The Eval Playlist – Mix Report 7/31/15

Hey all, happy friday.  I recognize that I’m at home, pressing buttons on a keyboard, on a friday night (pauses added for effect).  Why am I doing this?  Well, what used to be my most energetic day of the week, is now the day at which I experience the greatest fatigue.  What better time to talk about yourself, eh?

Well, that and I just watched Ex Machina, and all I can say is “whoops!”  So… the mix, how’s it going?  Oh, and I’m sure you’re wondering what this eval playlist is all about.  Well, prepare yourself for the excitement… ready?

The Mix Report

The mix is going.. totally okay.  Sure I thought I was going to wrap this up in April.  Don’t forget though – I don’t know what I’m doing.  But, progress continues.  I’m definitely not spending much time going back to other tracks.  I’m sure some more will happen, but it means that I feel as though I’ve done my best.  That’s not nothing.

The C is Silent is more or less done, minus the 20 hours of random edits that I’ll come up with in a month.  That puts us at 6 tracks, about 30-32 minutes of music (they’re all kinda long; I like pink floyd).  I lined up The C is Silent to follow The Accident for two reasons:

  1. I was hoping it would be an easy win

And, especially when compared to Free or SRDTRS holy shit it was.  I’m finding I have a bit of a process now as I jump into tracks for the mix:

  • Deliberate about what I will do next.  It’s very exciting to move onto another one.
  • Deliberate some more
  • The first night, I tell myself: “Just clean it up and get it ready for the serious love” – in most cases this means sorta undoing some mix work I did early on (april, before I realized I sucked).
  • I come back the next night (sometimes maybe that same night) and revisit the mix, piece by piece from whereever it is.  Like when starting a new mix, I start with the drums.  But I don’t zero them out – I just make sure they’re hitting at a reasonable level, and then re-adjust things.  Usually there’s a complete removal of any reverb – new goal, see how good I get it before washing it out with reverb.  True story.
  • Then the other instruments.  I find that there’s usually a lot of EQ’ing I did that no longer makes sense and I’ll blow it away and start that over.
  • Often, I find effect combinations and determine them ‘too much to handle’ and turn some off.  As I go through the instruments, I turn lots of stuff on/off looking for problem spots.  Some things I’ve chosen are so buried other under sounds, it’s a no-op — I get rid of it, you can’t notice, and mixing gets easier.
  • At the end of the first night of legitimate mixing, I’m usually pretty frustrated.  The song isn’t there; I’m not sure what all the answers are going to be; I don’t know if I can take the song where it needs to go; things are worse than when I started.
  • I’ve done this 4 tracks in a row.
  • I talk myself into a couple more sessions and keep working on things.  Eventually I build enough confidence to A/B it versus another song
  • I always find things, but these have gone surprisingly well.  I make a lot of adjustments and compare more frequently to anywhere from one to three reference tracks
  • Do what I can.  Sleep on the big problem areas.  Often I come up with new ideas to deal with these things
  • I find I do a lot of little tweaks to build ups
  • And generally, things get simpler

I’m on the fourth or fifth bullet now with Fallen Star, little bits of the later bullets have started too.  No joke.

It’s seriously weird, like, all of a sudden I know how to hear something.  It took a lot of practice, but I seem to get faster and faster at latching onto certain frequency balance types of problems.  Who knows, maybe some day I’ll even be good at mixing.

Lord knows, I can’t wait to show you the work I’ve been doing.  Every piece I finish will become part of my best work to date.

I day dream about the day this is done, I do.  What it will feel like.  Be able to look back and see something I cannot see yet.  I can look back now, of course, and it’s an interesting view.  But I’m a bit too busy looking forward at present.

Ha, to describe what this is like, writing an album… now that will be something.

The Play List

With that being said, I thought it would be fun to share part of the mix process.  One of the first things they taught us in mix engineer school (well, the class) was to make a mix reference cd.  The idea is simple, cut together a bunch of songs.  Listen to them everywhere, on everything.  Every speaker, every amp, every room.  Everything.  You will know what those songs sound like.

Once you learn how to taste the alcohol, you can forget it, and finally taste the whiskey.

That’s a bit of a paraphrase.  I might have even gotten it wrong, but it sounds right.  Granted, every time I’ve heard it I was a little tipsy.  Seems wise though eh?  But that’s what the mix reference is.  Learn how to hear the song, learn how to hear the environment.

This goes for your mix environment too.  And hell, if I know these songs, might as well use them for a little A/B comparison.  How close do I hit the mark to a professional mix?  Well, before you’re too hard on yourself:

  • You’re not a professional
  • You’re not using professional stuff
  • And your shit’s not mastered

Simple enough right?  You’ve got to get as close as you can, but you can never forget that you are you.  You sound like you.  But maybe you can stand in a room next to daft punk.  Well, in my case, maybe fetal position in a corner – but hey, same room?  That’s what I keep telling myself anyway.  If you’ve never listened back to Daft’s latest on an audiophile system, you are missing out.

My playlist.  I listen to these over, and over again.  In the studio.  In the gym.  On my little box.  In the car.  Head phones in the gym.  Other pair of headphones in the gym.

And I’ve been listening to it for months.  I’m finally starting to let myself listen to other music in the studio.  Although I am trying to stray from that which is compressed (hey man, gotta know what it sounds like, not what it sounds like compressed).

Please, download these songs, make this playlist for yourself too.  Maybe someday I’ll get spotify

  1. Brace Brace – Bonobo
  2. That Voice Again – Peter Gabriel
  3. Get Lucky – Daft Punk
  4. Regulate – Warren G
  5. Regenerate – Booka Shade
  6. Flite – The Cinematic Orchestra
  7. The Parachute Ending – Birdy Nam Nam
  8. Swollen – Bent
  9. Nothing is Something Worth Doing – Shpongle

There used to be one more, maybe instead of Regulate.  This track by Meg Meyers.  Odd, when I first heard it was very excited by it.  But after hearing it a million times, it was the only one that just had to go.

On the upside, no one else is listening to my music… but I can listen to my own music more than Meg Meyers.  Guess that’s something?

Well, I suppose that’s it.  Things are going a little slow right now – I’m just not cranking hella hours into the studio.  I will soon, logging under 10 a week is alright.  You know, when you write music on a computer and use a computer at work… that’s a lot of time at the computer.  After years of this, I can say that I’m ready for a break.  And that break will be well earned.

Thanks for riding along.