Think about it. When we are mixing music, we are probably doing it alone. It’s the nature of the activity. It’s hard to share headphones with someone else. It’s hard to find another mixing engineer or musician that sees eye to eye with our creative choices (and trust me, hold on to those connections when you find them!) That means we run the risk of isolation. This bubble syndrome is what we need to keep a careful eye on. Some of my best creative choices have come through comments and ideas of other musicians and engineers that I trust. It is easy to think we know what is best for our mixes. Sometimes, though, someone else’s point of view can make the difference between a good mix and a great mix. Here are some helpful suggestions to get the most out of searching for and developing relationships with allies in your music mixing world.
Share Your Mix-In-Progress With Like Minds
This is most likely the number one factor to consider when sharing your mixes with others whose opinions or advice is about to be given. This does not mean that you need to share only with audio engineers, producers, or musicians who play or think exactly like you. What it does mean is that you want to share works-in-progress with those whose creative GOALS are like yours. If your goals are to create music or songs that are emotional and dynamic, with a focus on vocals that are promoting an artist and involve unique applications of delay and saturation, then share your music with other engineers who are utilizing and knowledgeable with these techniques. They just might have the exact solution on to how to take that bussed delay and send it to the right amount of drive on your saturation plugin to achieve a soft clipping effect. The point is, if you are sharing with other mixers whose focus is, say, more on guitars and amp simulation or on synths and multi-filter sweeping, the advice you get may not be the best for your artistic situation.
Don’t Be Afraid Of Criticism
Yeah, I know this is difficult for most. But the fact is, if you are choosing your mixing allies wisely, you need to really listen to these “strong suggestions” with open ears and an open mind. Some of the best criticism can result in unbelievable improvement with your mix. If you are hanging out with like minds, you will notice a sense of relief that will come when you can share your work-in-progress with someone who acts like your second set of ears. When you have been working tirelessly on a mix and are close to the finish line, and you have a trustworthy, go-to second set of ears who listens to your work and gives critiques, it actually can lighten the workload for you. In return, they can feel confident coming to you in the future, knowing that you will do the same for them. This obviously does not mean that everything they have to say is right. And if they are your ally, they know this.
Work On Projects With Others
We need to enjoy the effects of other’s talents and personalities, and realize how they can enhance our music and mixes. Technology has given us the ability to write, produce, arrange, perform, mix, and master all in the comfort of our little studio world. We need to venture out of our bubble by taking on projects that include musicians and engineers we want to collaborate with. Your mixing skills will improve greatly by hearing a wide variety of vocals, instrumentation, and productions. Try taking on the task of audio editing (tuning, noise reduction, tempo tightening) for a producer or highly sought after mix engineer who wants to leave this “cleaning” detail for others. Get out to live music events and make real world connections with favorite musicians or FOH engineers. Or, hang out (virtually) with others on some of the widely available audio/mixing sites that promote community. One of the best such sites for connecting would be Dueling Mixes http://www.duelingmixes.com/ — although there are also many free sites to be a member of with specific DAW related content that can help you develop just the right team of go-to allies that will understand you and your style, such as this friendly Facebook site for Logic X users https://www.facebook.com/groups/543628065696081/ The take away here is even with all the YouTube tutorials that exist, communication and relationships with like minds will be of a much greater benefit to your mixes.
Mixing allies will remind you that you are not alone in pursuit of your dreams and goals. These same peeps will also help take away that habit of over-judging and second guessing your mix by letting you know — honestly — that you totally nailed it. And, they will keep you listening. And learning. And smiling:)
Do you have specific people you trust to share your mix with before you call it finished? Are there any mixing communities that have helped you grow as a mixing engineer? Leave a comment!