Have a quick thought I figured I would share.
Lately I’ve adopted a technique I learned from years of chess playing and applied it to music. Its made for an interesting experience when being in the room observing Grammy winning mixers in action.
Chess players hit a rating level called an A class which is the rank right below expert. Which is below master. At this point, everyone knows the mechanics, the techniques and the repertoire (combinations) of moves to position the pieces at an advantage. They begin to study what’s called positional play. When grandmasters play, each move is recorded then published in a magazine or online. To study, what a player does is replay through the moves of grandmaster games. Then without looking ahead, they pause at a critical position, then try and guess the moves for both sides. Six to ten moves ahead, the student visualizes where the pieces will most likely be on the board, then assess ahead of time what advantages/disadvantages this will place each player in if they were to make certain combinations of moves. You then check to see if you were right. This helps develop a players strategic instincts. They then check them to see if they were even close. There is no shortage of ‘literature’ to study, as new games are being played. There are also move by move commentaries that are available to students.
So the problem with Chris Lord Alge tutorials is that they’re edited. They often don’t show trial and error. There is an advantage I’ve observed from being in the room with some of the best mixers in the world that you don’t get to observe in an edited video. You don’t get to see them make moves then change their mind. The other thing I’ve noticed is that they don’t talk. There is a lot of explanation in most online tutorials. And when you’re in a room with these guys, you don’t get to interrupt and ask questions.
So rather than just observing what they do, I’ve started jotting notes based on what I hear vs just taking in what they’re doing. Then trying to guess where they’re going next as I’m following along. To a certain extent this works with videos if there isn’t a lot of commentary. But what I eventually realized is that there is a difference in the rooms. Its not as cut-and-dry as chess playing because there are many different ways of addressing a problem - and also because there is no win-loss criteria in mixing. Nevertheless, I’ve found that this has begun to help develop my own instincts, and its helped me get the most out of the precious time I’ve had the privilege to spend learning from industry leading engineers.
Good chess players develop an incredible sense of time management. So do chefs when they’re cooking. Its been fascinating to observe the differences between where master engineers focus their energy and where they don’t. This can’t be developed in a formulaic method because each song is so different, which is where I find a mix engineer must rely on strategy as well as instinct.
I have yet to discover how to make this process applicable to others who don’t have the luxury of working with this level of talent - sometimes live stream seminars are great for this, so long as they’re an actual mix session and not an advertisement for Avid products or something lame like that lol.
Food for thought!