This post is the first of a two part look at how I went about mixing the anniversary edition, and focuses on the preparation of the mix, the sketching down of ideas, and how I decided to lay the groundwork for the studio produced mix later on.
INITIAL MIX PREPARATION
As mentioned in the ‘Importing The CDs’ chapter, I had a separate folder set aside on my studio hard drive which contained all the tracks needed for the compilation encoded into MP3 for use within Ableton on my laptop. Some of you may be wondering why I bothered to encode the tracks to MP3 for these initial sessions, and the reason for this was due to the fairly old specification of my laptop and as this task was basically an ongoing sketchpad, 320kbps CBR was more than adequate as I had no real need for high fidelity within the audio being as I had the original WAV files set aside for the actual mix.
I chose to do the initial mix preparation on my Laptop as I wanted to use elements of the ‘method mixing’ and actually come up with ideas and sketches in a live DJ situation similar to how Moussa Clarke would have dry run the mix back in 1998, and also I wanted to keep the creative aspect of the mix separate from the studio sessions (inspired by something DJ Sasha mentioned in an interview about having “one room for writing and one room for producing”).
I imported the MP3 versions of the tracks into iTunes on the laptop and then created a play list for both disc one & disc two of the compilation. Once the playlist was created I could then easily see which tracks were to be used for each disc. I then went into each track within iTunes and placed keywords in the the metadata highlighting particular elements of the tracks such as vocal, instrumental, vocal sample, musical key, genre etc. This tagging helped me split up the tracks within the mix, and enabled me to look at how to group the mix together to create separate sections that would contribute to the overall construction of the set.
The construction of the set is an interesting topic in itself, as the process took around 2 months for both discs to have a structure and flow that I was happy with, and I was constantly re jigging and arranging the track order from session to session.
The mixing process in general was a fairly rough and ready task, I used a stopwatch on my mobile phone to give me a basic idea of the time constraints whilst mixing, and then fleshed out ideas into Ableton combining elements of the plans set out in the previous chapters.
As I was mixing I would write down the names of the tracks onto a notepad, and also remove the track from the makeshift playlist in iTunes so I could accurately see how many tracks I had left and how much time I could use for the mix, thanks to iTunes having a handy statistics bar at the bottom of the screen. If at any time I was unhappy with my choice of tracklisting I would pause the stopwatch and then restart, allowing me to swap tracks on the fly without upsetting the overall duration.
As a rule though, timing was not a particularly important factor to take notice of during these sessions, as I knew that all of the tracks would be edited for the studio mix, and this in turn would shave off a good few minutes of the projected duration.
For those of you with stronger stomachs, there is a highly detailed 36 post section later in this blog devoted entirely to the track editing which explains much more on this area
Something I always had in my mind whilst mixing was the inclusion of ‘triggers’ to the original album, such as keeping the opening and closing track of each disc the same, and paying respect to Moussa Clarke by not including any of his more notable transitions.
I’ve always felt that the first and last tracks of a DJ mix have special significance as they are always the focal tracks that remind you of the album, and I believe that the first track has an effect of setting the mood and the pace of what is to follow, and the last track is always the ending and a way of binding together the mix. I always use the analogy of filmmaking when talking about these things, as I see the mix as a whole as being a film – a story, and each track within that mix can be looked at as scene within that movie, although it has its own seperate story and plot line , when combined with the other scenes or tracks it helps complete the entire picture.
This concludes my musings on the mixing preparation, and the following posts will detail the preparation and production of the studio mix itself.