Wednesday, February 22, 2006

You Better Leave My Mixes Alone

If you don't want, you don't have to get in trouble. You can leave the mix alone. You can resist tweaking it again and again. You can ignore the lure of the perfect mix. You could do that. Or you could do what I did.

After repeated listenings, I decided to mess around a bit with a mix I had previously considered done. Now, I don't think making tiny volume adjustments or effects adjustments is a big deal. I thought I simply needed to re-EQ some guitars. I expected to just make the changes and all would be well. Ooops. I had forgotten the Golden Rule of EQing. Every sound has an effect on every other sound. Cutting some mids out of a boomy guitar can make the vocal sound different. Or the drums.

But I went ahead and messed around too much and had to re-do most of the track. I ended up leaving the chaotic one and reverting back to a saved version of the previously untweaked "finished" mix.

The toughest issue for me right now is keeping the lead vocal on top of the mix and having it sound warm and intimate, even on louder, faster songs.This is an acquired skill and I am putting in the time this hands are crampy from scrolling a mouse around a monitor all day.

I may re-think this decision to not use an external controller, which was based mostly on the cost issue in the first place. I have access to a good deal on a controller, and I am leaning toward getting one. A hardware upgrade is definitely something that can change the pace of this project. I would have to learn the layout of the controls and their relationship to Cubase parameters, but in the long run, the speed and convenience of a dedicated controller will be worth the effort. I am fairly fluent in Cubase these days, though I don't demand much of the program and therefore have not explored it's deeper functions.

I can record, cut, paste, process and mix with it. And at present that is all I need it to do. The hardware controller would put physical faders under my fingers, and comes complete with a Fire Wire digital audio interface, which would make my MOTU 2408Mk3 redundant. There are actual knobs to twirl and real buttons to push. It doesn't replace the mouse, but it puts the mouse back to doing tasks it was designed to do,not pretending to be an ersatz mixer fader caressing a slow fadeout or jumping around on a vocal joy ride.

Of course, all those moveable, twistable, slidable things will glitter like grey plastic gems, adding more temptation to re-visit a mix. I hope not. I hope I have learned my lesson and can let a done mix stay done.

They are sounding great, BTW. We are very happy with everyone's playing so far, and with four songs getting pedal steel overdubs a coule of days ago, the sonic character and "vibe" of the album is becoming clearer. I think a lot of people will like it, and some of them might even get it. We shall see.


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