This was another happy accident found when working. I was printing a mix, listening on my small speakers with the volume low. As it played, I turned to take a look at the muted TV, which I keep behind me so I don’t get distracted. I had a news channel on and as the mix played, a story came on which was of interest to me, so I un-muted it.
As I listened to the news report and continued to listen to my mix, I discovered something rather fascinating. One might think the audio of the news report would have made critically listening to the mix rather pointless. However, I found that the dialog over the mix actually helped me hear the mix in a different way, and for the better. I found that the TV playing over the mix revealed bits which needed a bump in spots, a vocal line or solo or whatever. I found something which might seem fine listening to the mix on its own was covered by the dialog.
Well, of course that wouldn’t do, so I stopped and made one more pass and this time I left the TV on. Once I could hear everything important in the mix with the TV dialog over it, the mix was right. As bizarre as it seems, I’ve found this a very useful way to check a mix just before printing it. Now this only works with dialogue—it doesn’t work if any music is playing. This may seem a bit kooky, but think of the places we hear music. We hear it at the mall, at your house, or a friend’s, restaurants, bars, clubs, the car, etc. Most of the time we hear music, there’s some other sound source competing with it. I’ve begun to pay a good bit of attention to mixes in those environments. With a great mix, no matter the other noises, it still sounds like a great mix and I hear everything. And as I said in Tip 32, very few people listen to a mix in total silence and with their head between the speakers paying full attention. So it really makes sense to listen to your mix with some sort of sonic competition.
So I’ve now adapted this as the last way I listen to a mix. And I’ve rarely found that after listening like this the changes don’t work. It’s one more way to get your mix in a typical consumer situation and see how it stands up. And it’s less trouble than turning on a vacuum! (Tip 35…the next tip to come)