‘The Stairways to Mixing Heaven’: Designs for the Optimisation of Creative Mixing Practices in Popular Music Record Production
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As music technology ever develops, so too the creative practices and sonic outcomes of popular music productions evolve in response. This project therefore investigates the ways in which user-led system design informs the author’s practice as a recording studio mix engineer and as co-creator of popular music recordings. The dissertation details a two-year study into the Stairways mixing preparation framework developed by the author. Stairways will be tested for its suitability to design personalised mixing systems with a view to achieving optimum creative results for various musical styles. The study documents the creation of mixes for eight original pieces of music, as written by six artists /bands, and where this development has been traced to provide a number of interpretations as 18 tracks on an accompanying CD portfolio. This compares the original artist ‘rough’ mixes with further insights into the application of digital and hybrid analogue systems. This project is situated within the field of professional practice and therefore draws upon a range of literature including scholarly texts, trade magazines, popular music press, practitioner interviews and weblogs. A mixed method research design employs the author’s multi-decade experience as a mix professional and educator via a practice-based approach to detail the processes involved in the creation of the original music in question. This is situated within three action research cycles that progress the design by detailing the insights gained from each recording session as they progress over time and where various emergent sonic and creative phenomenon are examined. The dissertation is supported by a detailed series of appendices to present technical approaches, reflective journal entries and philosophical considerations for how to approach a given mix.
Master of Music (MMus)
Recording studio mix engineer