"No matter where I am, your teachings fill me with songs." - Psalm 119:54 (CEV)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Just a Little Longer: Recent Adventures in Mixing

He told me he had time to help.

I had asked him to tell me, instead of me having to ask him all the time.

I was glad he told me.

Still, I didn't want to do it then.

I wanted to relax, watch a movie, get to bed early.

I went anyway.

He opened the files.

We only listened to one or two in their entirety - out of five.

We took the first one, as he decided it was the best of all of them.

I trust his judgment.

We replaced one section with the same part from a different file.

It was a bad entrance, almost missed.

Once we replaced it, it sounded much better.

Then he moved on to "shaping volume", taking parts where he said my voice sounded "pushed" or "too quiet" and making them softer and louder, respectively.

Apparently, I was a little too expressive while I was recording.

He started at the beginning and began to work his way through the entire song . . .






As someone who is most definitely not fascinated with changing volumes and mixing and editing, etc., etc., . . .

And as someone who is most definitely not fascinated with listening to her own voice . . . over . . . and over . . . and over again,

I was quickly bored out of my mind.

I took a break to grab some water,

And a snack,

And a camera.

I should really learn to bring a book.

Then I returned to continue being bored out of my mind.

I ended up stretching out on the floor, tired from listening to myself sing for hours.

I tried to pay attention.

After all, it isn't that I don't want to be involved or have a say . . .

It's just that I don't have as good an ear for this . . .

And I can't stand listening to myself sing

(Although everyone else I know seems to think I have a good voice).

I did manage to notice one thing I wanted changed and asked him to change it.

Apparently, there are some advantages to being involved in this whole mixing process.

We worked on "shaping volume" for a long time, then moved on to the accompaniment.

I could see the four chords I added at the beginning to give myself the key and tempo,

The measure of silence - four beats of rests,

The real accompaniment beginning, effect of fingers rolling up chords.

As much as I dislike this part of the process, I must admit it's interesting to look at the waves, to put shapes to the sounds.

We found the first beat of the third measure, where the real accompaniment begins, where the vocals enter.

We worked on the balance, making both the accompaniment and the vocals audible.

We told it to mix.

Then the shapes changed.

More waves appeared on the screen from more sounds.

We worked on volume levels throughout, . . .

Then came the inevitable question about reverb.

We tried it.

I actually liked what it added to the piano sound (which is unusual, as I typically dislike how reverb seems, in my mind, to accent my mistakes).

He agreed.

We added the reverb.

It was only then that our tired brains made the connection between what I had mentioned earlier about background vocals to what we were doing at that moment . . .

I still had to record the background vocals . . .

So the background vocals hadn't been mixed in yet . . .

And they didn't have the reverb added with everything else.

Of course, we'd already saved our work (being certain to use a different file name this time),

So we couldn't "undo" the reverb.

We decided that we could add the reverb to the background vocals later and then mix them in with the rest of the piece.

We did some trimming,

Removing the extra four beats of chords and four beats of silence from the beggining,

Chopping dead space from the end.

Then, finally, we were done.

It had taken us more than two hours to finish.

I thanked him, called it "fast", . . .

For if it took only one night's worth of work and the song was almost finished . . .

Three others at this point in the process would be done,

One other at this point would just need the harmony . . .

I could be so close to finished in just four more days.

Then it would be only the practicing . . .

And then the recording of BGVs and harmony parts . . .

And (ugh) more mixing . . .

Then highpass/lowpass, downsamples, and CD!

He did not call it fast.

Still, I feel as though I have reached the halfway point,

Or as if I'm close enough to the top of the hill to see the downward slope of the other side.

Sometimes, with all there is to do, all the times I have to go through each song to end up with a good recording, all the hours I have to spend listening to myself sing, it seems like I'm climbing a mountain and I'll never reach the top.

It doesn't feel that way now.

I didn't truly realize how much work went into creating an album until I tried to do it.

Fortunately, cutting the number of tracks in half lessens the workload quite a bit.

By this time last summer, I wasn't nearly halfway done with my summer project.

Now I'm just about at the halfway point.

Being here makes it easier to see . . .

To see that, in spite of all the work, it's still fun.

Fun to make the music, even though it get slightly aggravating to play and/or sing the same song five or six or seven times in a row.

Fun to do the artwork, to play around with the front cover and the back cover and the inside and the CD image and the booklet, even though it takes more than a day to get it all done.

Fun to see the waves and the amazing things a wave editor can do to help fix the problems, to hear the final product, beautifully mixed, even though I have to listen to myself sing for hours to get to that point.

All tiring and, at times, difficult,

Yet still fun . . .

And to see the finished product, . . .

To hold it in my hands and realize that I've accomplished something, . . .

It makes it all worth it.

Then to have people say that they like it, that it's good,

Which is incredibly hard for my worst critic - me - to see, . . .

Some days, especially long and boring days like these, that's what keeps me going more than anything else -

The knowledge that someone actually likes this, even when I don't.

This can be so hard sometimes.

Fun, but hard.

I'm almost there.

Just a little longer.

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