Finding New Inspirations to Push You to Get Better

studio business Sep 18, 2019

Earlier this week I had something happen to give me new inspiration and a fresh look at my own mixing abilities so I wanted to pass this along to you, my friends!

I was flipping through the TV channels and I came across the Spike Lee documentary “Michael Jackson Journey from Motown to Off the Wall” on Showtime. I thought it might be pretty cool to check out even though I am not a Michael Jackson fan so I began to watch it and I am glad I decided to give it a chance. As I was watching it made me realize a couple of things?

First, even though I am not a fan of MJ’s music especially his last 3-4 records, I found a new appreciation for him as an artist especially back in the day when he was a kid with the Jackson 5 through the making of the Thriller record. Regardless of your feelings about him as a person or that style of music you can’t deny that he was truly a musical genius. The other thing that I had forgotten about over the years is sonically how amazing the Off the Wall record sounded. The mixing engineer was Bruce Swedien who has worked with countless amazing artists like Paul McCartney,  Jennfier Lopez, Mick Jagger, etc.

During the documentary they were playing different sections of the songs from the record and I kept saying to myself “Wow, that sounds amazing” As an engineer, I am always listening to the “mix” more than the music…LOL. I am sure a lot of you reading this do the same thing right? Anyway, after the show I went up to my CD collection, remember CD’s? Those are the silver round plastic things? Anyway, I brought the CD to my studio and listen to a few of the tracks in my control room. I was completely blown away as I had forgotten how great the mix of that record was. You can hear every single instrument with amazing clarity and the way Bruce Swedien used the stereo field to give the mix a sense of depth and clarity was amazing. That record from a mix standpoint is a work of art with out a doubt. If you are looking to copy the sonic blueprint of a mix then I would suggest picking any song off this record to emulate.

Another quick point about this record from a “recording” point of view. The way Off the Wall was recoded was a reminder that if you put great musicians in a room and have well written songs, you can capture magic in a bottle! In 1978 (when Off the Wall was made) there were no DAW’s, samples, VST instruments, plugins etc. That record was made with real musicians, real drums, real guitars, and real horns. It is such a departure from how music is made today and it made me re-realize how much I love music from the time period and that is exactly why when I was a “tracking” studio I always used real players with real instruments. You simply can not re-create that vibe using a software and the “grid”.

Needless to say this documentary and the re-listening of Off the Wall really inspired me to get better at my mixing chops and it has re-focused my efforts. So my advice to you this week is to find that mix or mix engineer that really inspires you and go back at re-listen t their work. Or a better thing may be to find something that you normally would not listen to or even like from a music perspective. You may be surprised how much inspiration you will receive.


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