I’ve been on vacation from uni for a few weeks now, have settled into my new studio and I have started the mountain of work I have to do over the summer. I recorded loads of bands late last school year and now I have to mix it all!
It started as a bit of a daunting task, 8 tracks, 4 bands and all completely different vibes and genres. A 70’s style rock band, a funk/ ska band, a folk band and a pop/R&B group. If I’m quite honest, mixing has thus far not been my strong point. I’m much more comfortable sat in the studio working with musicians but It’s something I enjoy never the less and I want to become better. And I am becoming better, hooray! I’ve found the secret. It took a lot of searching, a lot of time but I’ve found it. It’s practice. I was hoping for a short cut. Some magical list of plugins and settings to make my mixes work, but with no black magic to hand, and no first born children to sacrifice I’ve had to do it the old fashioned way.
I imagine a lot of young hopeful mixing engineers will be in the same position as me, so here’s the advice that really helped see progress and improvement in my mixes.
1. Learn your equipment. And to most people this means your plugins. Try to treat each plugin as a brand new piece of hardware, learn it thoroughly, experiment with it until you know it inside and out. With such a huge range of plugins available online for free it’s very tempting to download everything and throw random plugins at a project until it sounds good. Choose your favorite few plugs, a couple of EQ’s, compressors, reverbs etc. and learn them. Know what to use is any given situation and then if you find you can’t do something you want to do look at another plugin and bring that into your collection. This will improve your mixes vastly.
2. Know your end result. When I started mixing these tracks a few weeks ago I was frustrated at how crap my mixes were sounding. It took me some time and planning to work out what I wanted to do with each song, what they needed to get there and how to do it. But this process made me think about each step and allowed me to nail the sound much quicker than just diving straight in and mixing.
3. Communication. Both with the band and fellow engineers. Other people tend to be able to spot your mistakes or how to improve much quicker than you can. I have 2 other friends who work in audio and I constantly annoy them with rough mixes, if It passes their ears and doesn’t sound like shit I know I’m on the right path. Also, you’re mixing to please your clients, the band. Talk to them throughout the process so you know you’re heading in the right direction.
4. Patience. This takes time. You are not going to be the worlds greatest mix engineer in a week, or even a year. Practice as often as you can and never stop learning.
I’m really happy with the result of the couple of mixes I’ve finished, but I’ve still got tons more to do. I’ll keep you guys updated with the results on my Facebook page. I’m also off to Norway again in a few weeks to record with 3 bands over 2 weeks. I can’t wait! I’ll let you all know if I learn anything cool.
Thanks for reading,