Mixing Drew Zingg's Debut Album In the Box

Feb 1, 2013 9:00 AM


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photo of George Walker Petit

George Walker Petit

In his own words, producer/engineer George Walker Petit shares some details about how he approached his mixes for the Drew Zingg album, mixing strictly in the digital domain to further enhance and flesh out the analog characteristics of the recording and overdub sessions.—Ed.

[After] we left Oliver Leiber’s Doguehouse studio [where the rhythm section recorded all of its tracks], I took the hard drives back to New York City to my studio [Petit Jazz] and started doing some of the editorial work and figuring out if we needed any additional tracks. I then sent rough mixes out to Drew in San Francisco and together we chose the songs that would need overdubs, if any. I donned the producer hat again at that point: "Does this song need some percussion or does it need an acoustic rhythm part?" But the [underlying] credo was always, "Let's not overproduce it. Anything that isn't necessary, that doesn't add to the song, let’s not record it – in fact, let's just get rid of anything ‘extra’."

photo of Petit Jazz mix room

Petit Jazz mix room

I edited and mixed the whole thing at Petit Jazz. We had all the music on a massive hard drive, all 12 tunes. So after I got home, I set about the task of figuring out how I wanted to mix this, what tools I wanted to mix it with, how long it might take...how much coffee...

Before I even touched any reverbs or any EQs or compression, or any other plug-in or outboard, I'd spend a tremendous amount of time listening; editing parts, making stuff work musically—and I'm a musician first, so that is of extreme importance to me. For example, anybody who's a Steely Dan freak, sonically, has to have heard how all the parts work together so well—all complimentary pieces in an harmonic and rhythmic puzzle if you will. And if you're into the larger orchestral [Pat] Metheny kind of stuff, it's the same thing: a careful combination of many elements, all subtly treated. So I did a lot of editing and leveling before I did any real mixing—a lot of fader moves and panning, experimentation and rough mixing to settle on an approach to the whole record.

I'm a big proponent of getting microscopic with the panning and depth of field in headphones, so I bought two pairs of Grado headphones with the help of John Chen over at Grado. I picked their PS1000s and their 500s. And then I hooked up with SPL, whose gear turned out to be a huge help in the studio. Amongst other things, like their plug-ins and outboard EQs and stuff, SPL makes a headphone amplifier called the Phonitor and a monitor selector called the 2Control. I spoke with Marty Druckman [CEO at Network Pro Marketing Inc.] and said, "I want to do a lot of really close, critical listening to mix this record." He sent me a Phonitor and a 2Control, and for every mix, I would do some heavy tweaking in that environment. That system helped me get to that level of precision and focus that I was after. SPL and Grado together make a pretty strong team.

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