The 2 Pillars Of Great Recordings And Mixes [Video]

| Mixing, Tips, Video

Want the secret to getting great recordings and mixes? There are two sides to the process that you must keep in balance. All of us lean more to one side than the other, but great tracks are never delivered by only one of these pillars. Both are critical and you can get better at both. Time for a little rant…

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63 Responses to “The 2 Pillars Of Great Recordings And Mixes [Video]”

  1. BRIAN

    The problem I have with “finding my own sound” is that I feel the sound and style that I want to make is already out there and I keep writing and recording half a song and realizing that they sound like blatant copy attempts of the bands & songs that I enjoy so much yet then I’m afraid to just change something to be different because then i wont like my own song as much. That’s my struggle right now an albums worth of half finished songs that each sound like they are biting somebody else that influenced me. Any advice you have for getting past this type of thing please let me know because I want to be an artist not a cover or tribute band.

    Reply
    • chuck

      Hi, Brian. I know others might have more ideas on making those “original” ideas happen, but here’s what I believe is a workaround/learning step towards your real goal of developing “your sound”. We all take from our inspirations and influences – everyone does/did it from Bach to “_” (fill in the latest artist of your choice). It’s inevitable that we show our influences. They’re what brought us here in the first place, eh?!

      Recently, Dave Grohl said something along the lines of – “you should get together (young, early, newbie, etc) as a band and just play. You’re gonna suck, but everyone did at first. Then you learn through trial, error, and experience how to do it, and you start writing better songs as you go on. That’s the way to really becoming a great group/artist with great songs.”

      I think the same can be true for not just writing songs, but also getting “your” sound. I’m just guessing that maybe, your biggest problem is the ongoing frustration of half recorded songs – waaaaay more of a problem here than the “developing” of a personal sound. It’s a form of writer’s block that can be crippling and – sometimes worse – just plain depressing. I would suggest that you burn through your songs and finish them – despite them sounding like something else you were/are influenced by. I think maybe just finishing a half an album (or a whole one!) will light up your creativity far more than you are letting yourself imagine right now! So what if 6-12 songs of yours sound too familiar. The point is that you will be fired up by accomplishing a finished project! After all, you can work through and then, when you’re finished, look back and see/hear what you could have done differently. AND – trust me – you will have a heavy weight off of your shoulders. The one labeled “nothing accomplished after all this time”. Really, no one deserves that self imposed burden. Of course, you already know what it feels like to NOT finish your songs/music. Try this and you’ll not only have actual fun/pride in finishing (and when listening back to) your stuff, but I really think it will free your heart & mind to move on to the next step… Can you tell I’ve had my huge up and downs with writer’s block, too?! :)

      Good Luck, remember to keep enjoying what you do, and look for “development” over time more than with that next barrier-shattering one tune. I think you’ll be surprised!

      Reply
      • chuck

        Wow! – Just saw how long ago that was posted… Sorry about that. I hope thing worked out for you during that last year and a half (doh!…).

        aaaaaaaaaand, out.

        :)

        Reply
        • G C Lee

          hey chuck,
          Great advice, still. I just read it today. You nailed it. Finish what you have. I was in a little bit of that shape, because I keep a notebook full of napkins, post it notes and legal pad paper with ideas. Some song titles, some lyrics, some summaries of a song idea or description of a sound I want to try. And I went back 20 years and revisited some unpublished material and rewrote, rewrote, rewrote. Just getting into action solves a lot of the problem of writer’s block. Anyhow, you give good advice, bro. Thanks. And thanks for the rant, Graham! Rant on, my brother!

          Reply
    • Graham

      Try these:
      Mixing Secrets For The Small Studio
      Zen And The Art Of Mixing
      Pro Tools: The Mixer’s Toolkit

      Reply
  2. Manny

    Another great video oozing with good advice. Looking forward to seeing the new room. Any chance you are going to video the process of setting up the room? I know you have products on room acoustics but some simple basic tips on choosing the right locations for each piece of gear would be interesting.

    Reply
  3. Philip

    Good luck with the new house. So does that mean a new studio room too? My girlfriend is about to move in and I have a over-full house already, carving out my space is the next frontier.
    Phil

    Reply
  4. Baba Prasad

    Graham,

    Great Stuff for everyone. Even with your busy house shifting work, you are still keeping up the news and engage with your news updates and Good Tips. You Are Really Great Graham. Nice tip of the Day.

    Reply
  5. Cameron Norman

    You should walk through where and why you put your mix position where you put it and where and why you put your acoustic treatment. Like acoustic tips.

    Reply
  6. Baba Prasad

    Hi Graham,

    Yes, Great Tip, we all want to see your New Home Studio Walk thru video and and Gear Setup fully, Please do this Graham, very eager to see your Setup walk thru your Studio. Please take a full video of your Equipments etc and how also how you have placed the Acoustic Foams of placements.

    -Baba.

    Reply
  7. James - MKai Audio

    I feel your pain Graham, my studios been turned on its head for a week or so now but I finally got everything sorted out last night and even had a little time left to do some pre-production. Your video makes a lot of sense to me. I am coming at home recording from the same angle as you. I’m a singer song writer and generally record a lot of my own stuff. Like you always say, we’re in this for the low of the music. A great song can be made better by a great engineer, but a bad song can only be made average. I suppose it stems back to a mix engineer and their many different hats. I don’t think you can be a great mixing engineer without having your producer hat to hand as well, atleast in respects of a home recording studio or project studio. A “tech” guy can iron out every frequency, phase and balance issue in a mix but if they don’t get the feel or emotion of a song, it will be nothing more than a technical masterpiece instead of a musical masterpiece. If you come at it from an art perspective, I don’t think Picasso ever used rulers and protractors to create his art.

    On the flip side you will never create great mixes without a certain amount of technical know how. I think my advise on this one would be to learn the techniques you need to create a great track instead of creating a song to use all your techniques.

    Love watching videos like this from yourself. It seems to bring everything back into perspective when you’re getting bogged down in a mix. Takes everything back to the fundamentals and gives a little clarity.

    Sorry for taking up so much space on your comments section

    Keep up the good work

    James – http://www.facebook.com/mkaiaudio

    Reply
  8. tony

    you know what buddy…..this was probably one of your best blogs to date… it was like you had been set free..
    i also watch pensados place and yeah he does throw out the odd gem but you do it much better and more to the point… i have learned more from you in the short time i have been with your blog than i have learned anywhere else…
    i wish you success in you new room,may it bring you all you desire…
    be lucky ..
    cheers
    “T”

    Reply
    • Graham

      Tony, thanks so much. Maybe I’ll do more video “rants” in the future. Appreciate your kind words. And yes, I’m grateful for the new studio space. Should be incredibly helpful and fun to work in.

      Reply
  9. Trevor

    You taught me more about recording with your words from your laptop than you would have demo’ing plug ins. Awesome!
    I love it when I have to think!

    Reply
  10. Donnie

    Hey dude, I just have to say you’re my Fav person on the planet. I have 20 or 30 of your 5 minutes to a better mix vid’s and plan to study them in realtime as I mix my second CD, soon! (first was mixed by my label,Tate Music Group)I have learned from them at a glance but really plan to study them…and this vid is awesome, cause i have lived by these points my entire 2yrs in DAW!!last, and the reason I am commenting, you articulate your points and lessons better than anyone I have ever heared articulate a point!!! bravo U

    Reply
    • Graham

      Thanks Kevin! Sometimes I get so pumped up and motivated myself. Makes me wanna get back to work!

      Reply
  11. Daniel

    Hey Graham, This is my favorite site. I’ve been recording and mixing at home for over 15 years. I’ve read tons of info, but this is the most practical site. My absolute favorite.

    Reply
  12. Gary

    Sharing your knowledge and your time in these moments of disarray, is the inspiration I needed to get off my crack and get busy again. After a difficult and humbling recording project, your words got me back on track. Thanks Graham for the time you make, and the gift you share. Looking forward to your videos to compliment the awesome website you have created. Great energy, great spirit…Bless you Brutha……Gary…..

    Reply
  13. Ripp Russell

    Thank You Graham for this Vid.I always seem to get a great piece of knowledge from you just when I need that nudge to carry on with this art form.I have followed you and Joe for 6 yrs now and have 2 CD’s, a studio and Production Co.under my belt for the efforts.Paper work for the Label is in the mail bro.Your names are in the thanks areas of all CD’s that come out of our house.You guys are truly Heaven Sent.Rant On!
    George Ripp Russell

    Reply
  14. Alex A.

    Graham, I originally found you when I was trying to find info on setting up and running my new interface (Saffire 56). I learned more from you than I did from Focusrite themselves… lol!… anyway, started watching a few of your vids…. you my friend have a gift for clear explanation, you are a true teacher. I now follow you regularly along with Pensados Place. You and he keep me inspired & learning!… thank you very much.
    P.S. I own several of your products… great vids, highly recommend them.

    Reply
    • Graham

      Hi Alex, thanks for the support and the kind words. Glad I could help!

      Reply
  15. Niklas J. Blixt

    The technical skills are only tools that are there to help you express yourself artistically. And to have your own taste is why people will hire you. Because they like your taste, almost anyone can learn how to use EQ, compressors etc. But you’re the only one who has one type of expression, and hopefully people like it and they’ll hire you for it.

    Reply
  16. Brent Fisher

    Remember the rule of the archer, to shoot an arrow, you have to not only have a bow that can shoot straight, but you also have to have a target to shoot at. You can have the most fancy archery gear setup but if you don’t know what you want to do you’ll never hit the bulls eye (because you had no target). To get something done you have to have a goal, like a taste for a sound of music that you want.

    Reply
  17. Andy

    Thank you Graham, I have been doing this for a while, but in a real sloppy way with NO technical knowledge. I am trying to take it seriously now, but have a long way to go. Your website and knowledge has been a HUGE help.
    THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!
    Andy

    Reply
  18. gary priest

    Hey Graham,
    I hope you enjoy your new space and such. I think your videos and writings have been very helpful to what I am trying to get done in my home studio. I live here in Nashville with my co-writer and we have a bunch of songs I am trying to make more pitch-able and up to date. Trying to come up with more college money for our girls and the task is very daunting but we keep the faith. Great to know there are people out there such as yourself who are passionate enough to help out the underdogs like myself. Thanks Graham.
    Gary

    Reply
  19. Mick

    Brian I have mixed live music for 40+years and over that time have been in the studio with whith some of what I think of as my bands ( they become like your children you fight for them ie pa quality billing security of gear etc) . If I had two clues to finding your own recorded voice it would be 1 sing out play your songs live for people absorb the feedback 2 TRUST somebody else with the recording and producing who can hear into your performance in a way you can’t whilst you are living it. don’t listen to any stems till your trusted other plays them a few days after tracking.best of luck your integrity is your strength and best friend. Cheers Mick

    Reply
  20. Kevin Sabovitch

    Ever open your fridge or a cupboard and forget what you were looking for? You stand there and your eyes pass over all the contents, and you don’t actually *see* anything.
    I get that way working on my songs sometimes; lose focus, start to wonder what I am trying to do, only knowing something’s off and not *hearing* what it was I was attempting to rectify or balance.

    Rants like these remind us to revisit the FIRST iteration we had in our heads and catalogue the technical steps to reaching that sound.

    Thanks Graham. :)

    God bless.

    Reply
  21. Thomas

    Great video Graham!
    It’s so encouraging to see somebody who really knows his stuff to talk about the production of music in a way you do!
    I read two and a half books on recording and mixing before I even started recording my first track. After that huge amount of information I was really, really insecure about my potential and ability and thought about giving up before I even started.
    You managed to light the fire for me again and my recordings have severly improved thanks to your guidance.
    Thanks for being awesome and I look forward to see your new place!
    Cheers

    Reply
    • Tryggvasson

      It’s like that Jungle Book vulture dialog “whatcha wanna do? …uhh, i don’t know, whatch’YA wanna do?”. If you wanna do something, first decide on whatcha wanna do and then go do it. Don’t just do something cause there’s nothing on tv. But it’s true, with all these influences conflicting in your head, it’s easy to position a song, mentally, in a lot of different sonic spaces, with equal pleasure or attraction. So what do you choose… to do? I believe, in such cases, flipping a coin is always a good idea. Or just think about… whatcha wanna do – just a little hint more than the alternatives and stick with it (unless you change your mind, which is fine, as long is it doesn’t become your no. 1 working rule).

      Reply
  22. Tanya

    Thanks so much for this Graham. I definitely lean towards the creative pillar when it comes to mixing — so much so that this video inspired me to look into sound recording courses at my local community college. There’s one coming up in May and I am signing up!

    Reply
  23. Tim

    Nice work graham. I couldn’t have said it better myself. Keep up the good work

    Reply
  24. John

    In answer to some peoples’ question (and problem), all the great Masters, from Arnold Schoenberg to Stravinsky to John Lennon all had a phrase that they lived by: The Masters’ steal while the amateurs borrow. They knew that to get anywhere, you have to imitate those you admire so don’t be afraid to start off that way. Keep at it and you will eventually have your own sound. By the way, on many songs that my band The Dream Lovers have recorded, I would mention to someone what my inspiration was and they couldn’t here it all. Hope this helps. P.S. Please give our music a listen to as well (and try to guess the influences).

    Reply
  25. Sam

    Enjoy the new studio when you set up mate !
    Making music in this day and age is just so exciting.
    I mean I was up at 330am and had a new song with acoustic guitar and vocal down before most people get out of bed !
    It’s just great to be getting back into the music once again after a decade of not much really.
    The drum sound in my new house was a success and pro tools s starting to come together finally with setting up a session, click, fixing any drums elastic audio etc and building the song from there. It can be difficult doing everything yourself but its great and I’m inspired. I know I will finish these songs and maybe an album by end of year is a realistic target.starting to record some other people now aswell. Plenty of learning going on.
    Thanks mate for the blog and info I get from you regularly and good luck in the new space .
    Cheers from Australia mate :)
    Sam

    Reply
  26. Jonathan Stombaugh

    Hey Graham! Just thought I’d mention that when someone’s mixing in mono they should make sure they’re referencing the mix through one speaker only. I’ve read from different sources that listening to a mono track through a pair of speakers can exaggerate the lower frequencies and fool you into thinking you have more low end than you actually do. Love the blog, podcast and videos! Keep em comin!

    Reply
  27. Cal

    Just about everybody starts out trying to emulate their heroes, in mixing, singing, playing. It’s the places where we fail, or fall short, or just realize WE LIKE IT BETTER THIS WAY that become our style.

    “You can’t get what you want till you know what you want.”

    Thsnx, Graham!

    Reply
  28. Ed Dunn

    Thanks Graham as always some great advice. Now I’ve got to go out and buy more scotch tape and rubber bands to hold up my pillars. I learn more from you everyday.

    Reply

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