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Getting ready for mix Tuesday

posted Aug 14, 2011, 2:52 PM by Frank Adrian
Tuesday is the day when Dave and I (and maybe Gary - I don't know if he's showing up or not) go into the studio to start mixing the This, Not This! EP. I'm actually looking forward to this because someone else gets to twiddle the knobs and I can concentrate on getting a decent record out the door. The main things I'm going to be looking after are (1) that vocals are good, (2) that each song has appropriate forward momentum, (3) that the songs are not boring, (4) that the parts are appropriate, and (5) that the songs have no clutter in them.

With the vocals, like most novice singers, Tia liked the effect of reverb on her voice. Who wouldn't? It softens rough edges. On the other hand, too much reverb sounds dated and makes the vocal have less impact. The goal is to get enough softening without drowning the impact. During listening to the roughs, Brad had almost a 1980's level of reverb on Tia's voice - not good. Also, we used only about five of the twenty-seven hours we spent in the studio on vocals, and only about an hour and a half of that tracking backing vocals. I'm very worried that we didn't get decent vocals, let alone inspiring ones. This is the area where I'm most concerned. I'm watching this closely.

As for forward momentum, I think that most of the songs move along nicely. The only thing we need to pay attention to here are transitions, making sure that there's something driving the listener along during the breaks and that there's an audible payoff after the break. I'm not too worried about this. A couple of dB tweaking on particular parts during breaks will be the only changes here.

As long as Tia has brought her "A game" in the vocals, I don't think that the songs themselves are boring. My issue here is that both guitars are often playing the same parts. This leads to two problems - I occasionally worry that there's not enough variation to be interesting and having two guitars bashing out the same thing tends to take up a lot of space and can clutter a mix. Bittersweet and Flotsam probably don't have this problem. Takeaway, One Hit Wonder, Bringing It, and License to Fly might. I may have to talk the guys into underdubbing some of the guitar parts. The fact that we didn't have that many parts going in makes this a lot harder.

Then, there's the appropriateness of the parts. In the mix I did of Flotsam, I used some of Gary's noodling over the last chorus, while adding some of my own. It actually sounded pretty good because the solo track that Gary recorded at home was brilliant and fit the "pop" arrangement and sound I gave the track. We tried to re-create that in the studio but, frankly, I don't think that the solo that Gary played there matched what he did in the parts he recorded at home and I'm not sure that it goes with a more straightforward arrangement of the tune. I am concerned that trying to include this part will make the last chorus of Flotsam sound less than great. I plan to bring along what Gary recorded at home on a hard drive because, as I stated previously, I think his playing there was brilliant. However, even with that solo, I'm not sure that it would go with the simpler arrangement of the song. We'll see.

Anyway, my major concern about all of this is that I think that some folks want to have the EP done on Tuesday. I, on the other hand, don't want the EP to go out the door unless it sounds as good as it can. I won't be completely hard-ass about it - if anything, my years in the software industry have taught me that there is such a thing as an acceptable level of quality that is quite short of perfection, and my experience in production is that one is ultimately limited by the songs, their arrangements, and the skills of the people involved. I understand these limits. However, I have this sneaking suspicion that we're going to need another day of recording additional parts and/or replacing vocals because I'm not sure that some of the arrangements quite cut it and I think that we're capable of doing better. And, though everyone wants to get this thing out the door, I'd much rather produce something that's worth listening to than just another CD that sits on a table in front of us at gigs.