5 Lessons from iZotopians’ Most Embarrassing Mixing Moments

by iZotope Staff

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We all make mistakes—even the guys and gals at your (favorite?) audio software company. In this post we’re rounding up some of our most embarrassing mixing mix-ups, with tips to get them right the next time.

Matt Murray, Channel Sales Manager

Right after recording school, I took on a pro-bono project recording my friends’ punk band for their first full-length. During a late night mix session, I thought it’d be funny to have my non-musical roommate record an improvised and heavily pitch-corrected vocal take over their music. He came up with a great song about a Rancor in love. We thought it was hilarious, so I told the band I had a “rough mix” to send them the next day.

I felt pretty bad when I later learned they had ALL taken off work/school for the day because they were so excited hear their band’s first mix. Instead, all they got was just a badly autotuned, punk-rock rickroll about alien monsters from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away—set to their backing tracks. Ultimately, I guess skipping school/work is pretty punk rock so I hope it helped develop their artistic integrity.

Lesson 1: People take their art seriously, you should too!

Kim Pfluger, Product Marketing Manager

One time my studio was mixing an album for a Czech children’s songs album. The band’s vocals were supposed to be pitched up to sound like a character a la Alvin and the Chipmunks. When we bounced our mixes, we bounced them at the wrong sample rate and sent them over to the client. We did a really quick check, but because the vocals were already pitched up and the music was a quick tempo, we didn't really pick up on the fact that everything was now pitched up—and faster.

Lesson 2: Bounce at the appropriate sample rate for the medium you're distributing on, and always double check. Triple check if you're mixing an Alvin and the Chipmunks record.

Sean Greenhalgh, Community Manager

While producing a song a few years ago, I somehow managed to unintentionally change the bit depth of the entire Pro Tools Session from 24 to 16. Don’t ask me how, because I have no explanation for this foolishness. The mix engineer pointed this out to me with minutes remaining in the last scheduled (and paid for) session of a gruelling, months long studio experience. The song wasn’t particularly dynamic so there wasn’t an immediately audible degradation of the audio fidelity, but I agonized over whether to tell the band about the mistake. I ended up confessing over beers after the last session, and happily they could not have cared less.

It was embarrassing nonetheless, since as a producer the most important thing is to do no harm first. Or is that doctors? I forget.

Lesson 3: Be organized and meticulous around details that may seem less glamorous or immediately relevant to the creative process.

This includes things like session setup, track labeling, and keeping unused tracks inactive so as not to bog down the CPU usage of your computer. This is especially important when handing off files to a third party with no insight into your “unique” track labeling techniques and byzantine file naming structures. Being even a little bit more organized and standardized at the outset of a project can help mitigate mistakes like, say, setting the wrong bit depth for a session, but also help your studio time unfold more fluidly at those crucial moments when other people’s time (and money!) are at a premium.

Ryan Randall, Customer Care Manager

Working in a post studio, I got my first gig mixing a TV commercial. Local company, but they get aired during Red Sox games so a pretty big deal for a young engineer. I got in early and got to work putting everything I had into that mix. Most of the work was done by the time the clients got to the studio, so they sat down and I played it for them. One of the guys says “This is great: all the elements are here, exactly the way we want it. Now just do whatever mixing things you guys do so it sounds good and we’re done.

After I got past the panic, I noodled around with some cross-over points, did some probably unnecessary panning, and a generous portion of cranking up the monitors whenever they weren’t looking (wink wink).

Lesson 4: Never let the client hear the final goods without having first experienced a crummy sounding rough cut. Always keep some tricks up your sleeve, and keep your monitors low just in case.

Dan Gonzalez, Product Manager

I was doing monitors for a band one time and took a verbal stance about how bad monitor engineers often accidentally blast artists with sound on stage. What happened not even ten minutes later? The artist cranked up the local gain on his CDJ, hit play, and the monitor path to his wedge blasted him with a solid 100dB+ wall of sound. Pretty embarrassing.

Lesson 5: Be vigilant about muting your wedges during changeovers and setup.

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