Dawless and 'mixingless'

I have found pleasure again in music creation since I have started creating dawless.

I think that a big part of my problem working in a DAW was the lack of a clear separation between the creative and the recording/mixing processes. I was not able to focus on music, always trying to EQ, compress or play with levels of my tracks.

Since I am creating Dawless, I am also trying to avoid the mixing process, only focusing on making my music sounds as good as possible.

In the end of the process, I would like to mutitrack record my music in a DAW and send it to a sound engineer for mixing and mastering.

Are there other artists working like that? I think that mixing and mastering is an art, and I realized that I was loosing time trying to achieve someting that belongs to real professionals.

Since I have this mindset it really helped me to create without mental and technical limitations. I am just creating with my headphones without feeling the need of buying ultra accurate studio monitors.

Now I would like to buy monitors just to be able to jam and share my music with friends. As I don’t need it for mixing I am thinking to buy a single monitor like Eris E44, is it a bad idea?

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It’ll cost a lot of money to get someone to do all that for you for every track.

Give it a go and see how it works out.

I would fear that the material might be much more work to deal with than a typical mix engineer would expect.

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I do this except I do the mixing as well. I feel like certain electronic genres lend themselves to this approach easier than others.

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sure. recording my takes on Zoolm LiveTrak L-12 and then importing multitrack sessions to DAW.

so true. look at any random tutorial on youtube — if DAW is involved, about 50% of time it will be about fiddling with EQs, regardless of tutorial topic.

i really dislike this, because when i want to come up with some musical idea, proper frequencies separation is the last thing i care about, and will care only when my arrangement is in the state of working draft.

maybe it’s just age, because back in the rock band days, we had the raw sound of our instruments and nothing moar when rehearsed. anyway typical modern DAW workflow with all its stacks of plugins, unlimited tracks and other fancy overproduction stuff really drives me mad.

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I couldn’t agree more, especially your last paragraph. Being able to control every details and obsessive with colors to the extreme is all well and good, but sometimes these things come at the expense of the real content—a good composing/songwriting skills.:vulcan_salute:

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I basically work this way. Main reason is to keep a low buffer setting. What I’ll do is put a SSL channel strip on some channels to form the sound a bit and get rid of some lowend. The channel strip doesn’t eat too much cpu. I’ll also use plugins for forming the sound here and there. All creative stuff though. No reverbs or delay unless for creative stuff.
I’ll then arrange the track and export stems. These get imported into a new file for mixing. From here on buffer settings don’t matter and if I need more sounds they all normally come itb.

What I have learned from this process is that sound selection becomes so much better. This makes mixing way easier. As I already have the lows cleaned up a bit the process gets really fast. Pressing new sounds into a mixed track is sometimes a hassle for me.

Mixing the own tracks can be pretty enjoyable, or a big pita. But the more you do it the more you enjoy it.

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I work like this all the time. I’m at the point where I make some money on my music now, so I know for a fact this approach gets me results that work in a context where someone could potentially go “Whoa, who shot the engineer?”

I’ve found a few things that really help in such a context -

Watch your source material. If your weapon of choice is a sampler, make sure that pre-recorded samples that go into it, would work on their own. If you’re sampling, mind the gain staging. Record it clean, no processing. If you got sampled material and already think “Oh, won’t work without some EQ” or whatever, that’s no good.

If your source material are from synths, I’ve found (unfortunately) that quality matters. As charming the notion is that one can make entire albums from Volcas and stuff, I own just one synth - a Prophet 12 module. The sheer output quality of a Sequential instrument or equivalent, makes anything that happens after that, so much easier. But I count the Model: Cycles in the range of quality output stuff, so one doesn’t have to gun for prophets or similar to get this.

Work in an instrument that gives your final results multiple outs, and run those through a mixer worth its salt. This shit matters. You don’t have to gun for an SSL SiX, but don’t settle for something you get for about 50Euro. They fill their purpose, but if you’re going dawless, that is not the purpose.

Put something on the master that glues things together, if your mixer don’t do that, too (some do). I used an Analog Heat for years and it did the job just fine. A second hand MKI is amazing value for this purpose. Even instruments that provide master features of their own (Octatrack and Digitakt, to mention a few), do really well through anything that just puts it all together.

Get a super simple, straight forward portable recorder that offers you top quality but nothing more. I record on a Zoom Hn1. It does very little. But it does record in 24-bit, 96khz. Most of the times, that doesn’t matter. Sometimes, it does. For a recorder that’s about 100Euro, I don’t see why you’d want to compromise this option away.

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If your music sounds good, than you have done some good “mixing” in the process for sure. Maybe not conciously.

IMO a good mix starts with the selection of timbres. If all timbres fit together well, no particular tricks of mixing are required to get a good sound. Just listen to a philharmonic orchestra … the mix is in the selection of instruments and the spatial placing of the instrument sections.

If we work with electronic instruments or samples the job of balancing the timbres has to be done by ourselfs, or many timbres will just clash. This said, IMO a “mixing-free” scenario is not a practical objective for creating good sounding music.

My approach is to devide the creative from the engineering phase of producing music. In the creative phase mood and idea get the focus. I work with well tried timbres, getting me where I want to go. Mostly I work OTB with some sequencing and much live playing. First recordings may be made, which are not even demos, but like using a scratchpad. Later this is transfered to a DAW for the “engineering” part …

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What kind of music do you create?

I m into abstract, raw techno and electronics. I m working dawless since 2 or 3 years and find the inmediacy of it very stimulating and productive. But i find it weird when people say they want to outsource mixing. In my way of working the mix is part of the sound design. The layers and fx work together to create the sound structure and texture. That s in the mix. I couldn t do the one without the other. But maybe that s different in other styles of music.

Re: a single monitor. Can work if stereo field doesn t mean anything to you…

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…even working out of the box only, involves some kind of mixing process on the go while creating…

aaaaand lending a second pair of ears for final mix and master is ALWAYS a good idea…

as for me, i prefer to do rough mixing myself to get the idea how it’s supposed to sound, but then outsource the final mixing and mastering phases.
because, well, i’m not a pro in mixing, at least for now. and i’ll probably spend more time to get job done properly than money with outsourcing scenario (time = money).

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Great topic and question. I’m in the same boat. After years of fighting with software, I’m having a great time creating music again with hardware synths and boxes.

I’ve also learned that there are lots of people around the world who don’t have the musical ideas but do have the engineering skills to make my music sound great, and will master tunes for $40 or $50 USD per track. If you’re going to sell a track on iTunes or Beatport, this is worth it. All of the semi-pro engineers making YouTube videos about EQ are available for hire if you have Paypal and Dropbox.

That said, everything stated above about recording good samples and mixing as you go is true. It will only help you to learn about timbres and keep the mud out of your mix as you go.

You will learn a ton about your mix by simply recording a stereo signal out to GarageBand or Audacity, exporting it to iTunes or SoundCloud and listening to it on 3-4 stereos or Bluetooth speakers around the house.

When you’re ready to hire an engineer, use something like Overbridge or a multi-track USB interface to export the individual track files you can send to an engineer for mastering.

One of the best producers in electronic music today, Hannes Bieger, has a very straightforward guide to what he needs when you send him a track to mix and master. It’s really useful to understand what it takes to do the work of an audio engineer. He is a musician who goes deep into the geek side of engineering. His work sounds great, but that doesn’t mean you have to know everything he knows. That’s why he sells his services. Anyway, check out what he says: http://www.herrbieger.de/contact.html

Hope this helps. There is no “right” way. There is only the way that works for you.

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I can pull out quite decent mix from OT being mixer, with AK and DT as sources.
Basically it comes down to simple principles:

  • arranging tricks, to avoid clashing of freq
  • proper gain staging and levels
  • good source of samples

Of course in DAW you can build more complex, layered compositions using the same approach, where proper arrangement is 50% of the success.

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In DAW you can pack a lot more, and mixing in DAW (skill) helped me do better DAWless mixes.
I challenged myself to do a good mix without EQ / compression (or very mild) - just levels, panning, instrument selection and arrangement.
And this is possible. The professional will meke from decent mix, and amazing one.
from bad mix - ok one)

The only trick I am using even with DAWless setup is TonalBalance by Izotope. Helps me to come up much faster to decent mix.

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It’s an odd quirk of electronic music that it obsesses so much about mixing and mastering and all that.
The MC5 were one of the greatest bands of their generation and their first album was a live album.
How many great rock and folk albums have been recorded and mixed really “badly” on shit gear?
Did picasso send his pieces off to some other guy to finish them off?

Do what you like, but don’t be too worried by the idea that your music has to be finished to a certain standard or whatever. Good shit is good shit.

*I’m an idiot, don’t listen to me.

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For the kind of music I like and make, you’re spot on.

I have no interest In providing stems.

Thank you, a lot of great info and comments, very appreciated.

I am considering buying Avantones mixcubes just to listen to my music out of my headphones from time to time.

I don’t have a lot of space and they will be my main monitors as I don’t want to focus on mixing while I am creating music. I just want to check if the timbres fits well together and that the global result is not to mudy. Is it a bad solution?

Which kind of monitors should I use to stay focus and have fun during the creative process?

I am trying to produce acid house. I am a big fan of 90’s electronic music. I think artists were focusing on making music instead of trying to achieve a perfect mix. They were mainly working with hardware and getting the best out of it. I love the little imperfection of these tracks. This is why I would like to focus on the general atmosphere and emotions of my music and outsource the mixing process. I have been trying during years to achieve a good mix but I must admit that I just suck at it.

It may be a silly advice but something that really helped me about mixing is picturing myself as a band : a drummer, a lead guitarist, a support guitarist, a bassist and… that’s it.
So I more or less stick to my TR09, one or two 303 clone, and another synth for bass. I add very few elements to that : vocal sample, hoover or stab.
It really helps to have so few elements.
And if you’re into the 90s acid, a 909 and a 303 is pretty much all you need, you know what you’re looking for…! All the fun is in rythm and melody :slight_smile:

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I was in your very same boat. I do love my little set up. It used to be huge. Crazy audio sources going through countless effects. Most of which I picked up cheap (some not) from second hand stores. A kick drum going through an AMPEG SCR… and into a DNX 160A. All instruments had dedicated effects. In the end those boxes got too much. I wanted to downsize. I am in a little cutout corner of my living room, not a studio; a point my wife always readily reminds me about.

I’m in Japan, space is an issue. I wouldn’t change my path. I thoroughly enjoyed the past 7 years of hardware experimentation. The dreams I had about certain boxes more or less went from my head into my hands.

So you could go wild or you could plan a detailed set up by putting it on paper. Specific gear will probably yield specific results.

The RYTM has been brilliant for me. Those separate outs and the ability to load samples is a godsend. Each out has its own mixing channel and an effect before it reaches there. Apart from 3 that use the RYTMs internal effects and get sent to a stereo line in.

All the whole since writing you I’ve been gazing into the horizon and I think a sampler with separate outs would suit you best. Oh, and a TB303 :wink:

Oh yeah… will you be playing live? Think about transportation. Size matters.

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