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Mixing and editing

March 6, 2021

I wrote the following ten years ago and for some reason I didn’t post it at the time. It wasn’t quite finished, which is ironic considering the post is about how to finish things. At the time, I was putting together an album of songs now called Ten Unpolished Pop Songs From The Popular High, (The High being a block of flats in Streatham where my friend, Mike, and I recorded the basic tracks). I was mixing  the songs at home, often on headphones because I was trying to juggle a sleeping toddler, my wife’s right to watch TV (my computer and the TV were in the same room), and the desire of my neighbours to be able to live a sane life without my caterwauling leaking through the party walls.

I’m currently in a similar situation. I’m trying to mix an album of songs in the same room, (though the TV has moved to the front room). My equipment is a little bit better now, (my headphones and speakers have been upgraded). However, I’m still trying to find a workable mix from the wavs and aiff files I’ve got stacked up in Logic Pro. So the blog post that follows rings true and, and though it isn’t perfect, I’m going to publish it, because it speaks to the work of the editor and the mixer, each trying to get their project closer to a specific, elusive, goal one iteration at a time, each knowing that at some point they have to commit, to admit that that was the best they can do, given their finite time and budget.

I think I’ve finished the side-project/solo album. I think I have. At least the music part of it is done. I think. Maybe one song needs remixing a little. And I can’t decide whether to include what was going to be the final track as, as a finished arrangement, it’s not as good as the other songs. Or I could include a cut-down version, one verse, which would kind of work, and would leave it open for me to get the song right on following albums. If I ever get to make one.

These are tough decisions. Not real-life tough – I know in the grand scheme of things this is vastly unimportant. But tough as in this matters to me, I have been working on this album for a couple of years, have committed time and money to it, and whichever way I go, I have to live with my choice for all time. And I have one chance to get it right. And while I could try and hide behind the fact that this is a DIY album, a truly independent effort, that seems wrong to me. Bad music is bad music, regardless of how much money you spent making it, and to unleash bad music on the general public is simply wrong, and makes you no better than the self-serving charlatans who run the X Factor and its like.

These last couple of years, I have played a big part in putting together two albums. Mixing is a *massive* part of the process. Get that wrong, and you needn’t have bothered. And it’s made me think about what you’re aiming for when you’re mixing. What is it you’re trying to achieve.

Each song is an experiment. And there’s no one benchmark for whether any given song is successful – it’s different for every song. The criteria for success might be whether someone can sing it, dance to it, quote it, whether it makes them think, move, laugh, fall in love. Whether it makes emotional sense to them. Or, you might hope, all of the above. You’re trying to imbue the artefact you’re working on with its own personality, a living thing that stands for itself. Or a seed that you plant in the listeners/readers head or heart, so it matters to them once you’ve walked away from it.

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