Thanks Emma, I was surprisingly happy with how this turned out! Normally I have a laundry list of regrets, but I think I broke new ground with this one.
Clarity is mainly an issue of referencing. The fact is, if you, I or an anybody works on something for long enough, we get accustomed to the level of clarity we arrived at by default. It’s only by referencing a range of professional mixes that I’m able to recalibrate my auditory response.
No, I don’t do that - my path is generally fairly linear. My workflow is fairly “traditional” - I start with the drums, move to the bass, get the rhythm section sounding good, and then move on to the other fundamental “structural” instruments. Once I have them in place, I tend to start working on lead vocals. I work on all the static balances until they are making me enthusiastic/excited/want to move and don’t stop until it I get to that point. If I’m undecided, I leave the mix and come back to it another day with fresh ears.
Sometimes, at this point I’ll check the basic mix in my car just to ensure the low and high ends are behaving themselves as they should.
Once I have the very basic static mix in place and all the parts are “roughed in”, then I start putting in the detail - extra parts, sweetening, special effects, backing vocals, ambience and delays. This usually takes a while, because some parts won’t fit properly until you “massage” them with eq and/or automation.
Usually at this point, I’ll circle back to the vocals, do some referencing and really start dialling them in with automation. From this point the mix is kind of a “whack-a-mole” process. As I’m working on something, something else will raise its head as being “not quite right”. I take either a mental or sometimes even a physical note of what things need attention, and I keep circling around until I get to the point where I’m just digging the song and nothing is distracting me from it.
This process, of course, involves automating everything that needs to be automated, so that the right things are heard at the right moments. This can is the most detailed and time consuming work, but it is very satisfying once it is all working.
At this point, I’ll do some serious referencing and car checks again, and listen on a few different familiar sources. Usually by then, things are pretty dialled in, overall frequency-wise. I might make some slight level and frequency adjustments, but usually by now they are pretty small.
Then I come back and do some final mix buss automation, adjusting the levels of each section, so there is a real sense of long term dynamic change across the course of the song. Then, it’s time to post it on BTR!
With FX and processing, I find that it is best to just use what you know well. Although plugin manufactures make a big deal about the “unique” sound of their plugins, let’s face it: A compressor is a compressor, a delay is a delay etc, and the devil you know will take up less time than the devil you don’t.
When I buy a new plugin, I spend some time fiddling with it on just any old material I’ve got laying around on my hard drive, but I don’t do any “serious” work with it. I just explore it and try to work out if there is anything unique about it, and what it might be best used for at a later date, and then I file that info in the back of my mind until that situation next arises.
I mean… I can get lost down the rabbit-hole as much as anyone, but over the years I’ve worked out that when I’m in the creative flow of producing and mixing is NOT the time to do that…It just kills my creative/intuitive mindset.
Hopefully that makes sense and answers your question!
Thanks Ingo! It was fun to work on something that was totally synth based, but still had a rock feel.
There are a few cool videos on the web where you get some insight - Here are a few:
I didn’t sing on or produce this, I just mixed it. Thanks for listening!