My Music Mixing Evolution with Avid

By in Music Creation, Pro Mixing
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In the early 1990’s I began formulating the idea for opening a commercial recording studio in downtown Chicago. That studio, named HINGE, would also serve as my personal production and mixing facility. It didn’t take long before the monumental decision of what mixing console I would purchase needed to be addressed. The usual choices of consoles were already covered in other studios so I began the search for something that would be new, cutting edge and would elevate us beyond what the other studios offered.

After some research and a bit conversation with the people at Euphonix, I boarded a plane for Silicon Valley to see first hand the newest technology available in mixing consoles. The Euphonix CSII was a full-fledged digitally controlled analog console. It was clear to me right then and there that the future of mixing was here and the console was purchased for HINGE. The CSII offered significant advantages over other analog consoles in the way of instant recall of the entire console and automation of all the consoles knobs and switches. The technology was revolutionary at the time.

Shortly after buying the console, Euphonix added a center section that included a TFT monitor that displayed important visual feedback elements including EQ curves, dynamics and automation data. I jumped on board with that upgrade immediately and my clients and I began to experience the true beginnings of the power of the digital mixing and control surface revolution.

John Legend, Kanye West and me behind the Euphonix CSII

I was also an early adopter of hard disk based digital recording and took delivery of the very first disk based digital recorder and added that to my analog 2” machine for an additional 24 tracks. Although Pro Tools existed at the time, it was still in its infancy. Over time as more and more sessions were coming in as Pro Tools session it became clear that HINGE would have to move over to the Pro Tools platform in order to stay competitive.

Pro Tools functionality with its extensive editing, automation and plugins was a huge leap from the previous digital machine and allowed for things never possible before in recording and mixing. However, I still loved the sound and automation capabilities of the Euphonix and continued mixing from the desk. I mixed and recorded countless records with the Euphonix/Pro-Tools environment including the Grammy Album of The Year record for Kanye West, “Late Registration.”

Although I had outstanding success with that combination of Pro Tools and Euphonix, I began to crave more integration between the control surface and the software. The main issue being the consoles automation system was independent of Pro Tools and would not follow any editing (or conforming) that happened within Pro Tools session. It was complex and time consuming to edit the desk automation separately anytime an arrangement edit happened with in the session.

Also, with parts becoming harder to get for the CSII, I made the decision to retire it and move to the Digidesign ICON D-Control. With the ICON, I now had total control of every function in the DAW while still maintaining the feel of an analog console. Gone was the issue of having to edit the automation independently of the audio in the Pro Tools session.

Tracking on my 32-fader ICON D-Control

Having a physical surface is extremely important to me as a mixer. The control surface becomes my “instrument” and I’m able to feel and manipulate the music much more organically than just a mouse alone. Still a huge fan of analog equipment, I mixed in a hybrid setup of a very large Pro Tools system with 48 analog ins and outs as well as 16 digital i/o. The analog outputs fed into summing amps before hitting a Lavry stereo A-D convertor.

One of the very early projects mixed on this set up was Lupe Fiasco’s Grammy nominated album, “The Cool.” The new set up had proven its worthiness very quickly. I knew this workflow of Pro Tools and a control surface was the definitive environment for me as a mixer.

After 20+ years in Chicago, I decided to move HINGE to Los Angeles in the fall of 2013. Avid had just announced the S6, their latest offering in the evolution of the control surface. Given the move to LA, my great experience with the ICON as well as my desire for the latest and greatest in technology, it was an easy decision to become an early adopter of the S6. With unprecedented visual feedback, modularity, and touchscreen interface that the S6 offers, the surface further elevates my workflow in every way. The S6 is really the ultimate combination of my original Euphonix CSII and the ICON. With the S6, I do still mix with a hybrid set-up and continue to push the envelope of what’s possible in mixing with this highly advanced control surface and DAW: Pro Tools | S6.

I’m very excited to offer insights into my workflow, mixing tips and how I use the S6. You can check out these first two videos for an overview of how I setup the session and the desk to mix.

Pro Tools | S6

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I am a music mixing engineer and record producer, recently receiving two GRAMMY® Award nominations (Album of the Year) for my work on Kanye West’s multi-platinum 'Late Registration' and follow-up album 'Graduation.' I won a GRAMMY in 2008 for mixing The Clark Sisters’ 2007 album, 'Live: One Last Time.'