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"When one looks for a mixing engineer..."

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"When one looks for a mixing engineer..."

Postby VOLOVIA » Wed Aug 12, 2020 6:07 am

Preposition: I am finishing off some tracks with real instruments that need to be mixed.
For "signed" (what is that?) artists, this is not an issue: you just go to the best professional with a track record in your style within your budget.
For the many "serious" amateurs, it is a different matter. Luckily, modern tech has allowed many talented engineers, maybe those that have never worked with the Adeles of this world, but still with excellent "ear and gear" to carry out a very decent work at a humanly affordable level. Great, now the point: how do you go about auditioning the best candidate if the track record is not 'known'?

I can't think of an easy way for either party: the 'candidate' would have to mix one of my tracks, even half of it or whatever, to a nearly finished level before I can evaluate it fairly. However, I would feel incredibly guilty to then turn it down if not happy, since to mix a song to a decent, pre-mastering level (half or full song makes little difference) would have meant hours of work.

How do others go about it?
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Re: "When one looks for a mixing engineer..."

Postby BJG145 » Wed Aug 12, 2020 8:06 am

You could ask about examples of other work they've previously done in the genre...
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Re: "When one looks for a mixing engineer..."

Postby The Elf » Wed Aug 12, 2020 8:29 am

I provide examples, and I'm always prepared to discount the cost of a first mix. After that it's 'only pay if you're 100% happy'. There's no need to feel guilty when your mix engineer offers these things.
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Re: "When one looks for a mixing engineer..."

Postby VOLOVIA » Wed Aug 12, 2020 9:05 am

BJG145 wrote:You could ask about examples of other work they've previously done in the genre...

Sure. A couple of further questions if I may: in 2020 a 'mixing session' is intended "just" a literal beautification of the sounds plus balancing or intended like the SOS "mix helps" that undergo work to the limit of production by adding, for instance, a different bass drum track to boost the kit, or taking "responsibility" of dropping one of the guitar tracks ... or whatever, you get the gist.

Last, would the quotations include these different levels of mixing, from again, a 'balancing act' to semi-postproduction? And what is the price ballpark bracket (please no references to pieces of string...).

Cheers
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Re: "When one looks for a mixing engineer..."

Postby CS70 » Wed Aug 12, 2020 9:49 am

VOLOVIA wrote:Sure. A couple of further questions if I may: in 2020 a 'mixing session' is intended "just" a literal beautification of the sounds plus balancing or intended like the SOS "mix helps" that undergo work to the limit of production by adding, for instance, a different bass drum track to boost the kit, or taking "responsibility" of dropping one of the guitar tracks ... or whatever, you get the gist.

Bit of both. The goal is to give the client an idea of the time (and hence cost) involved in the getting the track ready for mastering.

I guess it depends on the person, but for me normally mixing is mixing - i.e. working on existing tracks. I usually ask a rough mix (just faders up) from the client, or at least the aligned tracks (with the "main" tracks suitably named) so I can make one myself in five mins. If the client can't do aligned tracks, it's a bad sign :) Sometimes the "track" is just a midi file, and part of the mixing is to find a suitable synth to play it - that is a red sign as it's difficult to assess quickly how much that midi file is usable. Mostly I ask for a bounced audio.

I also try to discuss with the client what sounds he's after - anything from a mail exchange to a short skype/zoom session works.

That given, and I can have an idea if the job is just mixing or may require some additional production.

The main issue usually is not so much the mixing, but the quality of the recording and the amount of editing, time-stretching, pitch-correcting, noise-eliminating that's needed. That's what takes time.

Sometimes people want to send stems - I'm not a super-fan because if they're badly made you end up using more time to fix things (or it's even impossible) and you have less control of the quality of the result.

Last, would the quotations include these different levels of mixing, from again, a 'balancing act' to semi-postproduction? And what is the price ballpark bracket (please no references to pieces of string...).

Cheers

I'm afraid the piece of string is the only answer - it really depends. I guess everyone has their different models for estimating the effort. But one can make a "packaged" solution, say $500 per song and be done with it. It also matters if the job is urgent or not - "urgent" means dropping everything else.
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Re: "When one looks for a mixing engineer..."

Postby Folderol » Wed Aug 12, 2020 10:13 am

CS70 wrote:Sometimes people want to send stems - I'm not a super-fan because if they're badly made you end up using more time to fix things (or it's even impossible) and you have less control of the quality of the result.

Just poking my nose in here...
This is something I'm not at all clear on. What exactly is a stem as opposed to an audio track?

Up to now, when anyone has asked me for either, I just send tracks all of which contain a short silence followed by a sync pulse at position zero, then as much silence as needed for the track to play at the right point.
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Re: "When one looks for a mixing engineer..."

Postby blinddrew » Wed Aug 12, 2020 10:19 am

Stems are a collection of audio tracks bussed together in logical groups.
So rather than getting separate kick, snare, toms, overheads etc tracks for a drumkit, you get a Drums stem, which is a (generally) stereo file with all those drum tracks pre-mixed.
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Re: "When one looks for a mixing engineer..."

Postby CS70 » Wed Aug 12, 2020 10:34 am

Yeah, what Drew says - insted of getting the individual tracks, you get pre-mixed groups which are logically connected. Drum kits, double panned guitars or vocals become one stereo track, a backing vocal group with several mics, etc..

It works well if the pre-work and internal balancing has been done well, but if not - or the balance is not suitable to the artistic ethos of the production - it's a lot of multiband compression and EQ :D

The zero point is cool, but you'll make people even happier if all files are so that they simply align when you put them all at position zero in the DAW.

It's lovely when the main takes are marked with a "_MAIN_" (if there are several takes of course) and the BPM, word length and sample rate are also in the name.

One can hope... :D
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Re: "When one looks for a mixing engineer..."

Postby BJG145 » Wed Aug 12, 2020 10:47 am

blinddrew wrote:Stems are a collection of audio tracks bussed together in logical groups.
So rather than getting separate kick, snare, toms, overheads etc tracks for a drumkit, you get a Drums stem, which is a (generally) stereo file with all those drum tracks pre-mixed.

Be aware that people may use the word without knowing this however. ;)

https://beatmakerlab.com/articles/how-t ... or-mixing/
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Re: "When one looks for a mixing engineer..."

Postby James Perrett » Wed Aug 12, 2020 2:40 pm

I'd look for a mixing engineer by looking at the credits on independent releases in a similar style. If the same names consistently come up then it would be worth approaching them. While major label mix engineers may be too expensive, there are plenty of people working for independent labels and artists who charge sensible prices.
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Re: "When one looks for a mixing engineer..."

Postby Ramirez » Wed Aug 12, 2020 7:58 pm

blinddrew wrote:Stems are a collection of audio tracks bussed together in logical groups.
So rather than getting separate kick, snare, toms, overheads etc tracks for a drumkit, you get a Drums stem, which is a (generally) stereo file with all those drum tracks pre-mixed.

This is how I’ve always used it too, but almost everytime someone’s mentioned ‘stems’ to me in the past few years, they were simply referring to the multitrack files.
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Re: "When one looks for a mixing engineer..."

Postby Sam Spoons » Wed Aug 12, 2020 8:49 pm

Sounds like a case of 'language creep'. I'm a rank amateur when it comes to recording (semi-pro/pro live sound guy for may years) but stems means several tracks logically combined rather than, as that webpage suggests, individual tracks with the 'chaff' removed.....
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Re: "When one looks for a mixing engineer..."

Postby RichardT » Wed Aug 12, 2020 11:05 pm

BJG145 wrote:
blinddrew wrote:Stems are a collection of audio tracks bussed together in logical groups.
So rather than getting separate kick, snare, toms, overheads etc tracks for a drumkit, you get a Drums stem, which is a (generally) stereo file with all those drum tracks pre-mixed.

Be aware that people may use the word without knowing this however. ;)

https://beatmakerlab.com/articles/how-t ... or-mixing/

It’s a bit pointless if stem comes to mean ‘rendered track’ - well need another word for stem!
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Re: "When one looks for a mixing engineer..."

Postby VOLOVIA » Thu Aug 13, 2020 4:09 am

Not a big fan of 'stems'. Really, only maybe useful in the mastering process when say trying to balance the low end having still access to a bass track and drums (BD) "individually".
Of course, this does not work for vocals for instance, because if you think they are too low in the mix then you'll bring up all the backing vox, reverbs etc. You might as well ... fix the mix in the first place.
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Re: "When one looks for a mixing engineer..."

Postby CS70 » Thu Aug 13, 2020 8:06 am

VOLOVIA wrote:Not a big fan of 'stems'. Really, only maybe useful in the mastering process when say trying to balance the low end having still access to a bass track and drums (BD) "individually".
Of course, this does not work for vocals for instance, because if you think they are too low in the mix then you'll bring up all the backing vox, reverbs etc. You might as well ... fix the mix in the first place.

Fully agree with the sentiment, but just for info, it is often possible to "lift" vocals at mastering time a little, without perceptively altering the rest of the balance. One of the ways to make that happen is to boost a little around 1K, 2K, 5K with neutral or lowish Q, or using a multiband compressor with a narrowish band around these freqs, starting with linear phase to keep things transparent and taking it from there (all very gentle settings, you don't really want to change the overall sound of the mix). You can also, of course, lower it down if there's places where the vox sticks too much.

It really depends on the material of course - big balance issues are much better reported back to the mixer. And you need to have really good monitoring and good ears to judge... I don't do mastering since I don't have the room (to say nothing of the ears :D) and frankly I have more fun mixing, but it's a fascinating subject.
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