Mixing an album

After working on the creation & production of a record, it is time to mix the music down.

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… through it, the music is recorded, vocals, instruments, synths etc.. ok you knew it already..

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

Before you know, you got your demo. and you certainly will fall in love with it after listening to it 20 times a day …

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 also wrote & produced the music (it is thus recommended to pass on somebody else, even if you can do it yourself like i do .. hum ..)

Technically speaking, it’s not the worst, but not easiest. You have to sonically sum all the musical arranged 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 Renaud Létang , (heavy weight of the last 25 years recording industry in France & elsewhere too: Souchon, Manu Chao, Nougaro, Gonzales, Katerine, Feist, Jean-Louis Aubert… you name it) who mixed our second Roseaux album (soon into your ears, as a quick reminder Roseaux is: Emile Omar, Clément Petit, Alex Finkin).

My fellas kindly invited me to mix our first record back then, and i did, as much as i could, but for this second album, we wanted our new music to get the benefit of his magical touch, and that was the occasion to meet him.

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

I understood how mixing a way or another could change the perception of a song, how fundamentally influential it could be on the way we hear the tune, the key, the tempo, the sounds …

Anyway, the purpose is:  emotion … this is also what the artist & the producer are chasing for.

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, reality goes somewhere else for now, each listener has its own relationship to music, his 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 to the artists i work with i often go for that story:

when legendary Bruce Swedien mixed Michael Jackson  “Billie Jean”, MJ & Quincy, the producer, asked him about 92 mixes. the excitement of such an epic number, made them falling into the “a little more on the left, a little more on the right” disease..

Eventually, mix n°2 made it to the album, so then i tell myself that Bruce knew exactly his way. Does it mean that the 90 following mixes were just a waste of time?

Mixing is an artistic matter, no joke. It is like performing the work of somebody else.

Of course, the mixer has to pay attention to the artist preferences, 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 no objectivity anymore (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..)

This is a mysterious process, so then the mixer of big successful hits became a major actor of the industry, as much as the producer is, and i truly think it’s fair.

The hard part comes when the artist doesn’t want to let it go, after dreaming of him riding on winghorses, for months & months listening the original demo

Precisely, when the artist keeps the remembrance of his “first time” when composing the music.

Sometimes, and that’s even more sad, 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”.