Analyze mixes of different genres and listen closely how the songs are mixed.Practice! It takes years and years of terrible mixes to become halfway decent.Compare other people’s mixes to your own. What is different? What is similar? Make notes. “My mixes don’t seem to have as much bass.” or “My mixes lack dynamics.”Learn how to recognize the different frequency ranges and how they make you feel.
More practice—this cannot be overstated! Becoming a good mixer will take years and years of practice.Don’t let the pressure get to you.
There will be situations in the studio that you will have to learn to deal with, like, everyone wanting their instrument turned up the loudest, or someone’s friend or relative that has no obvious musical talent suggesting to you how to mix the song.
Other pressures may include getting a decent recording or mixing within a short time frame and within the artist’s budget and keeping the artist happy.
Making the artist happy is tricky and can bring out insecurities as an engineer. Presenting a band mix is similar to them presenting their songs to you. You really want people to like it but you question whether or not it is worthy. The chances are you won’t make everyone happy.
Maybe the bass player doesn’t like his tone or the guitar player wanted his solo even louder in the final mix. Whatever the reason someone doesn’t like the final mix, you will need to get used to dealing with the fact that
you can’t please everyone. Be confident in your decision-making but don’t be cocky, defensive, or unreasonable.Put your heart into it.
To most music lovers, music is an emotional experience and often quite personal, so imagine how it feels to have people judging you whether or not you have made a good mix or written a good song.
I have been mixing for over 25 years and every time I present a mix for the first time I have butterflies.
I try not to show it, but I care what the band thinks.
I put my heart and soul into that mix and I hope the band gives me the thumbs up, the metal horns, or whatever moves them to express their emotion.Don’t worry about things beyond your control.
There are some things you won’t have control over as an engineer, like the song selection.
Unless you are also producing the band, the chances are you have zero control as to whether or not the song presented to you is a “hit.” A good song is a key component to any good mix.
I didn’t realize this early on in my career and I would often ask myself why my mixes didn’t sound as good as my mentor’s mixes. One reason is that the level of talent I was working with was much lower. My mentor was recording experienced songwriters with great sounding instruments. Their arrangements also made it easier to achieve a good mix.
Eventually, I figured out that a weak song, with weak players, and weak sounding instruments are almost impossible to make sound good.
As you improve your skills, access to record better songwriters and musicians will make your recordings sound even better. As a young engineer you should expect your results to be proportional to the band’s talent. However, your ultimate goal should be to make the artist sound even better than their talent level.
As an engineer, it is rewarding when someone compliments how great a band sounds and how much he or she enjoys the recordings of a particular artist.
Only the engineer knows the truth. It took a lot of hard work to make an average band sound better than average. Regardless of anything else, the
reward is in knowing you did a good job and your audio skills serviced your client well.Mixing is both a technical and an artistic adventure.
It will require more than just turning knobs. It isn’t something you will learn overnight and it will require both patience and perseverance.
Not only will you have to learn the technical side you will have to learn how to deal with people, make hard decisions, and be at your creative peak.
In the end, you will need to understand the tools of the trade and also understand how to bring out the emotional components of the mix to be an exceptional mixer.