Should the band members be present at the mix?

As with all these things, ‘yes and no’. I mix pretty much exclusively alone, and I prefer it that way for a whole host of reasons, my lifestyle being top of the list and the flexibility I need, but if you’re weighing up the good and bad, this might help, or at least provide some food for thought when you’re looking at how you approach the mix.

Going to a studio as a band to hear the music gel into this lovely finished piece is a joy to behold:  the band get to look over at each other all gooey eyed and feel that moment where it all starts sounding rather good. It was a rewarding part of mixing when I ran commercial studios. I miss that.. I get nice emails with lot’s of exclamation marks when a mix is good, but music’s a people thing so it looses that communal part.

You see where your moneys going. It’s always a little weird charging people for a process very few people really know what goes on in. By being there, you see what your money’s buying.It’s not very exciting to 99 percent of the population.

Communication is instant. Over email the lists of changes bands send generally need decifering: a ‘decay’ to one means a ‘delay’ to another.. if you’re in the room with the engineer.. you can just point at the fader, the DAW screen, whatever, and say ‘that up’. Simple.

It will, generally, cost more money to mix with the band/engineer in the same room.Not always. If you trust the engineer to log what time he’s spent, it isn’t always dearer. I’m pretty cheap as I don’t rent a commercial space. Often online mixers are the same. Worth a thought.

Look away now if you don’t like your performances fiddled with: it’s a fact of life that because you can tweak pitching and timing, if it benefits the end result, that’s part of the modern mix process. Similarly, drum replacement. These processes are dull as dishwater to watch someone do, and do lead to the debate of the ethics of doing it. I’d rather not have that conversation and unless the performance is perfect (not necessarily timing, I mean feel and the intention) generally some ‘enhancements’ will be made at mix stage. Capturing stuff ‘to tape’ and leaving it as is, is a great limit to work with, but simple enhancements to a performance (like EQ or raising the volume of a solo for example) are the same as tuning and timing enhancement. Maybe. Discuss.

What qualifies you to have an opinion? Eh? The idea of leaving a mixing engineer to it is they have perspective. They aren’t attached to that third guitar overdub,or the bvs.. as such they see the song as a whole, and do what’s necessary to get there. Generally I get comments emailed from various band members on the mix at the tweak stage, and most of the time they relate to the instrument they played rather than the mix as a whole. Much better, actually, to let the engineer get on with it, or get a second engineer you trust for an opinion. This can work the other way: when someone in the band really understands the process, it can speed the mix up and suggestions usually end up being more general and useful.

Tweak til the cows come home… because we can revisit projects at the drop of a mouse, there’s a tendency to tweak and tweak. I’m all for this, but you need to know when enough’s enough. In ye olde days, a mix recall was a wad of paper with settings and notes.. it was a big, time consuming , and hence expensive job: it made bands live in the moment to a degree and consider whether they wanted to spend another 50 quid recalling and retweaking the mix.

DFA. Most engineers have one of these on their desk to avoid carrying out bad decisions. Can you think what it does?

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