So, you love mixing music, and you have no Y chromosome. You are in the right place! Mixing, mastering, recording, producing, audio editing — these skills are not accomplished with anything below our belt line. We use our ears, our minds, and our hearts. The fact that most mixing engineers are males is just one of those things. Like the gender dynamics that existed in the medical field decades ago, when the term “doctor” produced an image of a middle-aged male with a smile and a stethoscope. But times keep on changing. Although we may still visualize a music producer or mixing engineer as a male in the framework of our mind, the access of affordable home recording and mixing technology is in the hands of everyone who wants to create music. Everyone. And I have a feeling that there are females out there who are rockin’ the Auralex off of their home studios. Ladies, this blog’s for you!
“I think it’s very important to get more women into computing. My slogan is: Computing is too important to be left to men.”
— Karen Spärck Jones, Professor of Computers and Information at Cambridge Computer Laboratory. Spärck Jones was a vocal advocate for women in computing and technology; she introduced the concept of inverse document frequency (IDF) used by most search engines today.
Welcome to Female Mixing Engineers Website. We are going to discuss everything from EQ tips to compression techniques — from plug-in myths to plug-in magic — from monitoring environments to recording secrets, and, well, subjects that are aimed to help YOU become better at what you are passionate about: Mixing music. Maybe you are getting ready to dive into recording and mixing your first song, or you have finished multiple mixes and you want to refine and improve you skills. Great! And although a touch of traditional, analog style mixing discussions are inevitable, our focus will be on digital, “in-the-box” recording, mixing, mastering, and production. Creating great music, along with the following three subjects, will be at the heart of our time together.
Subject One: Women.
Yep, that’s us. Now, let me make it clear. I am not some male-bashing feminist who feels slighted or neglected in a dude dominated musical realm. In fact, I have learned from some of the best male engineers, professors, producers, audio bloggers — and these guys are my heroes. Because of them, I am a working audio editing/mixing engineer. I’m looking forward to interviewing and interacting with the most talented engineers I can find, and that obviously will include talented dudes. I want this site to contain a veritable plethora of audio information. But if you are a female, you may have noticed that you are treated, well, a bit differently on audio sites or mixing forums when these male dominated hang-outs become aware of your gender. Bless their hearts for wanting to help us understand the difference between stereo and mono. But what we really want to learn are in-depth techniques. Like how to better enhance transients and harmonics. Or how to best EQ a reverb return to remove that harsh, glassy sound on a vocal track. I don’t want to be treated as if I somehow mix differently, just because I am female. And I want to know what you ladies are mixing out there, what you are struggling with, what you are succeeding at in your studios. We can learn from each other.
Subject Two: DAWS (Digital Audio Workstations).
My personal idea of Disneyland, audio style. I can’t help but smile like a kid on Christmas morning when I discover a new and amazing aspect of my DAW. Are you serious? I can create what sound? Sheesh! Pro Tools, Studio One, Logic, Ableton Live, Sonar, Reason — these are only a few of the great digital audio workstations to mix on. The stock plug-ins that come with your DAW are all you need to create top-notch, professional mixes. Really. And as we get to know all the techy and trippy powers that our audio applications offer, we need to remember the overall basic goal of mixing: BALANCE. No matter what your DAW of choice is, ladies, get to know its capabilities just as you would a new kitchen and all its contents.. Every appliance, cupboard, drawer, spice, pot, pan, spatula, spoon — every nook and cranny. That is, if you cook, hehe. I would not want to assume that’s something you do, just because you are female.
“If it sounds right, it IS right.”
— Robert George “Joe” Meek, English record producer and songwriter who pioneered experimental pop music.
Subject Three: Home Studios.
This is where it all comes together. Your “Wo-Man Cave” and all its characteristics. Are you laying down vocals in a portable sound booth set up in your bedroom (with a comforter draped over your head) to keep the neighbors from intruding (or protesting) onto your tracking session? Do you have certain “home recipes” that you follow for mic placement to eliminate annoying reflections from your recording? Is your room in need of bass traps to transform the muddy sound and give your bass more definition? Are you mixing 90% of your mix on headphones so that the “room in your mix” factor is removed from your mixing equation altogether? Do you audition your mix on a variety of speakers? Do you have a sick (that means GOOD) and completely pro-treated spare room or garage that has been converted into a home recording environment we can all aspire to recreate? And, if you have kids, do they think you are the coolest mom ever? (I just had to throw that in there!) As confusing as recording can be for you if you are just starting, and even if the elements of your projects are tracked elsewhere and you are mixing or mastering them, the fact remains that we can all create better final mixes if we understand concepts of recording and acoustic environments. This knowledge can be beneficial for selecting reverbs, delays, and other effects that will take our mix to the place we want it to be. That place that we want our listeners to experience with our music. So don’t shiver at the idea of learning your In/Out routing menu or trying to decide if a Rode NT1 or Shure SM58 is best for you. It really is not as scary as it all looks. Kinda like learning your way around a new grocery store when you move to a new home. You know what you want, you just gotta find it. And we are going to look for it together — what it is YOU need to make your home recordings the best they can be.
So, let’s hangout together, ladies. Pull up that comfy desk chair. Sit back, sip your Starbucks or whatever floats your boat. Share your thoughts, suggestions, frustrations, achievements — or just scroll, click, and think about how what you just read will help your next mix. Let’s always keep in mind, though, that people don’t listen to music and think, “What a great mix!” — people listen to music and think “What a great song!” It is always about the song. Yep, I said always.
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