Welcome to Day 29 of 31 Days to Better Recordings.
Have you ever heard the following phrase?
Songs aren’t written, they’re re-written.
I was listening to a Nashville music business radio program the other night, and one of the hosts was berating songwriters who are too proud to make changes to their songs. He claimed that all successful professional songwriters almost never write a hit song on the first attempt.
They write the song, then they listen to it, get opinions from others, re-write it, get more opinions, re-write it, get more opinions, etc. The “wannabe” songwriters, according to this guy on the radio, will never stand a chance of being successful if they don’t let go of their pride and admit that their songs probably aren’t perfect without some revisions.What does this have to do with us recording engineers? I would suggest that:
Recordings aren’t mixed, they’re re-mixed.
Am I talking about doing a dance club remix of your song? No, silly. 🙂
I’m talking about working a revision process into your mixing schedule. You need to give yourself time to make valuable changes to your mix. Otherwise, you’ll listen to your final mix 3 months from now and kick yourself because of some of the issues you failed to address.
Here’s how I go about doing this. (I used this approach to mix my latest album.) Take my approach and modify it to suit your workflow.
1. Three-Hour Mix Session
First things first. I mix the song. I try not to take more than four hours total to mix an entire song. If you don’t set time constraints on yourself, you’ll let yourself go 8, 12, even 20 hours mixing one songs. At some point, the mix isn’t getting any better.
Download a timer app and stick to it. You’d be surprised how efficient it makes you.
2. Email the mix to a few friends.
At this point, I take my mix and send it to several friends, asking for criticisms/feedback. Tell them to be honest. It’s in your best interest.
3. Check your mix EVERYWHERE.
While you’re waiting for a reply from your friends, listen to the mix everywhere you can – iPod earbuds, headphones, car stereo, home theater system, live PA setup…whatever you can, do it.
The key here is to listen for the differences. Do the vocals stand out too much when you listen in your car? Make a mental note and adjust that when you go back to revise your mix. Does the bass sound too muddy? Make a note to adjust that later.
This is a HUGE part of the process. Don’t be lazy here.
4. Take a break.
Once you’ve listened everywhere and gotten feedback from friends, don’t go back and revise the mix. You’re too close to it. Your ears aren’t really in “objective mode” anymore. Take a few days off. Work on a different song, then come back and finish the mix.
You’d be surprised how a fresh set of ears will allow you to hear things you never would have heard before.
5. One-Hour Revision
You’ve got your mental notes (or actual written notes perhaps) of what changes need to be made. Set your timer again, and give yourself one hour to make it happen.
Adjust to Taste
Perhaps four hours isn’t realistic for you. That’s fine. Go for 6 or 8, but if you follow these steps, I promise your mixes will get better. It may be painful to listen to the feedback from friends at times, but it’s TOTALLY worth it.
Day 29 Challenge
Tell us what you’re going to do on your next mix session…then go do it. 🙂