Jason: adjusting compressor after volume automation changes. One change, you might not hear, but make a bunch of changes and ... oops. Combine with Guido's notion about the ratio and there's a huge part of my problem right there!
James: snare kick and bass.. that's what's feeding my parallel compression bus that's going into the mix. I know I haven't gotten into the habit of checking that after automation changes. And those are the things that seem to disappear when the death spiral starts! More volume means those will be the first things squashed, right? 'Cause when I'm trying to fix things, there's always a threshold where I start turning things up instead of down and I'm thinking about automation and not about the really great levels I set at the beginning when it all worked.
I don't even feel stupid. It makes sense, but I hadn't thought about it enough til just now.
Guido: "I use the master bus EQ completely different than two years ago, because the sound that goes to the master bus is completely different after two years of learning how to mix." Brilliant. I find it very encouraging. And thank you for your info with the numbers. I am definitely going to try not using a compressor on the mix for awhile until I'm getting better mixes.
I'm trying to think of a good way to describe the balancing act I just got a glimpse of in my head. I work in a ballet studio. I LOVE ballet (discipline, technical details, music, craft, history, traditions). Have you ever seen a full on Waltz of the Flowers in person? Have you ever been backstage during a ballet with a big corps number? It only looks like chaos, entrances, exits, crossovers. Every piece has to work together or it becomes a train wreck. But every piece is a person who has to remember where to be and what steps to be performing -- at the same time as controlling her own movements to perform all the steps properly so she doesn't fall over or run into someone else -- on and off stage. Ballet = balance. It's physically and mentally punishing. I suck at ballet. I'm better at acting like a dancer than actually dancing. But that's okay, I get to be in the thick of it whenever possible.
The point (ouch) in this case is that I've been thinking too linearly about mixing. I need to imagine more three-dimensionally. There's forces that act on all or many pieces at the same time. And there's forces created by pieces themselves that affect all the other pieces. That rough mix isn't 'rough draft' outline of a novel ready for the red pen and major changes, it's 'rough' like rough framing a house.
After you have balance that works -- you must preserve it carefully. And everything that can upset it must be attended too with every change. It's beautiful, and intimidating.
Gentlemen: I really appreciate you taking time to write all about your processes here. Being able to read them and reread them and compare... priceless.
We should keep talking about it, other people might like it too.
Sorry this got kind of long, it's only 4 in the AM. !?!?