Mixing an album

After working on the creation & production of a record, it is time to mix the music down on a good analog desk (what else ?)

Nowadays, 99% of the production is made on digital audio-workstation,  as we do at the minimalStudio, on Pro Tools: One story short, it’s a screen on one end, an audio chain on the other, converters, processors etc… ok you knew it already..

Those DAWs allow you to edit & cut the takes, make it better (rework on the rhythm, the groove, pitch the vocal if necessary, clean the files…) and eventually pre-mix it quickly “in the box”, the software being your mixing tool.

Before you know, you got your demo. and you certainly fall in love with it after listening to it 200 times …

Hosting another boring thread about digital mixing vs analog mixing (in a real desk such as minimalStudio’s one) is not my intention.

I just wanted to say that mixing is such a complex process, especially if you wrote & produced the music (it is strongly  recommended to pass it to somebody else’s ears..)

Technically speaking, it’s not the worst, but surely not the easiest either.

You are to sonically sum all the musical tracks, using all available tools to “tune” one track to another (tools such as dynamic processors, eq, panners, send/return auxiliary busses to fx etc..) to make a listenable mix, but moreover you want to turn it to an aesthetical beauty. You want to move people… creating a depth into the sonic field, using echos, reverbs, automating the volumes, enhancing the interpretation… you will ask yourself, where is the musical point ? what is the best balance ? which one of the different musical schemes &themes matters ? well, let me tell you, it’s crazy what you can do when mixing.

It’s crazy, it’s complex, it’s endless.

A few months ago, i had the opportunity to meet a « heavyweight » legendary mixing artist.

My fellas kindly invited me to mix our first album back then (10 years ago) and i did, as best as i could, but for this second album, we wanted to get the most of his legendary touch, and a good opportunity to meet the man.

He made me understand a lot, through his words & sensitivity.

I hadn’t  understood how mixing could influence that much our relationship to a song, but also give a new sense tempo …

Anyhow, the main purpose is: the emotion

Emotion is priority. the “tuning” rules are personal to each one of us, it’s not an absolute truth, and even if i admire some brave developers for providing the automatic mixing tools, the truth keeps the genius of human ears, express the purest emotions to our heart, each of us has its own relationship to music, a taste, and natural feeling: “a little louder, a little less, please put it on the left, far in the mix…” ok STOP !! Let the mixer work.

When i have to explain what it is all about i often tell that story i read somewhere:

when legendary Bruce Swedien mixed Michael Jackson’s hit  “Billie Jean”, MJ & Quincy, the producer, asked him about 92 mixes. the excitement of such an epic number, caught them inti the “a little more on the left, a little more on the right” madness..

Eventually, mix n°2 made it to the album. Bruce knew exactly how. Does it mean that the 90 following mixes were just a waste of time?

Mixing is an artistic matter, like performing the work of somebody else.

Of course, the mixer has to pay attention to the artist preferences, psychology, he has to listen to the first demo, to get the spirit.

But the artists on the other hand needs to trust him, because he’s probably burnt, and has only little of objectivity left (let’s not even talk about his neighbor, his best bud’ or his auntie who thinks that the reverb is too loud on the cowbell.. i recently had an artist asking me to put back an outrageous & out of tune guitar in the mix, because her baby daughter loved it so much.

The mixer of is now one of the main factors of the recording industry, as much as the producer is, and i truly think it’s fair.

The hard part occurs when the artist doesn’t want to let it go, picturing himself riding on winghorses, for months & months, listening the original demo..

Precisely, when the artist locks himself down to the remembrance of his “first time”, that consuming thrill..

Sometimes, the artist feels he is a victim, somebody stole his music, he wants the power back.

When someone is to deal with non logical passion for asperity… well, you hang on brother…

Recording session in duplex, there’s always a good solution..

When Afro House music superstar, and also super friend Boddhi Satva calls you to schedule a session with Haïtian star James Germain  telling you he won’t possibly show up but he still needs to attend to manage the artist performance, you take your ipad, make a video call with your brother, plug the output of the tablet to your mixing desk then the performing artist can clearly hear the call, the Ipad mic will ensure the communication in the other direction.

It’s a wrap.

Only at the minimalstudio…

Neuman U87 + Avalon M5 + Dbx 160A + Neve BA723

Feb 018 – I create a blog !

Alex Finkin
Alex Finkin, Music Producer

Hi !

Here is my blog, i will soon post some infos & updates about the projects i produce for artists & record labels, and also my own projects (Roseaux, with my mates Emile Omar & Clément Petit, i will soon write about it..) or my soul band “The Fine Keys”, my electonic duet “Cristal Noir”, my House music label, Instinctive records…etc..

I will also post some pictures of sessions, and if i can, some exclusive samples of my working sessions..

Stay tuned,

Alex

Alex Who ?

Alex Finkin is a music producer / director.

His job is to manage & produce musical projects (records) in the studio, from the writing sessions to the mixing & mastering sessions, being involved as a composer/arranger (scoring, a&r) and as a sound engineer as well, recording & mixing the music at the minimalstudio, his production facility.

He also leads and conducts bands & acts such as, internationally renowned soul singer “Aloe Blacc” (they coproduced his pop hit “The Man” together), his band “The Fine Keys”, or even the legendary musical “Hair”.