Balancing workflow

When you are writing a piece, how much do you get into the specifics such as adjusting dynamics, etc. For example, on a piece I’m working on, I know certain instruments are louder than they will be when I mix the project and I haven’t done anything with dynamics. I turn them down some when working on other instruments but I haven’t adjusted any dynamics yet. Do you adjust your dynamics while you work on an instrument or wait until you are finished with the project?

Thanks.
Chris

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I like to do it at the point of recording every part, since dynamics both in the attack part and the sustain dynamics curves are such a huge part of the expression and emotion in the music performances. =)

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Well, coming from an electronic and “playing around with instruments” background, sound design and mixing is an integral part of the creative process for me, so in a way, I suppose I approach things more like an improvising musician than a traditional composer. I also draw a lot of inspiration from the sound and expression of the instruments, and I tend to “hear” the performance with expression and all before I play/write it anyway, so it seems counterproductive to not at least roughly capture that while I’m at it.

That said, I definitely believe one should refrain from diving into subtle details in early stages, as there’s really no way to get that right without the full context. Kind of logical when you think of it, as the word “mixing” itself implies that you’re dealing with more than one source at a time. :wink: This also applies to orchestration to great extent, as that’s basically also mixing, but with a different toolset.

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I think the two gents above are right. It is important that you get somethings correct at the earliest possible stage. Since you may be sitting with a particular section for a while, it can become problematic to hear it without dynamics or expression as you aren’t really getting a true representation of how it will sound at the end of the production.

Having said that, it is also important for me to create quickly so as to get ideas out whilst I am still inspired and in a sense of flow. I would suggest just using a little creative initiative and not sweating too much the small things, just get your ideas out effectively. But if there is anything sonically that is getting in the way of your creativity then fix that as soon as you can so you can move on.

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Thanks everyone for your input. Great advice!

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I’m not sure how normal my workflow is, but I try to not mess with as much as I can while writing/recording. It all depends on the style of the music and how much of it I’ve structured ahead of time vs making it up as I go. But, generally, on my first pass through a piece, or a section of a piece, I’m focusing mostly on melody and harmony. I’ll often have tracks recorded that sound like trash mix-wise, but I’m only making sure that they harmonically work together and I’m trusting that I’ll be able to tame the mix later.

But, invariably I’ll find myself running into a point where I’ve got to do at least a rough draft of the dynamics before I can record further parts, because those specific parts depend on fitting in the proper spot expression-wise. And, of course, if the whole piece is an expressive style, I’ll find myself doing that sooner rather than later.

So, generally I try not to focus too much on dynamics and mix until I have to because I know that I can bog myself down in getting the mix just right and never finish the piece. This works pretty well for me, so long as I have the mix that I want in my head while I’m working on it.

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Back in the days when I owned a small recording studio, I realized that for me, it was imperative to record each part as accurately and as close to what I wanted the final product to sound like as possible. I discovered that once the part is recorded, there is little that can be done in the mixing to fix a recorded track that is lacking in some aspect of the desired performance, be it dynamics, tone, articulations, etc… (the classic saying “you can’t polish a turd” proved to be very true for me).
I’ve moved on from the studio to now having just a bedroom where I compose using primarily virtual instruments, but I still take the same approach. As I create a drum track, or trumpet track, or whatever the instrument, I try and create it as close to what I want the finished product to be as possible. There is always some adjusting that goes on as I progress towards the finished piece, but I don’t know how to create a track and let it be without it sounding the way I want it to sound in the end.
That’s my personal workflow; your mileage may vary. :^)

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