done and the actual recording had started. We got done 2 songs, stopped getting together, and I got so mad I deleted all their stuff and decided to do the whole thing myself. What was I thinking?! Those dudes are so good, it’s taken me this long to literally get my drums and bass chops up to get through the album…I shit you not.
January 1 of 2017 I decided to take it on. And here I am today, still learning and getting through it. I’m at song 13 of 15 just getting the core instruments done. So I’ll have to go back and sing everything, mix, produce…but man, forcing yourself to play instruments you have no desire to play is relentless! I’m a guitarist/singer…that’s how I want it to stay. But, I’m tired of eating crap from people. Now if I fail, it’s my fault. So it’s more appealing to me now. That said, I’ll take being a DAW operator any day! LOL! I’ve been working on this current song on drums for a week now…and I’m actually better as a drummer now than I was when I played every day for 25 years. I’m STILL fighting this stuff.
My clients this week are hard core metal, modern country, blues, and radio pop rock. This helps me recharge my batteries because all are awesome, so I’m loving every minute of tracking and producing them. It helps immensely when you have artists that can play well that have good tones coming right out of the box. The harder a client is to work with, the harder it is to have the desire to track, produce or get the most out of them. You sort of have to play it like a gig…whether there are 20 people or 20,000…you put on the same show. Whether the client has talent or not, you still have to do whatever you can to get the best out of them because when the project leaves, it’s your name on it. There’s never a blame you can fight back about.
Think about it…the band will say the engineer blew it. They never blame the producer or anyone in the band that made the wrong call. It’s you, and what sucks is, you will just about NEVER have the chance to explain to people who’s fault it REALLY was and how you did what you did to make the client happy. You’ll never get to say “I told them if they did this that and this, that it would suck…but they didn’t listen.” They’ll just spread to their friends that the crappy sound came from your studio. So whenever you can try to help someone…even if you aren’t a great producer etc, remember that your name is on the project. Make it as good as you can. At least going out you can accept that you gave it your all.
My total-shit directionless business model from about 5 years ago is coming around to kick my ass at the moment. Then again, part of this was learning how to grow into my own strengths.
I’ve found that many people who have the instincts to put a ferocious sound together potentially have the natural instincts it takes to mix, but the technical aspect of mixing is so drastically different from tuning a source (drum set, amp, choir etc) that they simply don’t have the time, interest, or really the desire to learn it…even if they have the cognitive capacity to potentially do so.
No shit. I couldn’t agree with you more on this one!
Ugh. I’ll gladly leave that to you. Far more entertaining to watch a person who’s good at this work their magic than attempt it myself!! I’m pretty good at helping the producers with organization, process management, and equipment management. For some reason many of them who are good at the music suck at the organization, research, and technical troubleshooting.
I stopped taking calls from music producers and film directors that have reputations for pinning this shit on their technical contractors. Wanna piss me off?? Blame my friends and colleagues for something that was your own god damn fucking fault!! lol. I absolutely despise people that can’t own up to the consequences of their own arrogant choices. OMG!!