Old 01-16-2019, 10:31 AM   #1
toleolu
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Default When is it "Good Enough".

Thanks to this forum, and Mr. Gioia's excellent videos, the quality of my recordings have improved dramatically. I go back and listen to things I recorded in the past against what I am able to do now and the difference is amazing. I'm still just a hobbyist doing this for my own personal pleasure and my projects are very simple, but I'm having a good time and, more importantly, my musicianship has gotten a lot better, so all in all, it's been a great ride.

That being said however, I now find myself at that point where I'm spending a lot time going in and "tweaking things", thinking, "Well that sounds pretty good, but I think I can do better". I'm hoping this is all part of the learning process, kind of like my golf swing where you spend a lot of time working on different things until you finally come up with something that works for you.

So, to those of you who are really good at this, at what point do you say, "That's good enough"?

Mahalo's to all and hope you're having a great 2019.
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Old 01-16-2019, 10:53 AM   #2
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on the one hand, I would say it's never enough...because that's how we are as artists, always trying to do something new and better.

on the other hand, you just have to commit yourself to something, otherwise you'll never finish a project.

Use some reference material accordingly to gauge how you compare to relevant songs. Post your projects on forums/soundcloud/etc and share with friends/family/etc to get some feedback, then again commit to any or all of the feedback and move on.
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Old 01-16-2019, 10:58 AM   #3
enroe
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Originally Posted by toleolu View Post
So, to those of you who are really good at this ....
At this point I am out.

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Originally Posted by toleolu View Post
... at what point do you say, "That's good enough"?
This is very personal. If I get the impression that
a song is "good" and I can't improve it any more, it's
good enough.

But this "good enough" can change in the next months
or next year to a "damn, that is bad!"

So it's up to you - it's a very sentimental value.
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Old 01-16-2019, 11:00 AM   #4
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No commentary on whether I any good, occasionally!

The Point of diminishing returns is a good place to start (.. thinking about finishing).


Hard for others to judge, but if your tweaks have a trajectory towards better, keep going, and the tweaks should get smaller and smaller, until perhaps you then start to question bigger things again (e.g do I actually like this song? )

Which unless it's a critical showcase project is a sign to stop and take lessons into the next one.

Also no point getting micro tweaky mix wise if your monitoring/room isn't spot or calibrated to a certain degree, thats just a not fun vortex!
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Old 01-16-2019, 11:00 AM   #5
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As one mixes, they become more and more and more aware of small details because their "resolution" increases exponentially as their brain hears the mix over and over again, allowing those more minute details to sound like they are much bigger than they actually are.

The point is there is a high risk that one will spend hours, days, months tweaking things no one else beyond maybe 1% or less will ever notice, ever. Trust me, I've seen me do it. One has to decide how much that matters to them because barring fixing obvious problems, most mixes are probably at the 95% mark fairly early in the process - then we go into perfection mode that often either makes no practical difference to the audience or in some cases actually makes the mix worse - but we can't tell because we are so close to it.
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Old 01-16-2019, 11:11 AM   #6
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"When is it 'Good Enough' ... " is a red herring of sorts that can only be correctly answered in a given context. What's good enough for context A may not be good enough for contexts B and C. It depends on who you're asking and what your and their expectations are. I've heard some really good mixes here but I also know another group of mix engineers that would say they're not good enough, by their standards,

On a more ... general or universal? ... note...

If you can insert a song you mixed into a commercial playlist at a party or something and nobody notices (except maybe to ask who the artist is if they like it), it's good enough. Don't ever dismiss the perceptions of consumers. They may not mix 10 hours a day but they do listen to commercial music a lot and they know immediately if something is "wrong" even if they can't quantify it.
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Old 01-16-2019, 11:25 AM   #7
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That's a tough one... You might want to give yourself a deadline. You probably won't stick to it, but at least you'll know it's time to move-on to the next project.

That's one "advantage" pros have. They have budgets & deadlines and they can't work on a project forever.

Or, there are songwriters that write 5 songs a day, of one song a day, and they just force themselves to do it without trying to make every song perfect. Of course, they might come back and improve a song once in awhile, but I the constant work & practice keeps them sharp & productive and it keeps them "moving forward".
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Old 01-16-2019, 11:27 AM   #8
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Thanks to this forum, and Mr. Gioia's excellent videos, the quality of my recordings have improved dramatically. I go back and listen to things I recorded in the past against what I am able to do now and the difference is amazing. I'm still just a hobbyist doing this for my own personal pleasure and my projects are very simple, but I'm having a good time and, more importantly, my musicianship has gotten a lot better, so all in all, it's been a great ride.

That being said however, I now find myself at that point where I'm spending a lot time going in and "tweaking things", thinking, "Well that sounds pretty good, but I think I can do better". I'm hoping this is all part of the learning process, kind of like my golf swing where you spend a lot of time working on different things until you finally come up with something that works for you.

So, to those of you who are really good at this, at what point do you say, "That's good enough"?

Mahalo's to all and hope you're having a great 2019.
It's very easy to tell when it's good enough. When you go back to the mix a week later and you can't find anything to improve, and then when you go back another week later and you can't find anything to improve you are done and ready to go on to the next song. If you work on four or five songs at a time this way you'll get plenty of rest by not hearing the same song over and over and you can go back to it with fresh ears and see if there's anything you hear that needs fixing or changing.
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Old 01-16-2019, 11:38 AM   #9
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P.S. Short answer for the project studio: When the client runs out of money.
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Old 01-16-2019, 12:00 PM   #10
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Aloha!

I think this depends on your intention. If it's to learn, strengthen your creative muscles, and streamline your REAPER workflow, this could/should be an endless process. REAPER certainly allows for limitless customization and efficiency enhancement.

I have projects that I have had "open" for years that are just there for learning and further customizing REAPER. That said, I keep them distinctly separate from "real" work. If something has to be delivered, you have to know when to say it's good enough, and that's going to be different with every person and client. I adopted the policies that always served me in graphic design. For the client, they get two revisions included in the job without incurring additional fees. That's the easy part, though, isn't it?

Seems like your question is more about yourself. This is why I keep the eternal "work in progress" files that are strictly for experimentation. This way, one doesn't get stuck creatively because that kick that you smoothed out yesterday sounds like it needs more punch today or other such things. If you're driving the creation of the project, I think it's healthy to start with a timeline. This can be flexible, but studies have shown that people can get the same amount of stuff done whether they are given an hour to complete it or 20 minutes. The other thing that helps is a workflow. For instance, when you feel a mix is good, check it in mono, check in headphones, then check in the car. Fix anything that jumps out at you, then let it rest for a day or two. Come back to it with fresh ears, do the same checklist (everyone has their own flow), and if it still feels good, have someone else listen to it, and if their feedback feels right to you, make a few more adjustments and call it done. (If you're near the ocean, maybe go there, watch or ride some waves, and find out what they tell you. I've had so many pivotal moments of clarity come from doing that, I can't even count them.)

I've also found it's helpful to have an archiving schedule. Once a song or album is "done" for 1 or 2 weeks, I archive it. For some people, that just means moving the project onto another drive. Other people like to render all the tracks and just save stems so they could go back and do some remixing or remastering someday, but it's not sitting there open. (WavPack is great for this, btw.) When you close the loop, it frees your unconscious to put creative energy into something new. I use surfing as an analogy for just about everything, so it's kind of like knowing when to get off a wave when you've had a good ride but before you have to paddle all the way back out again.

Before I created that structure, I'd have songs that were delivered still opening in project tabs every time I opened REAPER for months just because I kept thinking I might want to do something more to them. In the old days when I was on the other side of the board it was easy. Studio time was expensive. You did as much as you could in the time you had, and there were always a few things I'd wished I'd sung differently or some minor thing I wished I'd asked the engineer to fix. They just had to become lessons for the next time. I think there is a lot of value in that. Endless virtually free access to what would have been unimaginable possibilities when some of the best albums of all time were made have left us with a whole set of "problems" that even the greatest artists of all time would have considered luxuries. Now I think there is a whole school of thought in the industry that a track (most of these things aren't really songs) is done when you've got a fat, solid waveform at max loudness for the medium and can hear everything okay. I guess that works for some people, too.

Another good check may be your writing progress. If you haven't written anything new in a week (or whatever your regular pace is), it's time to decide if you're writing because you love to engineer and mix, or if you're mixing because you love to get your songs out. The answer could be different from month to month. At this point in my life, I'm finding that I love producing and all the things I used to be really glad someone else did well more than the other aspects of the creative process that I used to love — like performing and writing. So that's what I do now. It's quite relaxing to just make other people's work sound and feel as good as possible compared to the pressures of writing, recording, touring, sounding good, etc.. Most of my stuff is NDA work, too, so I don't even have to be concerned about my "image" or reputation as long as my client is happy. REAPER made what was once just a means to an end into an incredibly fun and creative process that I want to devote the majority of my energy toward for at least the next several years. I get enjoyment out of making it look and behave how I want it to. Geeky stuff. This is the current season of my life. Having that knowledge for yourself may be the first step in answering your question, couldn't it be now?
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Old 01-16-2019, 12:14 PM   #11
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it's not 'the mix'* that has to be 'good enough'. it's the song.

don't think technically, think musically.

if you referring to the one's who say you should, for instance, always cut the muddy 300hz but your tune sounds best if not. why cut? cuz others say so?

the one and only i'd like to recommend is to ask how to do something, not why.
why is a question you ought to ask your ears and your gut.
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Old 01-16-2019, 12:16 PM   #12
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it's not 'the mix'* that has to be 'good enough'. it's the song.

don't think technically, think musically.

if you referring to the one's who say you should, for instance, always cut the muddy 300hz but your tune sounds best if not. why cut? cuz others say so?

the one and only i'd like to recommend is to ask how to do something, not why.
why is a question you ought to ask your ears and your gut.
I think both have to be considered as there are some great songs with really lousy mixes and some great mixes that suck as songs. Perfect is the enemy of the good in all these cases though and you can spend insane amounts of time on minutiae
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Old 01-16-2019, 12:21 PM   #13
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Wise words here aplenty. I wonder sometimes if the constant tweaking thing is sometimes down to simply not having had a clear vision (so to speak!) of what exactly you wanted to produce. I think this may be an extended form of "audiation" - the ability to hear in advance what you are playing:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KMqO...&feature=share

With mixing though things are slightly more complex perhaps. Even assuming that your audiation was very clear (mine is usually definitely not BTW) the more you (ahem) experiment the more possibilities you can uncover - and many of them are really good! Now I don't think that this is a bad thing especially for anyone without commercial pressures but maybe this process should be recognized for what it is and once again, a time limit imposed?
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Old 01-16-2019, 12:22 PM   #14
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In the words of someone...
"Mixes aren't finished, they are abandoned". '

In the words of Ty Tabor "A song is never finished. You could always keep tampering with it. At some point, you just go, 'I think I like this,' and you just stay with it."
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Old 01-16-2019, 12:41 PM   #15
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it's not 'the mix'* that has to be 'good enough'. it's the song.

don't think technically, think musically.
I'd add don't conflate sonic presentation with songwriting. If it gets to the mixing stage, then the songwriting is already inked in and done - the other conflation that mixing somehow fixes bad orchestration and songwriting which it generally doesn't, and I agree that some "never-ending" mixes are often due to not understanding the mix isn't the underlying problem. You'd be amazed at how many times a "bad tone that doesn't sit in the mix" is entirely due to it being a part that doesn't support the song or it's rhythmic cadence cause it to step on something else and so on.

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Old 01-16-2019, 01:04 PM   #16
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<"That's good enough"?>
never
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Old 01-16-2019, 01:45 PM   #17
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I really hate the term, "good enough" when it comes to our music. Our music is our child! We watched it grow from an idea to a full fledged song! Now we are ready to introduce it to the world and GOOD ENOUGH should NOT even enter the picture! Instead of "good enough" I think we should use "The best I can get it." I may even consider adding "at this time" to the end of that.
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Old 01-16-2019, 02:09 PM   #18
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I really hate the term, "good enough" when it comes to our music. Our music is our child!
Wanna see a picture of my ugly baby, .... again? Outside the thread subject, there's a whole lot of that going on in music - of course we all love our ugly babies as we should.
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Old 01-16-2019, 02:19 PM   #19
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Problem is if you've been fortunate to do something objectively decent on occasion, you have a sense of the work required to go from 'ok/good to excellent' I.e those last few %. and it's the hardest part of the game imo and lies in both controlling the micro and macro.


So chasing it is natural. Faith in your own process and having one that gets you up the pryamid to the pointy end is the aim.

There will be screw ups on the way to a process that works personally
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Old 01-16-2019, 02:33 PM   #20
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I really hate the term, "good enough" when it comes to our music. Our music is our child! We watched it grow from an idea to a full fledged song! Now we are ready to introduce it to the world and GOOD ENOUGH should NOT even enter the picture! Instead of "good enough" I think we should use "The best I can get it." I may even consider adding "at this time" to the end of that.
When the kids grown up, kick them out!
Same goes for the songs.
If you get stuck with a song, it prevents you from creating new songs.
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Old 01-16-2019, 03:11 PM   #21
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Wise words here aplenty. I wonder sometimes if the constant tweaking thing is sometimes down to simply not having had a clear vision (so to speak!) of what exactly you wanted to produce. I think this may be an extended form of "audiation" - the ability to hear in advance what you are playing:
Very true, and I think that is the skill a lot of people are working toward having. I have very particular ears that can detect things like minor nuances in compression, for instance, but I still have to go check a spectrogram to make sure I'm really hearing what I think I am and to show someone else what I'm talking about. And I don't yet know that the unpleasant ring I'm hearing is at 800Hz. I still have to listen very carefully to hear the difference in a compression setting that a mastering master can dial in in a moment.

But I do know from song writing that the best stuff always came out when I had know idea what I was going to write. I'd start whistling a melody over a guitar part, I'd find myself putting words together that had vowel combinations that made good phrasing, then I'd look at it when I was done and realize I'd written some profound and creative stuff that I had no idea was there. I tend to take the same approach with mixing. I really don't like the "reference track" advice that is flung about the internet like some sort of gospel. In fact, next to just plain stupid stuff like "only do reductive EQing", I think it's some of the most harmful advice in the contemporary audio zeitgeist. I'm sure glad no one was doing that with Jon Bonham's drum tracks! We need to dawn our HazMat suits and put that one in the biohazard waste bin. If you need to give your ears a break from what you're working on, I highly recommend using the grey noise generator on mynoise.net and listening to that to cleanse your auditory palate. If I have a preconceived goal with a song, there are a million creative opportunities that it limits. It's good to know how to get a sound you want to hear once you know you want to hear it, but the degradation of music is in large part due to the fear of taking risks that has trickled down from the labels and the holding up of self-congratulatory institutions like the Grammys as ideals by the producers and artists.

So, yeah, the talent of audiation is great to have as long as more people are using their own creativation. There are still a few real artists out there who can create masterpiece stage performances, and it's always a disappointment to hear their studio work after it's been through the homogenation process. I think we really did the industry a disservice when we started making stars out of people like CLA. Granted, most of the material I hear these days warrants the engineer getting the accolades that once went to the performers, but as long as we have guys like him referring to themselves in the third person and companies like Waves putting out absolute crap with someone's name slapped on it so some kid can turn two knobs or grab a preset and make some horrible material that doesn't deserve to see the light of day sound like someone actually knew what they were doing, we're going to continue the downward spiral we're seeing in what gets called music now.

When is the last time you can think of hearing something that was really novel? It's a shame that people mindlessly support what I call musical masturbators just because they can dance to their stuff. (I use that term because so many tracks are made by some guy sitting in a basement without any interaction with musicians or any musical knowledge whatsoever. There is something magical that happens when you get talented people together and let them combine their creative energy. This is why people once appreciated music almost as much as sex, and music was structured more like good sex. It started off teasing you into the song giving a taste of a hook, then building on that until it reached mind blowing crescendos. Now, if the hook isn't in the first 15 seconds, people turn the dial, and it seems that the art of romance has deteriorated, too.)

It's amazing to watch younger people react to songs like "Stargazer" from Rainbow. It was before my time, too, but I remember the first time I heard it, and it still gives me goosebumps to this day. From what I've seen in the reaction videos on YouTube, it's even more impactful now because the contrast to contemporary music is much more stark than it was when I first heard it. These guys were not following formulas, and there were no presets. We used to do incredibly creative things to get the sounds we were after, and often the results were pleasant surprises that became standard practices. Now that you can make just about any kind of reverb you can imagine with Pro-R (I don't think I've touched another reverb plugin since I learned it), creative muscles don't get the same kind of workout they once did. Certainly one can be creative in the use of plugins. That's what has enticed me onto this side of the microphone. But there was something really magical that happened when you looked around the studio for things like coffee thermoses and the back staircase and then worked on just the right mic and speaker placement to get a signature sound that no one had heard before. That creative energy snowballed into the rest of the writing and recording process and often led a song down a completely different path than could have ever been predicted from the pre-production demo.

It could be that knowing what sound you want before you get started may be an idea that is due for a challenge. We have so many things at our fingertips that I would have given a finger to have had 33 years ago when I first started recording as a young teen. But it's just going to waste for the most part. We're not using things like the time saved when we copy and paste good background vocal takes to all the choruses instead of having to get 5 guys/ladies to nail it just right 8 times for a song to do more creative things. And there is just no excuse for having to tune vocals or quantize drums when studio time is a fraction of the cost that it used to be. I am blown away by the stems I hear submitted for mixing. These would have been an embarrassment, even as a first take, but it's just an acceptable practice for an engineer to make the song now. Sadly, most of the time they are endeavoring to make it sound like something that's already been done.

I'm really hoping the pendulum will swing the other way soon, and perhaps it will be people like the OP who are just doing it for fun that will take the time to come up with truly innovative stuff. Somewhere there's another B.B. King, Led Zeppelin, Prince, Ronnie James Dio, Wilson sisters, or Alanis Morissette who will run into a Bob Clearwater and we'll have phenomena like Janis Joplin or Jimmie Hendrix on stages instead of people making names (and loads of money) for themselves as DJs by mashing together the residue left behind by the musical masturbators. Maybe someone will be brave enough to use music to speak the truth like Joan Baez or James Taylor instead of proliferating political correctness like today's acts. It was the same bankers profiting from the war machine that finances the music industry, so they got really busy after Viet Nam making sure that no one who had anything important to say got a stage upon which to say it. I'm not necessarily a big fan of all of the above mentioned names, but anyone can see the differences between their art and the product that is being churned out today. And I'm not suggesting we go backward. I'm saying it's been a long time since we've made any steps forward.

While there is a lot of helpful advice here, a lot of it is really just stuff that has been bandied about the internet lately. I haven't listened to much music—contemporary or classic—for a while because tumors on my spine make it painful to sing and it's painful to listen to music and not sing. I'm intentionally avoiding listening to songs, old or new, with the new knowledge and ear training I'm doing unless it's music that I'm working on for someone. I've had great feedback, and I really don't know at what I'm aiming. I'm just making it feel good, and I'm only starting. (I got sucked into this from the world of VO. REAPER made it too irresistible!) I'm doing all of my work for charity, so I have few constraints. I'm looking under rocks and on street corners for talent. Literally. I'm doing a lot of work with the homeless, many of whom are incredibly talented. Maybe this will lead to a long overdue step in the evolution of music. Maybe guys like the OP who are just doing this to for a creative outlet instead of trying to meet industry standards (if I see another "learn how to make your mixes radio-ready" course I'm gonna vomit!) will cause the disturbance in the pond that will help cure the stagnation.

So, how do you know when a song is done? When it is a paradigm shifting work. Everything else is just practice. I have no idea who's going to set this train back on the tracks, but I know if there is going to be a revolution that makes music great again it's going to start with REAPER. Let's all remember to RTFM:

"REAPER isn’t just about software, and it isn’t just about making music. It’s about a whole lot more. REAPER is a whole entity. It represents the way music should be, the way the internet should be, the way computers should be, the way program development and licensing should be .... in fact, the way the world should be. It’s about collaboration and cooperation, and it is truly awesome."
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Old 01-16-2019, 03:18 PM   #22
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Thank god for carriage returns :-) Bless you
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Old 01-16-2019, 03:36 PM   #23
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This forum never fails to impress. Thanks so much for all the comments, so much good advice, so much to think about.

I agree that "Good Enough" is totally subjective. So much of this is all about personal preference, especially in my case since I'm just a guitar player who likes to record his own music. I don't have time constraints or clients to worry about, so I guess in that regard I'm pretty lucky. If I want to spend days or weeks working on something, I have that luxury.

That being said though, I do agree with the point made that at some point, you have to finish. You do eventually reach that point of diminished returns where all that time spent tweaking doesn't really do a whole lot of good.

In my case too, I need to keep my expectations realistic. While I'd like to think that maybe someday I can come up with something that approaches what I hear commercially, I need to keep in mind that I'll never have the equipment or expertise those people have. Not that that will keep me from trying though!!

In my case, "Good Enough" is probably my wife or a friend saying, "Wow, that sounds pretty good".

Mahalo brothers, you guys are the best!!!
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Old 01-16-2019, 03:47 PM   #24
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So chasing it is natural. Faith in your own process...
that's my half pint too.
imo it makes no sense to look at the so-called expert tutorials saying 'the 5 biggest mistakes when mixing'.

what is a mistake when trying diffi thingis out?

if it doesn't sound how you guess your target audience will prolly like, try another cut again. fix with the mix is, let's name it, bullshit.

as far as i've seen kenny gioia never give any advice what to do to get a 'good' mix. he only shows how to do s'thing and what is the outcome. so go your own way if you ask me.
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Old 01-16-2019, 03:52 PM   #25
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Xaos, what you said about your hearing is something else I need to keep in mind with respect to expectations. I spent two years working on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier back in the 70's and it's affected my hearing higher frequencies a bit. I think that's why a lot of what I do seems a little muddy to other people. Probably should look into something like a spectrum analyzer or something like that so I can see the music as well.

And your point about todays music is spot on. God how I miss musicians. Give me Stevie Ray (God Rest His Soul) or David Gilmour making those strats weave musical tapestries over these computerized synthetic sounds that pass for music today.
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Old 01-16-2019, 04:01 PM   #26
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that's my half pint too.
imo it makes no sense to look at the so-called expert tutorials saying 'the 5 biggest mistakes when mixing'.

what is a mistake when trying diffi thingis out?

if it doesn't sound how you guess your target audience will prolly like, try another cut again. fix with the mix is, let's name it, bullshit.

as far as i've seen kenny gioia never give any advice what to do to get a 'good' mix. he only shows how to do s'thing and what is the outcome. so go your own way if you ask me.
many here are wrinkly enough to remember 'no tutorial videos' - and my issue with them is more like you 'felt' you've learnt something but haven't. not the fault of video makers though, just the human response seems to be 'ahhh i've done learning, lets celebrate!'
learnt about it perhaps but not learnt the thing you need. that comes from doing it often & analysing any screw ups.

a 3rd party chum or online buddy who has a musical ear is helpful too for speeding the learn curve up, (if it doesn't crush you in the process - i'd never have played my teenage stuff to the internet, would have been roasted. luckily it just went onto cassette ) but churning stuff out and learning from it is hard to beat.
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Old 01-16-2019, 04:39 PM   #27
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I'd add don't conflate sonic presentation with songwriting. If it gets to the mixing stage, then the songwriting is already inked in and done - the other conflation that mixing somehow fixes bad orchestration and songwriting which it generally doesn't, and I agree that some "never-ending" mixes are often due to not understanding the mix isn't the underlying problem. You'd be amazed at how many times a "bad tone that doesn't sit in the mix" is entirely due to it being a part that doesn't support the song or it's rhythmic cadence cause it to step on something else and so on.
I totally agree, kinda gets back to that old saying about polishing a turd. Fact is I probably spend the bulk of my time recording different guitar and amp settings before I even start adding other instruments or doing any mixing. I've already worked out the song and the different parts, off line so to speak, before I even start recording so that when I do start recording, I've got a pretty good idea of what I'm trying to create.

Typically I'll lay down a simple drum track for timing purposes, then start working on the rhythm guitar parts. I've got two strats and a Taylor acoustic. One strat has Fender Texas Special pickups and the other has Fender Hot Noiseless pickups. I'll record each one and then go back and forth with different pickup, tone, and amp settings until I come up with something that blends well. I usually do that with clean tones, but sometimes I might just use one strat and play one track though my Tube Screamer, switch pickup and play another track through my DS-1 Distortion pedal, just depending on what I think the song needs. I've got a pretty good idea how my guitars sound so I can zero in on things fairly quickly, but sometimes I'll spend days messing around with just the rhythm part.

Once I get that, I'll tweak out the beats on the drum track a bit, lay down a bass line, maybe add a synth or some keyboards, then add some guitar solos. Same thing with the guitar solos, I'll try each strat with different pickup and pedal settings until I come up with something that seems to fit. Even though I've pretty well worked everything out before hand, it still takes awhile once you've got everything going. (could spend a couple of days on that as well but usually get the solos down fairly quickly) then I'll start mixing it all together. It's at this point I tend to get carried away. "Wow, that sounds pretty good, but maybe if I try this....." Ugh!!!
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Old 01-16-2019, 04:52 PM   #28
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^Makes total sense.
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Old 01-16-2019, 05:19 PM   #29
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There's an old saying that no mix (or really, any art at all) is ever actually done, we just give up.

For my part, it's usually around the time that I'm completely sick of listening to the thing. I have a policy that if I find myself making adjustments in fractions of decibels on anything, it must be done.
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Old 01-16-2019, 05:26 PM   #30
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I have a policy that if I find myself making adjustments in fractions of decibels on anything, it must be done.
That's the one right there, there is definitely a point where adjustments go sub dB and that's real close to the never gonna get better.
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Old 01-16-2019, 07:12 PM   #31
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What used to keep me tweaking for hours is "depth". The other stuff is somewhat subjective, if a vocal should be up or down a db or two and other similar things.

Depth isn't subjective at all and listening to a great commercial mix on really good studio monitors can be humbling in that regard ... makes you keep trying to get there... but you never quite get there. That's mostly what seperates those other guys from us, that much more realistic third dimension.
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Old 01-16-2019, 07:26 PM   #32
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To pose a slightly alternate viewpoint, depending on genre of course:

"A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away."

Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Personally, I interpret this as "is there anything taking away from the core song here?" Could be too much delay, that third guitar harmony, or the extra verse tacked on to make the song a full 4 minutes...
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Old 01-16-2019, 07:28 PM   #33
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My personal yardstick is if I dread loading up the song, or skip it when listening to ref mixes.

Of course, by that point I've hopefully already killed the song into archive-land...
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Old 01-16-2019, 07:56 PM   #34
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right after lunch, and you can take that to the bank
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Old 01-16-2019, 07:58 PM   #35
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When you can play it for a friend you respect and not cringe at any point during the song.
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Old 01-16-2019, 08:03 PM   #36
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I think both have to be considered as there are some great songs with really lousy mixes and some great mixes that suck as songs. Perfect is the enemy of the good in all these cases though and you can spend insane amounts of time on minutiae
^^ Good point.^^ Mix engineers (the great ones anyway) thrive on minutia. If you look over those guys shoulders you'll see them doing things that would never even occur to you until you see it or they point it out.

Technicians (great technicians in various fields) are largely obsessive / compulsive personality types, like I suspect Justin probably is with coding.

Obsessing becomes more problematic however (as you imply) when musical artists get so caught up in engineering minutia that their actual songs suffer or they don't grow musically. Where the mixes are pretty good but the songwriting and arranging hasn't improved at all.

Best case scenario, a singer songwriter would obsess over that, writing great songs, and let the techincal engineering people obsess over the mix. That's the guy who charges $500 to mix a song, not $50, because he doesn't do anything else but that, and the end result sounds like it.

Technology can be addictive, and for some musical artists, counterproductive.
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Old 01-16-2019, 09:49 PM   #37
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My personal yardstick is if I dread loading up the song, or skip it when listening to ref mixes.
It's half a joke, but there really almost always is a point where I've been working with a thing and really liking it, except this one little thing and then oh that thing and then I finally can't find any one thing, but I actually just hate it all. Hit save. Walk away. Come back next day. It's exactly what I wanted the whole time. I have started to learn that when I'm really sick of it, it's actually done.

But then there's usually a period when I just can't listen to it for fear of the things I'm going to wish I had done. But then when I finally do, I'm usually "Damn, that's great!"

A client (good friend of mine, but also paid) just last week released the EP we worked on this past spring-summer, and while I've shared the link, I haven't yet listened to it myself.

Also:

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Old 01-16-2019, 10:21 PM   #38
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If I just evaluate from a 'sonic' standpoint ...

I use the 'First Impression' rule of evaluating ... that being, the 'first' time I pull up a Mix. How does it hit me .... mostly listening for things that just don't sound right.

It could be low end rumble, edgy top end, middle suppressed or blasting. Whatever.

I make any corrections ... save off as new version. Close the project. Maybe go to another Song.

If not, latter I pull up the previous track. I listen again in a 'first impression' state. etc.

When I can pull up a track an listen without any bother [maybe even enjoy] ... I'm near that 'Good Enough'.
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Old 01-16-2019, 11:27 PM   #39
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So, to those of you who are really good at this, at what point do you say, "That's good enough"?
When it conveys the feel of what was happening when it was recorded.
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Old 01-17-2019, 08:54 AM   #40
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Ah reminds me of Billy Jean getting 96 mixes and then they chose the 2nd one.

Says it all really
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