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How long does it take you to mix a track?
Joe Chiccarelli: It really depends on the material, the amount of tracks, and the arrangement. I try to work fast because I find that the longer it takes the more I get into a sort of myopic mindset and get bogged down with the little details. You miss the vibe and the big picture and just suck the soul out of it, so I like to put it to bed in eight hours or so. In three hours I want it to sound like a record with the basic sounds and feel. In six hours I should have all the balances and it should start to sound finished. After that the artist will come in for a listen.
Having the option to come back the next day is a great thing, though. When you come back fresh there are always a couple of obvious little things that youve overlooked. I find that towards the end of the day my ears get a little tired and I start to put a little too much top or echo on it.
Where do you start your mix from?
Joe Chiccarelli: I have no system. I really work differently for every project and every different type of music. Its a matter of finding out what the center of the song is or what makes the song tick. Sometimes you build it around the rhythm section; sometimes you build it around the vocal.
Usually what I do is put up all the faders first and get a pretty flat balance and try to hear it like a song, then make determinations from there whether to touch up what I have or rip it down and start again from the bottom.
If youre mixing a project, do you vary the sound from song to song or keep it all in the same sonic ballpark?
Joe Chiccarelli: The approach varies from song to song but I try to keep the same kind of reverbs and treatment for the drums. I try to keep some level of consistency but again, Im also treating every song differently as well. I personally like records that take you to 10 or 12 different places.
Do you add effects as you mix?
Joe Chiccarelli: I try to start out with a flat track, then find the tracks that are boring and add some personality to them.
Do you have a standard effects setup?
Joe Chiccarelli: The only thing that I regularly do is to have like an AMS harmonizer on one stereo effects send with one side pitched up and the other side pitched down a little bit. On some projects Im not using any reverbs at all, while on some projects I might be putting all my reverbs through Sansamps or some other kind of cheap stuff. I use a lot of things like Roland Space Echoes or stomp boxes. I feel that those things have a lot more personality than the high-end effect boxes sometimes.
Dont you have a noise problem with them?
Joe Chiccarelli: Yeah [laughs], but I just make it work anyway. Id rather have the personality with the noise than no personality at all. The cheap boxes have such character. Theres a few boxes coming out now that have some color but a lot of the digital stuff is so bright that it just jumps out of the track too much. The new Sony box (the VP55) that I did some presets for is pretty good. I like it because its kinda dark sounding but it finds its home in the track a lot better than the bright, clear digital stuff.
I love to have a real EMT plate or a real live chamber. For me, if I had just one good analog echo or reverb then I can make the whole record just fine as opposed to four or five digital ones.
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