Mixing as you go

Mixing as you go
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#1

I can’t remember if I’ve talked about this before. Does anybody else “mix as you go?” when creating a song? Or do you do it in discrete stages? (Recording, then mixing.)

I just can’t help myself. I like the idea of doing it in stages, but I always end up mixing as I go. And then I get this idea that when I’m done I’ll bounce all the tracks and do a “proper mix,” but by that point I have the song basically where I want it and I’m like, “what’s the point of mixing it all over again.”

I guess to me, fx and tone are really important to the vibe of the song. I do a lot of music with a guitar as the main instrument, because that’s what I play, and I want the sound of it to be just right. Often before I even add other instruments. When I’m putting a song together, I feel like I need to hear basically how it’s going to sound in order to make arrangement decisions. So I’m always putting basic HP or LP EQs on things, putting my “this usually sounds good” EQ curve on my vocals. Putting delay and reverb on things, which often ends up being essential to the sound.

When I’m about done is when I’ll do more detailed EQing, to try and get some more distinction among instruments. I’ll do a little more automation, some bus compression, etc… Often revisit some decisions I made early on to see if they still make sense. But I don’t go back and start the mix over again. This often leaves my session rather a mess. What I will do sometimes is save a new version of the project and try to clean it up a little. Delete unused tracks and that kind of thing.

What do you guys think–is it worth starting a mix from scratch when the production is done? Or is it okay to mix as you go?


#2

It’s funny reading this post, because I’ve been through this process in the last few months. I’ve been recording an instrumental. By the end, it ended up being a song with around 20 different tracks - 6 or 7 synths, drum (virtual), bass guitar, and 6 guitar tracks.

A number of months ago, I started recording this song with an idea that you “never mix while recording”. God knows where I heard this, but I went forward with this mindset. I was writing the song, and laying down rough tracks. My first version was a very plain affair. A couple of synths, bass, drums and guitar. There was no EQ, no panning, and no delays or reverbs.

I left the song unfinished, I think mostly due to a lack of ambition and inspiration. When I loaded the song up again in Logic, I pressed play and immediately started how the song should be arranged. I panned a rhythm guitar left, messed around with the drum panning, and added a couple of EQ’s to the tracks. This was my missing ingredient. As soon as I did this the song started writing itself. The synths were doubled and panned. The guitar parts were all re-written and re-played. Because of the panning, I could now hear spaces in the songs that near enough forced me to write more rhythm parts.

I haven’t mixed the song yet, because I think I took this process just a little too far, adding eq’s, delays, reverbs, phasers and whatnot to tracks while I was writing and recording the song. The actual arrangement is good according to me, and the sounds I’ve recorded are solid.

So now I’m applying this process to the songs that I’m currently writing. I do basic EQ’s to get them in the mix in the correct places, but I’m only using effects if it helps with the writing process - so for example I will of course put distortion on guitars if it’s a lead solo, but all other bus effects are left at zero.

Going back to the original song, I’ve realised that the amount of effects I put on while writing has just created mud everywhere. I will be sitting down with a stripped down version of that song where I re-apply all delays and reverbs during the mix.


#3

I do a mixture of both. In fact i was recording a piano on a midi controller and the guy recording was not too bothered by the lack of touch. he would not play though until i had the exact sound he wanted to hear in the final mix (reverb, delay, eq, and a little saturation). Also i find that singing to a cleaned up quick mix is more productive than singing to the raw takes.


#4

I also do some mixing as I go pretty routinely. Agree with Eric about singing to a quick mix, something that is at least in the ballpark, and I will always put those low-pass filters on and some “in the ballpark” eq on most tracks just to get started. I don’t worry much about the effects though, because I always make those decisions when I’m much further along so that those choices get made in context. I don’t want to spend a bunch of time on it early only to decide later to take a different approach. So it’s somewhat cyclical and iterative in that respect.

However, there have been several times when I’ll find myself chasing my tail, and dissatisfied with how things sound, and will start over if need be. I don’t find myself needing to do that all that often, but am not the least shy about doing it if that’s what is needed.

Thus like so many things in this game, do what works for ya @Cristina… if you have a workflow you’re comfortable with, go for it! :slight_smile:


#5

I go back and forth and in circles; spending too much time. So then I lose perspective and make mistakes I don’t hear, and put in stuff that people don’t always like. It’s hard to have the same approach all the time because each song is different, and one set approach won’t work for everybody anyway, but moving quickly and efficiently is important.

So now I’m trying to work faster towards a specific goal and stay focused.

I hope.


#6

Circles is where I have been going in with my workflow. I’ve decided that I am going to create my bus channels like a fiend - I’m putting in my delays (8th’s, 16th’s), reverbs, stereo delays and anything else I can think of. I’m going to print out a sheet and hang it on the wall in front of me with my busses written down.

My main aim going forward is exactly that. I want each recording session to go forward with as little time wasting as possible. Press record, lay down a part and then have my busses ready for the “on the spot” mixing to see if it’s sitting properly and spend the absolute minimum time sampling delays or effects.