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A/B'ing with the rough
Old 14th June 2020
  #1
Gear Addict
 
🎧 10 years
A/B'ing with the rough

Hey John!

First of all, this is some of the most helpful content I've come across in a LONG time, specifically the bits about the role of the mixer, taking things the last 2-10% as opposed to reinventing the wheel, lots of small moves adding up to a larger result, workflow etc. Seriously, invaluable perspective.

That sort of leads me to my question --

Beyond the initial listen-down, what role does the rough play in your mix process? Are you regularly a/b'ing? If so, are there particular things you're paying attention to/comparing as you go? Or, is it more of a gut check, "am I clearly and undeniably improving things with that last move?" sort of thing?

For a bit of context, I've reached the stage of my mixing career where the rough mixes I'm getting are REALLY good. My clients have gone from decidedly indie/diy, where even a relatively modest mix process made significant and exciting results pretty easy to achieve. I'm having to reframe my role along the lines you've described in several threads: not reinventing the mix and being respectful of the good work that's been done before it got to me.

That said, I think it's made me a bit insecure. I find myself punching the A/B button in Metric A/B often, worrying that I'm a total imposter .. only to be relieved when 9/10 times the feedback on the mix is super positive (albeit with a pile of notes).

I guess I'm asking, any advice for someone currently going through the "level up" process so far as staying focused on finding those areas I can improve when something is already so great? Should I be spending less time with the rough and trusting my instincts more?

Thanks so much!

Kyle
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Old 18th June 2020
  #2
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TheHanes's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by libertine ➡️
Hey John!

First of all, this is some of the most helpful content I've come across in a LONG time, specifically the bits about the role of the mixer, taking things the last 2-10% as opposed to reinventing the wheel, lots of small moves adding up to a larger result, workflow etc. Seriously, invaluable perspective.

That sort of leads me to my question --

Beyond the initial listen-down, what role does the rough play in your mix process? Are you regularly a/b'ing? If so, are there particular things you're paying attention to/comparing as you go? Or, is it more of a gut check, "am I clearly and undeniably improving things with that last move?" sort of thing?

For a bit of context, I've reached the stage of my mixing career where the rough mixes I'm getting are REALLY good. My clients have gone from decidedly indie/diy, where even a relatively modest mix process made significant and exciting results pretty easy to achieve. I'm having to reframe my role along the lines you've described in several threads: not reinventing the mix and being respectful of the good work that's been done before it got to me.

That said, I think it's made me a bit insecure. I find myself punching the A/B button in Metric A/B often, worrying that I'm a total imposter .. only to be relieved when 9/10 times the feedback on the mix is super positive (albeit with a pile of notes).

I guess I'm asking, any advice for someone currently going through the "level up" process so far as staying focused on finding those areas I can improve when something is already so great? Should I be spending less time with the rough and trusting my instincts more?

Thanks so much!

Kyle
Kyle,

Thanks, I actually didn’t know I had so much information that needed sharing!

I am constantly A/B’ing the rough mix. I put the rough mix on output A 3-4 which goes to a separate input on my Studio Comm monitor controller. One nice thing about this is that because both A 1-2 (My Mix) and A 3-4 (rough mix) are going to it analog, there is no delay when switching between them. So I’ll like up pretty much sample accurate and can flip back and forth and hear clearly what the differences are.

With really good rough mixes that we are getting these days, the first step is to make sure that your mix sound THE SAME as the rough mix. You have to start from where they left off.

Then look for areas that you can improve. Take apart their Master Fader chain if you are using their ProTools session and see what they are doing. Half the time just turning off or replacing bad “self mastering” products with your own will be an improvement.

Work on the technical corrections, make the vocals present and understandable.

If i’m not sure if what I’m doing is helping; I’ll do a quick blind A/B test. Eyes closed, flip back and forth between the rough and your mix quickly enough times that you don’t know which you are landing on, and then ask yourself which one you like better and why. Hopefully it is your mix. If not, figure out what it is that is different and why you like it better.

These days you can’t ignore the rough mix. Spend more time with it and really analyze what you like, and what you don’t like and why.

I also sometimes feel a bit of that imposter syndrome. Sending off a first pass is still nerve-wracking. If notes are coming back positive, you’re doing fine!
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Old 18th June 2020
  #3
Lives for gear
 
Glamdring's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Dear John,

Thank you for this invaluable info!

Seeing as exporting of stems from a DAW can be quite technical, do you ever encounter situations where the stems do not sound the same as the rough mix due to the producer not understanding how to print stems properly etc?

If so how do you deal with this? It can be very challenging to recreate where someone has got to if the stems and the rough don’t ’line up’...
Old 19th June 2020 | Show parent
  #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Glamdring ➡️
Dear John,

Thank you for this invaluable info!

Seeing as exporting of stems from a DAW can be quite technical, do you ever encounter situations where the stems do not sound the same as the rough mix due to the producer not understanding how to print stems properly etc?

If so how do you deal with this? It can be very challenging to recreate where someone has got to if the stems and the rough don’t ’line up’...
Yes, this does happen on occasion; not regularly for us.

We have to approach it a couple of ways. These are specifically for Stems delivery that don't match the rough mix.

One; if we suspect that the session was done in ProTools and they are sending us stems to obfuscate their techniques; we'll call them out and ask for the PT session. Sometimes with several producers working on something, one will have the music in ProTools, another working with stems from that for vocal tracking. If they send us just the stems and vocals, we'll try to get to the original PT session if necessary.

Two; if we think that it is merely technical, we'll try to give help on exactly what the problem is and how to bounce out stems that are more useful to us.

Third; if we think that this is really the best that they can do despite us offering help, asking for additional files, etc., we might just drag our feet. Sometimes the artist or song gets dropped before we get a firm call to deliver the mix. Eventually someone will realize they've got a **** project and will either redo production, or drop it. This is very rare.
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