School of Mixing: The Art of Scanning

This week I wanted to do something a little different. I’ve been watching a fair amount of videos recently of big name mixers (both live and studio) who have been interviewed before just getting ideas and hearing what they have to say. I came across this the other day and found it quite intriguing because it describes a process I’ve never named before: The Art of Scanning. This particular interview is of Big Mick Hughes (Metallica for 30+ years) and Ken “Pooch” Van Drooten (Linkin Park and various studio works) that occurred perhaps after a gig or something at a sushi bar. The audio isn’t spectacular because it’s so informal and there is a fair amount of swearing but the content is awesome. Please take the time to watch the whole video, it’s only 7 minutes and I promise it’s well it. Here’s the video:

There are just a few things I wanted to pick out for my context practically:

  1. Scan the band visually (or the tracks in the studio). Check your mix relationships. Ask yourself the usual questions and fix as you go. Then go again until you don’t find anything. After that’s done, then start mixing for parts. Balance first, THEN parts. If you can see but not hear it, your mix has a problem that you need fix. Especially in situations with iMag. If the video guys puts an electric on the screen and you can’t at least hear the part a little, fix it. When you start building your mixes, scan first, make sure it’s all heard and intelligible, then start in on dynamics.
  2. Why did you feel the need to go so far? When we push parts really far then the music comes back in, what you just did still has to be coherent with the mix you return to. There is such thing as too far. This is probably a big issue of mine. I have a tendency to do exactly what Mick Hughes does a lot. Push a big drum solo that sounds way out of whack when the band comes back in. Make sure that when you feature something or mixing for that one part in that one song that it still fits into the mix relationships that you setup previously while you were scanning.
  3. “I have to go talk to Laz before they go on to get kind of a vibe for where is at that day.” This is a great example of how we as mixers need to be interacting with our band DAILY. Whether you snapshot or not, we need to be talking with our artists whether in the studio or live so we can be responding more efficiently and effectively to what they are putting down every day. As mixers we are coloring the music with our tastes but as we do that we really need to take the artists into perspective.
  4. Whether or not you are listening to what is being made today and start from there or by analyzing the records and using that as a framework for a “[record mix] on steroids” both are great philosophies. Either way your mixing philosophy needs to match with the bands musical philosophy. Linkin Park was a pretty consistent band that plays the same everyday so Ken could use snapshots to his advantage but on the flipside Mick found that Metallica was very fluid so he couldn’t snapshot as much because he need to be so dynamically mixing. No matter your situation, live or in the studio, pro artists or casual artists, our style of mixing needs to compliment the musicians.

Hopefully this was a fruitful time. There are a lot more short videos that were recorded on this same night that are great to watch. Check them out if you want more. From time to time as I see these I’ll be sharing them to help break up the norm here at Studio.Stage.Live. As always, if you want to make sure you aren’t missing anything, be sure to subscribe at this link and you’ll get an email anytime new content is posted. Secondly, if you want to talk about the video or ask any questions, comment below or on social media and I’d love to follow up with you (or email me directly at daniel@studiostagelive.com). See you all next week!