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Thread: mixing engineer vs. tracking engineer

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    jugalo180's Avatar
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    mixing engineer vs. tracking engineer

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    i've did my research and i've gathered that it isn't wise to have the same engineer track and mix your song. mainly it's due to ear fatigue.

    if i were to hire an engineer to track me during a 13 hr lockout would i be asking for trouble to have him track two songs and mix two songs during that time frame?

    if ear fatique usually sets in around 8 hours should i look for a mixing engineer that does not book clients around the clock for mixing? to clarify, should i avoid engineers that put in 16+ hour days mixing various bands?
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    Depends. Have you heard his mixes? Did you like them? Are you recording sensitive folky stuff or earsplitting metal? Did the engineer stick his head inside the bass drum to find mic placement? Next to a 4x12 Marshall cab turned up to 11? Is the control room playback volume at 80db or 100db? How does that affect the engineers hearing and how is he used to working?
    Seriously, it's a difficult question to answer. If it's a professional deal with a big budget you might be able to hire Roger Nichols for the tracking and Bob Clearmountain to do the mix. But for most people the tracking engineer's mix from your local studio will probably be just fine.
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  3. #3
    SouthSIDE Glen's Avatar
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    My personal take on this (and this is subjective and dynamic) is that the "use different engineers" axiom is far more important when talking about moving from mixing to mastering than it is when moving from tracking to mixing.

    In some cases (with the right engineer), in fact, it can arguably be advantageous to have the same engineer for tracking and mixing. Why? If the engineer is good and plans ahead from the get-go - i.e. if he already has in his head what he wants the final mix to sound like - he can make his tracking selections to fit that mix properly. This is especially true if there is no one else really taking the reigns with bosth fists as the producer.

    OTOH, if you have seperate tracking and mixing engineers who are in agreement and in concert as to what the target mix will be, or who are working under the direction of a common producer, then such continuity should not be an issue, and the seperate mixing engineer can be advantageous.

    Plus there is the fact that many engineers are just better at one function than the other. Some great baseball players are better at shortstop than they are at second base and some engineers are better at tracking than they are at mixing. And vice versa.

    But no matter how you slice that, any good engineer will take the longest break that the schedule will allow between all phases; tracking, mixing and mastering. It's not only ear fatigue, but brain fatigue as well. It's like any problem that looks fresh when you come back at it the next morning, you often see something almost instantly that you would have never thought of the night before. I personally try to never combine engineering phases on the same project in the same day. If I have to because of schedule, I'll at least work it out so that there is a scheduled break between phases; a break where there is silence and rest.

    But that "fatigue" idea gets a little grayer I think when you start talking about juggling multiple projects. For example, I'll have much less ear and brain fatigue after a 14 hour day if I spent the first 5 hours working on project A, the second 5 hours on project B, and the final 4 hours of project C than if I spent the entire 14 hours working on project A only. There will stii be fatigue either way, but it somes on much faster and harder if you don't break up your day between different chores. You can't *just* look at the number of hours, but also at how they're managed.

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    I dont think

    it matters if the same guy tracks and mixes. Just don't have ANYONE attempt it right after 13 hours of recording. I don't care if it's metal or a small childrens choir! Ear fatigue sets in...or just plain boredom. Get rest, then try.
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    Another thought is depending on the relationship betweem the "mixing" and "tracking" engineers and the client,there could be a situation set up for bad mouthing each other.ie. mixing engineer saying tracks suck, or should have been recorded another way when in reality he may have no clue of the situation where the recording took place, the dynamics of the band with regard to tracking engineer and so forth. I have had to mix "bad" tracks from other engineers only to find out that given what they had to work with ( band members,room, time factors) it was an amazement it came out as good as they did. Another idea is if possible envole the "mixing" engineer in the tracking a little if possible. Get a good report going between all parties. just my thoughts Now I have to leave to record a band live in a loud bar room for 4 hours! Be back later
    People always seem to embrace the future then long for the past

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    Well if you are talking about tracking and mixing 2 songs in one day you are probably on a pretty tight budget, and you probably do not have the option of multiple engineers.

    About half my work is mixing records other engineers have tracked. Outside mixers are usually used as a way to sort of up the quality at the end of the project, that can not afford a more experienced engineer for the whole project.

    There are times when a good outside mixer can really help a record tons, and other times where the fancy name engineers mixes are not as good at the lesser know engineer's.

    I am usually good for about 12 hours, can be functional for about 15 but make no promises after that. I once did an album for a hardcore punk band where I tracked and mixed the whole album in 22 hours.
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    Christian punk - 35 minutes - Tracked, mixed, mastered - 6 hours. I hate to say as far as "raw quality" is concerned, one of my better sounding projects.

    But seriously - *IF* you can do it, come back the next day to mix. Too many stupid mistakes and lack of clear judgement after a long tracking session. Not that you don't pull out a "gem" once in a while...
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    jugalo180's Avatar
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    once again the homerecording team has provided me with some very strong wisdom and i want to say thanks to everyone. i truly apreciate that you guys take the time to thoroughly answer questions in these forums. every one pretty much summed it up for me. the studio charges a cheaper price for 10 and 13 hour blocks so i'll probably use the extra time bouncing to tape instead of going into another song.

    thanks a ton guys!
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    Quote Originally Posted by jugalo180
    i've did my research and i've gathered that it isn't wise to have the same engineer track and mix your song. mainly it's due to ear fatigue.

    if i were to hire an engineer to track me during a 13 hr lockout would i be asking for trouble to have him track two songs and mix two songs during that time frame?

    if ear fatique usually sets in around 8 hours should i look for a mixing engineer that does not book clients around the clock for mixing? to clarify, should i avoid engineers that put in 16+ hour days mixing various bands?
    well that usually depends. If you're working with a good budget, you don't usually consider mixing and tracking in the same day. Not even in the same week.

    It's a process that takes many steps before you reach each consecutive phase of production.

    Now if you're working as 95% of musicians do on a limited budget, you don't have that luxury. You won't usually have the luxury of having more than one engineer without the price.

    If you think with the head of an engineer, asking him to track and mix in the same day are difficult to do well. So yes, fatigue is an important factor. I would say more mental fatigue than ear fatigue.

    Most of the time, it's impossible to nail each and every detail within the first few hours of mixing. That's just a fact of recording and mixing.

    The best way to go about is to just ask for the engineer's work. Ask him as many questions as you can about his previous work and the experience. You also ask him certain questions to see where his head is at in terms of YOUR music. For example, some engineers are so hell bent on mixing rock music that when a jazz project comes along, they'll work on it, but treat it as a rock mix. Either that or they will just naturally become mentality fatigued faster than a project of thier choice.

    -How long did it take?
    -What where the circumstances?
    -How was he feeling that day?
    -How was the band feeling?
    -What where the emotions running through the studio at the time?
    -How long does it usually take to track and mix a project?
    -What's his favorite kind of music?

    He should be able to give you good answers.

    Of course, if budget and time permit, find yourself either a good engineer who can handle both tracking and mixing on seperate days, or find yourself a good engineer to track and another one to step in on mixing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jugalo180
    once again the homerecording team has provided me with some very strong wisdom and i want to say thanks to everyone. i truly apreciate that you guys take the time to thoroughly answer questions in these forums. every one pretty much summed it up for me. the studio charges a cheaper price for 10 and 13 hour blocks so i'll probably use the extra time bouncing to tape instead of going into another song.
    I would track as many songs as possible in the 10-13 hour block, and then book another session later to do the mixes. At that session then mix as many songs as you can in the 10-13 hours. I'd preferto do all tracking in one session and all mixing in another session, rather than both track and mix in the same session.

    It can be done, but I think you need an experienced recording/mix engineer to pull it off even halfway decently. The reason for that being that a good engineer will basically be working on the mix while he's tracking. So by the time the tracks are all in, there's a pretty respectable mix already happening.

    There are a lot of different scenarios that can happen. I've played on sessions where they were on a real deadline and had to basically have the mix done when the tracking was done. It can work out okay, but I think the mix gets short-changed. Much better to lay the tracks in and then come back later when fresh and mix without the super huge time crunch deadline hanging over your heads.

    It's a really good question, great thread!

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