How many fader changes on a standard rock/pop song?

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by sws1, Dec 25, 2005.


  1. sws1

    sws1 Member

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    For a typical radio friendly recording, how often are the faders being changed? Specifically, is it common to lower all the instruments during the choruses? My mixes typically set all the instruments and leave them, but I wonder about a well-engineered rock album. Do songs make use of all those faders and controls and envelopes in programs like programs like Cakewalk?

    The screenshots of those programs always show crazy use of envelopes, but I just want to see if that's typical or atypical?

    What are the common fader movements in rock/pop music?
     
  2. Unburst

    Unburst Member

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    Depends on the song, the engineer, the producer, the artist etc.

    I don't know about common but I remember one guy I was working with that was kind of...concerned with detail let's say.

    We had two digital multitracks running and two Pro-Tools systems all synched together with 100 channels of stuff happening and he had moves on every one of them.
     
  3. Grun

    Grun Member

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    Some guys ride the faders the whole track. I have heard stories of several people lined up at the board during mix down sessions (old school) each assigned several faders. Now with automation, anyone can go hog wild.

    That said, I pretty much record at unity gain, and don't do much fading or EQ. Probably another reason why my stuff isn't on the radio.

    Mixing is like many things, in that the real pros make it look (sound) easy (til you 'try it yourself at home'). Ideally you don't even notice it, but that doesn't mean there isn't a lot of skill and talent involved. These guys go to a lot of trouble making it sound simple. Good luck.
     
  4. elambo

    elambo Member

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    I have many stories like that. Masking tape was used to make volume marks so you knew when to move and how much. Sometimes it took 4 people, sometimes just one, sometimes a little compression would make fader movements unnecessary.

    Nowadays, I'd say there are anywhere from none to a couple hundred fader movements during the length of a song that I work on. That often includes track volume, reverb send volume, pans, plugin automation... anything is fair game. The beauty of modern mixing - it's all possible (which makes it very easy to get away from the point, the SONG).

    On average, 75 or so volume moves.
     
  5. sws1

    sws1 Member

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    So those screen shots that you see on the web page for the big DAW manufacturers are not unheard of. Lots of movements, fades, etc. I suppose that stuff is much more common with dance music since the loops are always fading in and out.
     
  6. trisonic

    trisonic Member

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    It's like "how long is a piece of string?"

    I've seen 6 people managing faders in the days between 8 track and full automation. Do it well and no one notices.

    Best, Pete.
     
  7. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    4 times per track. No more, no less. That's the rule.
     
  8. joseph

    joseph Member

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    That sounds like good advice in that it forces you to focus on the playing and singing. More than 4 times, your basic levels aren't 'there' yet.
    Outside of obvious fader/pan studio effects where you're using the studio as a big effects unit (some guys named Hendrix and Kramer (non-seinfeld) used to do that ;).
     
  9. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    Exactly. It's important to force musicians to focus. Makes for a terrific session.

    For added discipline, I won't allow myself to use the bathroom until my basic levels are "there."
     
  10. Chiba

    Chiba Gold Supporting Member

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    Q: How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?

    A: As many as it takes.

    I used to set my levels and that was that. Now I fiddle around with levels all throughout the song. I get more 'hey that song is cool' comments now than I did then.

    The moral?

    No idea. Do what it takes to get the song to sound 'right' - then stop messing with it... and go to the bathroom.

    --chiba
     
  11. LSchefman

    LSchefman Supporting Member

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    My work is made for listening in the bathroom, so you guys are in luck.
     
  12. loudboy

    loudboy Member

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    When I started out, mixes consisted of trained "mix engineers" who placed the musicians in wheeled chairs, or in the cases of piano or harp, on dollies, and who would push the musicians closer or farther from the single mic, as needed.

    THAT was mixin' - you kids with your volume curves, feh...

    Loudboy
     
  13. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    Ha! You had WHEELS?
     
  14. µ¿ z3®ø™

    µ¿ z3®ø™ Member

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    microphones!!!
    i remember when we did acoustic recordings where U had to project into the horn that drove the needle that cut the acetate. so that's one move for the singer to get out of the way another move for the mandolin player to take his place for his solo another move to get out of the way to make room for the singer to come back in after the mandolin solo and the singers final move to come back in w/ the last verse.
    so, that's four moves. i guess that MichaelK was correct.
    four moves.
     
  15. Tim Bowen

    Tim Bowen Member

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    I love the section in the Tom Dowd documentary where Tom talks about mixing with early, primitive machines 'back in the day' - the "mix" was whatever moves were made at the faders as the performance went down - there ya go, there's your record, thank you very much!

    I don't think there's any hard and fast rules. As with most else we talk about, it depends upon what you want to hear. If all involved play with dynamics, as to verses, refrains, bridge, and whatnot, the job of mixing is infinitely easier.

    That said, when it comes to pop rock tracks, I'm the exact opposite of "minimalist". I like big fat guitar sounds. Double and triple tracking in real time with subtle variations is my M.O. for pop rock, and I also like subliminal textures just barely sneaking into the mix. Also, after recording a part and living with a rough mix for a while, I get a different sense of how I'd like the part to attack, swell, or fade, as sitting within the mix. What all that translates to is fader moves. Occasionally, I know in advance that I want a certain accented section within a passage to pop a bit more, and I'll record that bit on a separate track, and preset it prior to mixdown, such that I don't need to worry with it 'on-the-fly'.

    With my pop rock band, there are typically three of us involved at mixdown (we've retired the 2" tape machine, and currently use Mackie digital, but have an old school board with no automation, and no Pro Tools [or comparable]); so, there's myself, the main writer, and our in-house engineer. The engineer hears bass and drums far more intelligently (he's a drummer), so that's his gig, as well as is patching in outboard stuff as whimsically desired by my bandmate and I. After that has been accomplished, it's his job to drink beer. <|8^) Hands on fader moves are made in real time by my partner and myself. Typically, the lead vocal, bass, and drums, are preset, and maintained without variation. I catch fader moves on electric 6 & 12 string guitars, baritone guitars, subliminal textures, and backing vocals. My partner handles acoustic guitars and the oddball stuff - mandolin, lap steel, pedal steel, banjo, accordian, harmonicas, dobro, percussion, whatnot. For an upcoming tune, I plan to cut a harmony kazoo part (seriously), and that part of the mix shall be mine, all mine!
     
  16. EVT

    EVT Member

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    Hi,
    The Tom Dowd documentary was excellent. It was amazing what he could do on the fly as far as adjusting the faders. He was an amazing guy overall, I was left super-impressed by him after watching that documentary.

    As far as me, since I record a lot of different harmonies/backing vocals along with other things, I make a lot of fader adjustments. But, I am using a fostex vf-16 ex and I program the changes in eq, panning, effects, and level as scenes so it will automate the changes for me once programmed.
    It depends on the song how many scenes I would have to program.

    evt
    www.corrientesmusic.com
     
  17. elambo

    elambo Member

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    There has definitely been a drift away from working hard during the "recording" to working hard during the "mixing." Ever heard the term "fix it in the mix?" I hear that more and more every month.

    The art of recording is fading simply because of all the options that are now available to a mix engineer. Just about anything can be done at the mix stage. BUT, there's absolutely no substitute for a well-recorded track. Fixing a track is never going to give you the same results as one that was recorded correctly to begin with.

    I think plugins are going to kill the artistry of an engineer who can place a mic in the perfect place, and assemble the perfect signal path with perfect levels throughout. New engineers know all there is to know about ProTools' quick keys, but little about where the hell to put a microphone. I'm seeing the real skills fading now - I wonder where the state of recording and mixing will be in 10 more years. Perhaps one master plugin that does EVERYTHING?
     
  18. neve1073

    neve1073 Member

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    How long is a piece of string?
     
  19. elambo

    elambo Member

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    Measure it.
     
  20. neve1073

    neve1073 Member

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    And there is the answer! [to the question in the thread title] :p
     

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