After Recording/Tracking comes Mix Downs - Part 13

After full on recording weekend at Warner/Chappel on Music Row, I continued in 'producer' mode for the most part. What most folks don't know about the studio process between recording and the release of the album, is a whole hoard of steps still to go. I'll be going into the behind the scenes here with your producer, Chakra Bleu. I realise that there will be too much information for interest for most of you. I invite you to read what suits your fancy. Again, I am not concentrating on condensing the information or making this a literary best seller. Lol. This is just for fun. Ignore the typos and elongated sentences:)

Mark Lonsway was the engineer on this record project. We hit it off right away and I was impressed with his intuitiveness and creative skills at the helm of the console.

I gave him a couple weeks to 'clean up' the tracks. So what this means is that when a song is recorded, there most likely will be multiple tracks for various instruments, whereby the musician 'patched in' a better recording in a segment of the song. This especially applies to instrumentals. Sometimes the engineer will record right over the undesired part that the musician needs to re-do, yet sometimes the engineer will save a track of lets say an instrumental of the fiddle and then open another track for that same spot. This can actually be helpful for the producer to use on mix down should there be a situation as follows: The first two bars of the instrumental on track 1 of the fiddle were not as good as what he did on track 2. So I have the engineer 'grab' the first two bars of track 2, paste them in on the first two bars of track 1, while keeping bar 3 and 4 on that same track, because they were played flawlessly or more melodically pleasing.

Mark goes through deleting unnecessary tracks as well white noise. Wha? So lets use this example: The fiddle player is waiting to play instrumental and just seconds before playing he sighs and quietly clears his throat. This is picked up on this sensitive microphone in the room. The engineer can see the wave forms on that track that tells him that that is not part of the instruments four bar instrumental. Mark, the engineer double checks the track and surely see that its deletable. Another job of 'cleaning up' the tracks is to meticulously make sure that the rhythm of the instruments are spot on. Even though I'm working with the best of the best professional musicians, there will be some spots in songs whereby the musicians didn't 'lock in' perfectly. In a live show, these tiny spots wouldn't be noticed. Yet this is what goes on behind the scenes for professional recorded albums.

So once Mark has cleaned up countless tracks of each instrument, he then puts the instruments and vocals in a 'rough-mix'. This rough mix is for the producer to get an overview of the song. I then listen ever so carefully to the mix of one song at a time, writing down notes of the levels of the instruments that need to be 'bumped' up or down - that just means volume up or down. I like to produce in 'clean' spacious way. What I mean is that I do not want any instrument competing for noise level with another instrument or vocal. This also applies to the harmonies competing too much with the main vocal. This takes a trained ear as well as 'feeling' a mix. If it seems too crowded, then I ask myself where there is too much collision with instruments or levels of instruments. 

Next, Mark and I get back in the studio. He's at the console and I'm in the producer's table five feet back where there is a auditory 'sweet spot' with the studio speakers. We also have headphones to pick up even finer levels, as well as giving our ears a different perspective.

One song at a time, I direct Mark through the necessary changes needed to perfect the production of the song. On my yellow pad, is neatly numbered 'jobs' for each song. Once we make the noted adjustments, he records the 'first mix' of that song. He sends that file to my email via Drop Box. Drop Box allows the transfer of big files so they don't bog down a computer. After working on 2-3 songs, we call it a night. The ears can only take so much. It's super important not to push them past the point where the ability to hear details has declined because they're 'burned-out'. 

We book another session in a couple days to then work on more song mixes. Meanwhile, I will have been listening down to Mix 1 of those first songs. I will certainly hear even more 'fixes' (tweaks that need to be adjusted in the mix), that will bring the song further into a more refined production. Sometimes, a song will need 3 to 4 mixes, with the 'fixes' being honed down to minute details of perhaps moving the decibel 1 db up or down of a particular instrument. It is Very knit picking on the final mixes. 

On the final mix of the songs, I then must listen under the head phones for any digital pops. This has nothing to do with the actual recording. This just happens in the digital world of music. Once I give the engineer the final OK, he sends me the final files of the album, which then I will send to the Master engineer. Yet before I send the files off to Yes Master Studio for mastering, I need to tackle another job.

I now must ask myself the question, "What should the song order be?" I need to come up with a combination of order whereby the songs create suspense and anticipation. The order would work much like that of a sine wave: defined as the following: (a curve representing periodic oscillations of constant amplitude as given by a since function.)

The first song is like a lead of batter. It needs to be spunky, an attention getter, a solid hitter that will get on first base. The second song needs to be a base hitter, but with a twist of surprise. I prefer the first two songs to be up tempo, not deep, yet sassy and light. The third song changes tempo and is meant to start opening up the listeners heart, know that their mind has been hopefully captured. The forth song is the clean up batter, showcasing the song that will surely open the listeners heart, maybe even yanking some tears. The tempo is similar to the third, slower than the first two songs - a home run hitter! The fifth song, starts to raise in tempo and has elements 'Hope'. The sixth song tempo is faster, with an 'Empowering' message, that's a good-feeler! Now the 7th song brings in humour; because I chose number 8 and 9 to be 'food for thought' songs. Number 10 needs to be Very light, and unpredictable, much like a batter who will bunt, and sprint successfully to 1st base, advancing the other base runners. The 11th song is a lefty, who will drive the ball down 1st base line. And finally, the 12th song is a fast tempo, light, tongue in cheek summer party song that will have the listener turn up the volume and sing along, laughing with the lyrics.

Once I worked and reworked the song order, and having the help of friends and associates input on the order, as well as the title of the CD, I sent the file off to have it mastered. 

Mastering basically evens out the tones of the lows, mids and highs, as well as putting the level of the songs all in perfect continuity within the album and at the radio volume level. It's a subtle smoothing out of tones. 

The title, as y'all know is LIVING LIFE GRAND. I had two other titles that could have been strong, yet this title came with a vibrant feeling. 




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