Thursday, January 19, 2012

Developing The Groove In Your Mix

Normally every Friday I post a song analysis that's picked from reader requests. This Friday we'll trying something a bit different that's related to song analysis, as well as mixing.

My new book called The Audio Mixing Bootcamp is just being released at the NAMM show by Alfred Music Publishing. You're probably thinking, "Bobby's already written The Mixing Engineer's Handbook, so why is he doing another one on mixing?" Good question. What I realized was that MEH (as well as most other books on mixing) are primarily conceptual. That's fine if you already have some mixing chops and want to get better, but it's not so helpful for someone that's just starting mixing and just can't make things sound right.

So the idea behind The Audio Mixing Bootcamp is that it's a book of mixing exercises. The exercises might take you to a place where things sound terrible, but then bring you back to where things sound better than anything you've ever done. Now you know what works and why, as well as what doesn't. And that's the whole idea of the book. "Try this." "Wow, does that sound bad." "Now, try this." "Wow, does that sound great."

I'll be posting some excerpts and exercises from the book in coming weeks, but let's start off with one that will get you listening, which is perfect for song analysis. Every song is built around the groove, and you have to find that first before your mix can rock. In this excerpt, there are a few exercises to get you listening deep into a song that you know in order to train yourself to identify the groove.
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"The groove is the pulse of the song. It’s that undeniable feeling that makes you want to get off your seat and shake your booty. You don’t have to know what it is as much as recognize it when it’s there, or when it’s not. Despite what you might think, it’s not only dance music that has a groove. Every kind of music, regardless if it’s R&B, jazz, rock, country, or some alien space music, has a groove, but the better the music is performed, the “deeper” the groove is.

Contrary to popular belief, a groove doesn’t have to have perfect time because a groove is created by tension against even time. As a result, the playing doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be even in its execution. In fact, music loses its groove if it’s too perfect, which is why a song can sound lifeless after it’s been quantized in a workstation. It’s lost it’s groove.

Another misconception is that the groove always comes from the drums and bass, since it could come from other instruments as well. Some songs, like The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” has the rhythm guitar establish the groove, while most of the Motown hits of the 60s relied on James Jamerson’s bass.

Regardless of what instrument is providing the groove of the song, if you want a great mix, you’ve got to find it and develop it first before you do anything else.

Exercise Pod - Identifying The Groove
E3.3: In order to hear a groove at it’s best, let’s go to the masters.
A) Play any song by James Brown, Prince, Sly and the Family Stone or George Clinton. Can you feel the pulse of the song, the groove?
B) Can you identify the instruments that are providing the groove?

E3.4: Pick one of your favorite songs and have a listen.
A) Can you feel the pulse of the song? What instrument(s) are providing the groove?
B) Play a song at random. Can you feel the pulse of the song? What instrument(s) are providing the groove?
C) Play a song from a genre that you seldom listen to. Can you feel the pulse of the song? What instrument(s) are providing the groove?

E3.5: Now listen to all of those songs again. What makes the groove stand out? Is it the balance of the instruments? Is it because the instruments providing the groove are louder? Is it the tone of the instruments? Are they punchier sounding than the others?"

I don't have any excerpts from this book up on my website yet (soon I hope), but you can read excerpts from my other books at bobbyowsinski.com.
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3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks Bobby.

"Every song is built around the groove, and you have to find that first before your mix can rock."


So how do we actually go about making the mix rock? Bring out that groove?

Bobby Owsinski said...

This is a subject that requires more detail that what I can add here, but the short answer is that you identify the groove, then you build your mix around it.

CaptainVictory said...

I've been looking for a book just like this. I've read many books about concepts, and they certainly helped. But I suspect most people learn mixing by doing it. Excellent idea. I'll be buying this book.

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