Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Psychedelic Mixing: David Gibson Blinded Me With Science

It's been another "interesting" week. My work has been either cutting shifts or letting us go home early for the past week. This would be cool if I didn't have to pay for bills and all this gear I ordered. I just started this job and I'm pretty heated about this. I'm thinking of hitting the pavement and finding another job here very soon, as I understand this happens at the end of almost every month there.

Speaking of the gear I bought, I ordered a pair of Samson Rubicon R6A monitors from American Musical. I got the pair of monitors and noticed right away that the volume knob on the back of one of the speakers was deformed. I thought, "not a big deal if they sound good." Well, I hooked them up and realized that the speakers were doodoo too. I was making a beat on the MPC 1000, and everytime I hit a pad that had a kick drum loaded in it, both speakers would squeak. Besides that annoying squeak they sounded pretty decent. I guess it was a good thing they were defective, cause they were really too big for the room. I'm not going to slander American Musical for this either. They are a great company. They have 24/7 customer service by phone or chat, which is absolutely great. They are going to cover my expenses for mailing back the speakers to them, and they even sent out another pair (decided to go with some M-Audio's instead) before I even sent back the defective Samson pair. Their customer service was very nice and helpful. It was quite refreshing. I would deal with them again just because the customer service was that good. As for Samson, I will probably never buy another Samson product again. Their Quality Control is busted, much like those speakers. Enough about my week, lets get down to some business.

Before work, I like to do things that keep me occupied, so it doesn't seem like I'm just working, going home, falling asleep, waking up and going to work, and repeating the cycle. (I'm trying to avoid living in my own personal Groundhog's Day.) I decided to go to my city's public library. I picked up a DVD called "The Art Of Mixing" by David Gibson. This isn't the first time I picked up something truly worth while from there that was related to music. They have a good selection of CD's from just about every genre too. Since my shift was cut today, I decided to watch the DVD and write about it. I have to admit that the DVD quality is a lil bootleg looking. It looks like your corny high school music teacher signed out the video camera from the audio/visual room and decided to make a video. David Gibson, the maker of the video, and also the writer of the book by the same name, decided to REALLY go the visual route with this DVD. I mean, it didn't stop with visual representations of the sounds and techniques, it had actors dressed up as scientists, buddhists, headbangers, rap cats, weird 80's cats, and they had some weird psychedelic effects going on through out the presentation.

Despite all the corniness, this video was exceptionally great at getting the points across, so you understand exactly what is being talked about in each topic. Everything is broken down to a basic and practical level. The visuals actually help very much with this. They say a picture says a thousand words and those visuals get across some very complicated information in a way that could make a grade schooler become a great mixing engineer. The video actually explained and enlightened me to a lot of things that I didn't know about. This definitely takes the mystery out of professional mixing.

Another thing that I liked about this DVD is how it shows the different approaches to mixing that is taken by different styles of music. Each genre of music has it's own aesthetics that are more or less adhered to, and yes, it does show how Hip Hop is mainly mixed. Hip Hop heads did not make this video, so the sonic representations of Hip Hop are extremely antiquated, but the principles discussed still hold true. Nowhere in the DVD are you told "this is the way you MUST do it." You are given the general principles and told basically that you can take it in any direction you want. David Gibson stresses many times in the DVD that you must mix to your "own values," and there is no right or wrong way to mix. Mixing is part of the overall expression that is music, and he is simply telling you how and what works. I like that view point very much.

Baisically, if you are interested in recording and mixing music I suggest getting this DVD. I heard about the book quite awhile ago, and I think I will probably read it. I will check the library catalogue. They probably have it on the shelves somewhere in the city. There's one last thing that I want to point out. If you can stand the song "She Blinded Me With Science" by Thomas Dolby for a good 3 hours straight, it is definitely worth it, because that is the song that is used to demonstrate most of the principles. If you don't already hate that song, not only will you absolutely despise it, but you will want to hunt down and kill Thomas Dolby after watching this video. (note: not to be taken literally - just a figure of speech to express how irritating the constant repetition of passages of this song was in the video)

Of Course, if you want to hear probably the best mixed Hip Hop record out there, pick up Dr. Dre's The Chronic 2001. It is often used as a reference for how Hip Hop should sound like when "properly mixed." Again, it's all subjective. I don't want to hear every record sounding like Dre's joints. Come to the table with your own values and expression, like the video says.

If you enjoy this blog and would like to help support some starving beatmakers/music heads who have terrible jobs and expensive gear and music habits; check our on-line store at and pick up some shirts for your family, your dog, and heck, your mistress (hoes need clothes too, Mufucka!). We also got stickers, hats, and other items. We only get paid $1 an item, so buy lots and lots. PEACE!