Sound Advice: Learn From Top Female Producers & Engineers — Aubrey Whitfield

Female Mixing Engineers Community is excited to bring to you the knowledge and expertise of females who are making their mark in the field of music production and audio engineering. Our premier contributing writer is the fabulous Aubrey Whitfield, who hails from the U.K. and holds an impressive list of clients and credits. You can also hear her top-notch production skills on the FME Music Podcast Show #2. Let’s take a look at the insight and guidance Aubrey has to offer, and learn from her valuable experience.



By Aubrey Whitfield / British Music Producer

Contributing Writer


Mixing is both an art form and a science. You need to have both technical knowledge and the ability to connect with a song — and follow your instincts. Mixing is not an easy skill to master and takes a lot of experience and practice.

I am a music producer first and foremost. In the modern music world, producers are often expected to mix their client’s songs as well as produce them. My advice to any artist, if budget allows, is to hire a professional mix engineer to mix their track. This is because mix engineering is a specialty skill and good mix engineers will have sound treated rooms as well as a wealth of experience and the right tools.

That said, most artists are on a budget and simply can’t afford to hire a producer AND a mix engineer. That means the producer is often expected to also mix the song they are working on. This is not an easy task. After all the initial production choices and arranging — not to mention capturing the perfect emotional recording — now you must mix the tracks to a competitive level?   How can you retain creativity and objectivity? The artist’s expectations will remain high. They will expect a polished mix similar in quality to Top 40 chart mixes.

To help you develop your mixing skills, I will run through some of my mixing tips and tricks for getting a commercial sounding mix. There is no tried and tested formula, and you will need to use your judgment and experience to get the best out of a record. But the following steps will certainly improve your mixing approach:


  1. Get your room ‘mix ready’: So many of us under estimate the importance of the room we use for mixing. If your room is not properly treated, then you are not going to get a realistic mix because the sound waves will be bouncing off the walls and color the sound. People hire specialists to soundproof and treat their rooms, but there are things you can do yourself to whip your room into shape. Put some foam tiles up behind your speakers and make sure that your speakers are as close to the wall as possible. Then place some speaker foam tiles underneath your speakers to stop them vibrating on your desk. If you can, try and fill the room with other sound absorbing materials, such as carpets, sofas etc.


  1. Listen to the artist’s demo mix: The artist’s demo mix is extremely important. It might not be brilliantly mixed but what it will do is give you an idea of the direction that the artist wants the song to go in. Are the vocals noticeably prominent? Is it an obviously dry or wet mix? As well as studying the demo mix, always ask the artist for any ‘reference’ tracks (songs they like or are influenced by) as this will ensure that you produce a pop mix instead of a heavy rock mix!


  1. Develop a workflow that works for you: Whenever I approach a mix I have a formula that I follow every time. I will first load everything into my session, and color group all the individual tracks so I can easily navigate a session with 100+ instruments (for example, all the drums are colored orange, the guitars are blue etc.) I will listen to the song all the way through, and then remove any pops, clicks or other “little nasties”. I always work on the drums first and then add the bass. After the bass, I will then add the vocals so I get a good mix between the vocals and the beat which are generally the two most important instruments in pop music. I will then bring in all the other instruments and make them sit between the beat and vocals. Other mix engineers start with the most important instrument (vocals, guitars etc.) and then build the mix that way. But figure out what works for you and take it from there.


  1. Get a fresh perspective on your mix: When mixing a track, it shouldn’t be so loud that your neighbors are banging on the walls. You should be able to have a conversation with someone. Not only will this save your ears in the long run, but it brings out the instruments in the mix more clearly. Any song will sound exciting when it’s loud, no matter how good or bad it is. So, get a real perspective by listening to it at a reasonable volume. Also, try turning the volume down as low as you can go. You will be surprised at how much detail jumps out at a low volume! A particular trick of mine is to walk into the next room to listen to my mixes. Getting out of your studio environment can give you a different perspective on your mix.


  1. Make sure the vocals are tuned: For contemporary pop music, there is an expectation that vocals must be fine-tuned. Music listeners are so accustomed to hearing songs mixed to perfection that your mix will sound off if there is even a slightly flat note. It should be the role of the producer to auto tune the vocals, but there may be occasions when this is not possible and you will need to tune them yourself. I highly recommend Melodyne for fine tuning. Try to make the vocals sound as natural as possible when using auto-tune. Don’t overdo it as the auto tune effect is now very dated in Western pop culture.


  1. Be prepared for a raft of feedback: Although it has happened, it is rare for an artist to come back to you with zero comments and revision requests on the first mix. Don’t take this personally, music is very subjective so it’s only natural that artists will have feedback. Try to accommodate your artist as much as possible. *Tip: Make sure that you tell your client in advance whether you offer unlimited mix revisions or a limited number to avoid any confusion down the line.


  1. Take regular breaks: It is very easy for your ears to get tired when you are listening to the same song over and over, and you can quickly lose objectivity. Take regular breaks. I tend to work for an hour or so and then take a 10-minute break and start again.


  1. Get a list of reference tracks: If your brief is to produce a track to radio standard then you are going to need to compare your mix against songs of radio hits in a similar genre to check that it is similar in quality, volume and dynamics. Many successful mixers have what’s called a ‘reference track list’. This is where they have hand selected several hit songs and put them into a playlist. Then when they mix a track, they regularly toggle between their mix and the reference tracks to ensure they are on point. I also use this approach and it’s very effective. Plugins such as Magic AB let you quickly toggle between your DAW and your reference tracks.


  1. Should you mix ‘in the box or ‘out of the box’? This is a common question discussed among industry folk – should you mix using analog (out of the box) or using digital (in the box)? Analog is renowned for adding warmth and character to records whereas digital can be cold and clinical. Using analog or digital will depend on the project and the sound you want. I don’t have the space for tons of analog equipment so I am happy to mix in the box using all my top plugins, and to be honest, I have still achieved a great sounding mix without the need for any analog equipment. But it depends on your personal preferences (and budget!) There is no right or wrong.


  1. Mix using headphones or speakers? Many of you might gasp at this, but I do most of my mixing on headphones. I like to mix on headphones because I trust them. I use the same headphones to listen to music recreationally so I can instantly compare my mix against hit records. That said, I do use my speakers on every mix but generally when I have a near final mix that I want to test on different systems. My advice would be for you to mix with whatever you are comfortable with but make sure that you test your mix on different systems, such as your headphones, speakers, laptop speaker.


  1. My recommended plugins for mixing: I certainly don’t need to tell you that there is a vast array of plugins on the market that you can choose to mix with. You could even use the stock plugins in your DAW, which could get a great mix going. But — in my opinion — if you want a commercial mix, then you should expand your collection with 3rd party plugins. The absolute vital ones are compression, EQ, and reverb. These are the most commonly used plugin types. I am lucky enough to have a huge selection of plugins at my disposal. Here is a list of my favorite plugins and the ones I use the most on mixes:



  • Waves CLA3-A compressor: Great compressor on vocals – adds volume and warmth;
  • UAD Pultec EQ: One of the best EQs on any instrument – lots of clarity and depth;
  • Waves CLA Vocals – great for getting that quick pop sound on vocals;
  • Waves SSL Comp – My favorite plugin! It creates ‘that’ radio sound that everyone craves;
  • iZotope Ozone: My mastering plugin on the master bus, does wonders for making a mix louder and clearer without squashing the sound;
  • Soundtoys Echoboy: One of the best delay plugins out there;
  • Logic Pro’s Platinum Reverb – a freebie reverb with Logic Pro which creates a lovely big reverb sound on vocals and acoustic guitar;
  • UAD Teletronix LA-2A: The giant of compressors based on the analogue classic. The silver one is my personal favourite as it adds that analogue warmth to vocals and guitars.
  • Waves Maxxbass: Great for that bass-in-your-face sound
  • UAD Studer: If you want the analogue warmth or a gritty sounding instrument, then whack on this little beauty. Also works great on the master bus.

If you need more technical advice about mixing, then I recommend reading ‘Secrets of the Mix Engineers’ by Mike Senior. This book is a great resource if you are just starting out mixing.

The best advice I can give, as someone who used to be terrible at mixing, is to mix as often as you can and develop a workflow and a style that enables you to work quickly and efficiently. Most importantly, make sure you enjoy it.


About the Author

Aubrey Whitfield is a British music producer and currently one of the most prolific female music producers in the UK. Connect with Aubrey at



Headphones: Which “Cans” Are For You?

Headphones: What to Know

Knowing what headphones to invest your hard earned money in can be confusing. Closed or open back, impedance, noise attenuation — what does it all mean to you? Well, choosing a great pair of headphones for your needs does not have to be difficult. Different headphones are often used for recording and mixing, and whether you buy one or two pairs, the important thing to remember is that you get what you pay for. And although you do not have to spend a fortune, high quality headphones will be an investment you will not regret. Coming in a very close second to good microphones, your headphones are key to creating quality music.

Closed back headphones are the best choice for recording tracks, so you can monitor a mix as you play or sing without sound from your headphones bleeding into your live mic. This is why it is important to buy a pair that has maximum sound isolation. This isolation is important not just for minimizing mic bleed, but for creating a sound environment where room reflections and other sounds will not disturb you while you record. Over-ear circumaural headphones that encase the entire ear (as opposed to on-ear) are what you will need.

Open back headphones are rarely used for recording. Open-back headphones aren’t ideal in a wide variety situations, and not everyone loves the sound. Those who enjoy an open back headphone sound feel the music sounds less isolated, and more realistic. But this can cause a variety of problems, and if your listening and mixing environment is not ideal, the noise floor (including outside sounds and unwanted signals) will end up in the decisions you make for your music. Open back headphones are excellent for mixing and mastering in a treated environment, because closed back headphones can result in ear fatigue and frequency build up, especially in the lower frequencies.

Whether you make the choice to own one or two pairs of “cans,” here are some specifications to  consider when buying:

—A driver of 40mm or larger (the size of the diaphragm)

—Impedance of 40ohms or higher

—A frequency response of 20-20,000Hz

—THD (Total harmonic distortion) of less than 1% (the less the better)

Headphone specifics can seem daunting, but you don’t need to understand physics and mathematical equations to make a choice that will work for you. You just need to remember what you are using them for, and the environment you are using them in. One of the best ways to find your perfect pair is to take some music you listen to on a regular basis (or tracks you have recorded at home) to your nearest audio store and audition multiple sets of headphones. Also, take comfort and ease-of-adjustment of the headphones into consideration as well. You will be wearing these for prolonged periods of time, and fit and comfort are important. Just like your favorite pair of jeans.

Why Mixing Music Is Like Mixing A Salad


I am a salad lover — ask anyone who knows me! So many combinations of flavors and textures can be combined to make a deliciously unique and satisfying creation for my tastebuds. As I was traveling down the salad bar line of my favorite restaurant recently, I realized how much creating an amazing salad and creating a successful mix in the studio are alike. Producing and mixing music can sometimes lack interesting elements. Too much crunch, swimming in dressing, not enough flavors to perk up my leafy green creation can make it boring and unsatisfying. The same thing can happen to a mix. These choices can be made by the producer and not the mix engineer, but in our home studios, we often wear the same hats. So, to help bring tastiness to your audio fare, here are some things to remember.

3 Main Ingredients Rule

Rules are made to be broken in mixing. But this rule is one to remember. When your are mixing a song, keep no more than 3 elements of your mix as the main focus, not including percussion. If there is a vocal, this will be one of the three elements. That leaves two more elements to have a large part of focus throughout your mix. If you have multiple tracks, including piano, synths, and assortment of guitars, horns — even background vocals — decide which tracks are best at delivering the emotional objective of the song. Volume automation is a useful tool to make certain your primary ingredients are not lost in the competition for attention. Do not try to have to have all elements be the star of the mix. That does not mean you should not give each part its chance to shine at a specific time. It means have focus, and give listeners a chance to feel grounded in the song. My salads always are best when there is a foundation created (Romaine, cherry tomatoes, and sweet Vidalia onion slices…yum!) with subsequent ingredients added to enhance the flavor of the main ones.

Crunch is Essential!

Yes, I do like croutons on my salad! But the crunch in your mix does not need to be as extreme and obvious as those toasty salad staples. You need texture in your mix to make it interesting, and even small amounts will work. The availability of saturation, clip-distortion, bitcrusher, and overdrive plugins make this rough and edgy sound easy to apply to your tracks. Don’t overdo it, though. Think about adding a brittle element to that mello brass synth by applying a warm clip distortion that also applies a low pass filter (around 2500Hz) to keep it subtle. Or try thinking outside the box and take that English court harp sample and apply a rough crunch and then apply a 1/4 note LEFT and 1/8 note RIGHT sample delay to add a sprinkle of texture. Completely reinvent your clap track with some extreme overdrive. You can also add that crispy crunch to one of your 3 main ingredients. Try adding some parallel processing to your lead vocal that includes some chunky amp distortion to give it sizzle. Whoever said that guitars should have all the crunchy amp fun? The point here is to not have a soggy, mushy mix. Just enough “graininess” to cut through and add excitement.

Chewy Surprises…Yum!

Your mix needs to have an element of surprise — what I like to refer to as “predictable unpredictability” — and this can be a make it or break it ingredient in your production. Nobody wants to listen to the same, inevitable chorus three of four times in a mix without being given something new to “taste” with each repetition. Each time the chorus repeats, add a new delay on the background vocal track. Or add some octave vocal doubling on a new track, and spice it up with a shimmery plate reverb. Or take your lead guitar riff and create a harmony for its consecutive chorus appearances. Add a cowbell hit, add foot stomps, add a new bass line. Just build upon what you have, sparingly but with intent. I like to think of this when I get to the middle of my salad where I cleverly hid those dried cranberries that give a new, sweet flavor that I was expecting — but still delighted to discover under that initial layer of lettuce.


Creamy Dressing or Vinaigrette— The Final Touch

So we know that as we are getting to the final stages of our mix, every element must blend together tastefully. To me, the dressing is like the glue of our mix, and it brings the whole creation together, enhancing all the flavors and turning those separate ingredients into a combined experience. If we use mix-bus processing (applying plugins on our master fader) we can get a mix that will sound cohesive and balanced. For instance, a ballad may need subtle stereo width with some mid-side EQ. Or maybe the whole mix needs a slight dip in the low-mids (maybe 2dB around 400-500Hz) to relieve muddiness, and then a little high-shelf filter boost (1 to 2dB) above 8-10K to add some air. And let’s not forget about adding compression to the mix bus. There once was a common thought that this should be left for the mastering stage, but not so much anymore. The mild compression you use at this point to dress up your mix can contribute the sonic flavor you need to give your mix punch and clarity. Use compression here gently, with slow attack and fast release and minimal gain reduction at the loudest points — 1 to 2db is plenty. (Also, when you first begin to work on your mix, you may try using these compression settings on your mix bus from the start of your project). Another way to dress your music is to use reverb on your mix bus. This technique is frowned upon by some engineers, and promoted highly by others. You can thicken a dry mix with this approach, or blend in a small room or large hall with varying degrees of dry and wet. Whatever you may choose, let the song dictate what is needed. When I have carefully built my mouth-watering salad on my plate, the last thing I want to do is to ruin it with the wrong dressing.

So whether you are mixing a salad or mixing music, keep the senses happy! Think about using textures to achieve the sound you want. Don’t drown your mix with too much creamy and smooth — bring it alive with crunch and spice! And think of your mix as a whole, not separate pieces. Bring all the ingredients together in a way that they sound like they were made for each other. Just like the recipe for a delicious salad!


Do you have any favorite mixing recipe ideas you would like to share? Leave a comment below, and keep on mixing!

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Pop Your Mixing Bubble With Mixing Allies

Music in pink

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   — 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 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:)

Tip 14

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!

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Women. Home Studios. DAWs. Woohoo!

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 o…

Source: Women. Home Studios. DAWs. Woohoo!

Mixing To The Beat Of A Different Drum


In a home recording environment, we have the ability to track almost any instrument. But if your home studio is space limited, tracking live drums is not an option. The neighbors, your family, acoustics, as well as other reasons make it impossible. So, if you don’t have another studio to record that familiar drum kit, or if you don’t even KNOW a drummer — you can program drums yourself, or use drum loops. These will work well, especially if you know how to edit and “humanize” these beats. But, in a world that is growing smaller, we get a chance to hear the percussion of other countries via an Internet filled with unique taps, clicks, and swells and that awaken our ears. You do not need to mix or produce world music to use these distinctive instruments. They can fit seamlessly in pop, singer-songwriter, country, or ANY genre. I use them extensively, and you will hear an example in a mix of mine that I have posted at the bottom of this page. There are millions of samples and loops of these great alternative sounds waiting for you to incorporate into your next project. Here are a few ideas:

Keep reading…

The Magical Doubled Guitar Trick




Hey! So you captured the perfect guitar performance and you are done tracking the song. You want to get a doubled sound to pan far left and far right, but you only have one great take. Recording a second double part is not an option (no time, guitarist is not available, tracking was done months ago, string broke, lol) but you want that wide stereo sound. Here is the answer to your dilemma. This trick can work well with any instrument under the same circumstances. It works when you have a repetitive chord progression.

Continue here…