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Monitor mix (2)

An explanation of what it takes to become a record producer.

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There are many ways to make a record, and I can imagine some producers reading the previous page and thinking what a load of bull it is. There is another style of recording where the approach to an album is to record all the basic tracks, then to overdub all the other instruments and vocals, then to take a few days break before starting to mix the whole lot. The disadvantage of working a song at a time all the way from basic tracks to mix is that you can easily lose perspective. People on average listen to each record they buy about six times before they store it in a cardboard box in the attic, give it to an unloved relative or donate it to a charity jumble sale. The producer of the record has to listen to it something more like six hundred times - or more - during the recording and mixing process, and in the same way as familiarity breeds contempt, over-familiarity with a song and the recording of that song means that you can't judge it in the same way as a punter would. Taking a break between recording and mixing means that you can come back to the song with a fresh pair of ears and hear very clearly which are the good bits that need to be brought out, and which elements play an important but subservient role. If this is the philosophy of mixing that appeals to you more strongly, then you should be aware that it would probably be a waste of time working on an elaborate monitor mix. You could store it on a console with recall facilities, but that would negate the advantages of taking a break before mixing. A simple monitor mix is probably the best idea.

Still on the subject of monitor mixes, another common thing to do is to swap between songs during overdubbing according to which one you and the band feel you have most enthusiasm for at the moment. Or you may have booked a session player who you want on more than one song, so he might as well do them all in the same session. This means locating to each song on the multitrack and resetting the monitor mix on the console. If you confine yourself to level/pan/reverb monitor mixes then it won't take too long to set up. Sometimes however, during the later stages of overdubbing, you may feel that the mix you are hearing sounds really great, just by chance, and you would like to keep it as a reference for when you start mixing proper. In this case it's a simple matter to copy the monitor mix onto a DAT so you can check it later. With so few variable elements, it is pretty easy for a skilled engineer to reconstruct the mix almost exactly, and then you can go ahead and improve it still further.

By David Mellor Sunday May 11, 2003
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