This is one of those little rant-like posts. This is made for anyone who does their own projects from start to finish. If you mix more than you produce or record you should probably check out my post Fix It in the Mix – You Don’t Need Perfect Recordings. In all honesty you have a lot less control when you aren’t involved from the start so reading that article will hopefully give you an idea of how to deal with recordings or sounds that just aren’t that great.
I was thinking the other day about how I approach mixing and how completely different it is for me if I am the one that’s recording or producing – which isn’t very often anymore. I realized that if I’m just mixing then my approach is completely opposite from when I’m producing and recording. I mean the end result is always the same; to get the best possible sounding record and hopefully showcasing the performance in a positive light. However, the steps to get there are not the same.
The one thing that remains the same is that I am completely aware of the sound of the record and the end product I want to hear. Of course every record is different but I am computing everything in my head, of where things should be placed, and then I work to get there.
The biggest difference is that if I am in the producer chair I am spending the time to pick the right sounds to compliment everything else in the track. Yes, this process can take a pretty long time but it’s the only way I have found to get a solid sounding mix in the end. Plus by the time all the best sounds have been chosen you have a nice big full sounding mix and you didn’t need to use a lot of processing to get there.
I’ve found that it’s not enough for notes and chords to be playing; the sounds have to be meticulously chosen because it makes a huge difference in the outcome of the emotion in the record.
We all feel much more comfortable using sounds that we feel have worked before but truth of the matter is we are only hurting the record in the end. Don’t be a lazy producer!
Overall I’m not against using the same samples over and over but I would say choose your base and then work around that. So for example if you have a drum library that you absolutely love and you know that you are probably going to reach for that then start with that. After you have laid the drums down then start to build the track around that. It’s really the only way to make sure that the integrity of the drums remains intact.
Don’t be afraid to swap out the snare or kick later on in the production process because you could go down a road that takes the track in a different direction and now the drums need to follow suit.
Much like mixing, producing a mix is the same thing. It’s a constant balance act of looking for the right sounds that complement one another (and I mean musically as well, not just sonically) and it requires a lot of trial and error to get everything into the pocket.
So how can we get the best recording when our gear sucks?
Remember when you are in the driver seat you have complete control. It is not only your duty but your obligation to put together the best possible sounds that compliment the music. The out come of the sounds will only enhance the song plus bring more life and emotion to the record.
Now if you are just mixing the project then try and make the most of it. Try and see what the vision of the song is and do your best to bring that to life. You aren’t always going to get it right but this is why it’s good to communicate with the artist, producer, client or whoever it is to make sure the sound they want is being represented.