All Posts by Jon Wright

About the Author

As a graduate of MTSU with a degree in Audio Engineering and Technology Jon has been working as a full time mixer and engineer in Nashville. He loves running, writing, and all forms of entertainment. He also enjoys long walks on the beach with his wife.

Choosing Reference Mixes

Choosing Reference Mixes

As engineers we talk a lot about things we have in our toolkits… things like plug-ins, presets, templates, samples, and workflow strategies. But there’s one tool that the pros have that we don’t talk about enough…

Reference Mixes.

For those who haven’t encountered this term before, the concept of a reference mix that I’m talking about is: A commercially released song (most of the time in the same style as the one I’m currently mixing) that has some remarkable element that will help me gauge how close (or far) I am on my own mix.

I have an ever growing playlist in iTunes and on my phone of these. They span every style and they make the list for many different reasons. Some are there because they are incredible mixes…

I might love the drum sounds, the low end, the vocal placement, the production, or that reverb. Other times I put things in the playlist as cautionary tales. Usually these are great mixes save for one specific flaw. The high end is slightly too brittle and harsh, the low end dances back and forth across the line of “in control” to “out of control,” the vocals are far too loud, or everything is too compressed.

Other times a reference is provided by the client. They give you a track and say, “we’d love it to sound like this!” Again, it’s important to clarify what specific element the client loves, but this is a really good way to help get into the same creative place as the client.

Checking my mixes against these genre specific songs can help inform me of how my mix stacks up. It lets me know how close or far I am from my goals. The cautionary tales help me know when I might have an issue and also reassures me when I don’t.

Another benefit is that when I walk into a room I’ve never been in before I can put this playlist on and after a few tracks have a good idea of how the room sounds and what I need to be aware of. I do this process in studios, live venues, even rental cars. Just to get oriented to how the system stacks up.

So how do I decide what goes in this playlist? I usually only put things in there that I’ve been jamming to for more than a year. Songs I continuously return to and think the same things about. “Wow that’s a killer mix.” “I love those drums.” “This is sweet, but that low end is a bit wild.” “That percussion is PERFECT.”

All-in-all this tool has been one of the most important to me both professionally and personally. When I need inspiration, or a way to compare my work with the best, I just pull out my phone, computer, etc, and press play.

What’s in your reference mix playlist?

3 Tips For Mixing Holiday Songs

  It’s the Holiday season! So it’s appropriate to write a bit about Holiday mixes. For the past few years without fail I have mixed at least one festive track. Sometimes the projects come to me in June and I’ll crank down the air conditioner, wear a fuzzy sweater, and try to get in the mood. Sometimes they will pop up in early December and be on a crunch to beat Santa to the audience. There really are pros and cons to both sides (more on that below). But overall, mixing holiday tracks is definitely one of my personal favorite parts of the year. Here are 3 tips for mixing holiday songs and some random thoughts about them.

– The best holiday songs stand the test of time and feel like they are just as appropriate the first year we hear them as they are the tenth, so the mixing approach should probably attempt to be just as timeless.

– Tapping into the listener’s nostalgia can be a great way to connect. So fast delays and lush reverb can really transport people, but if we rely too heavily on what came before, the question may be asked, “why not just listen to the music this is influenced by instead?” A new holiday song (and mix) must also have its own reason to exist and stand on its own.

– No matter if they are happy or sad, the best holiday songs transport us emotionally. Something I practice on most of my mixes (holiday or otherwise) is visualizing an emotion, or story as I mix. It’s definitely worth a try. Listen to the tracks and find the idea that you feel is being conveyed. It can be a specific sequence of events, or more likely just a one word emotion. Attach to that idea and with every move made in the mix try to reinforce the chosen idea.
Personally, this exercise helps focus and ground me in what’s important as I mix.

Two random thoughts on the time of year the mixing takes place. The earlier in the year that the project happens the harder it might be to get into the holiday mood, but the better off the initial marketing for the project will be when the season does in finally arrive. When mixing something later in November or even December, it’s easier to tap into the spirit, but it’s more important to have a “timeless” mix because it’s more likely that the project will be heard and purchased the subsequent year.

How To Be More Productive At Work, And More Relaxed When You’re Off

Ever had one of those days where you spent an inordinate amount of time on a relatively small task? It might have been because of poor time management. Or because your mind kept jumping from one element of the task to another, causing you to run in mental circles. As engineers, producers, and creators, we’ve all had hours, sessions, and days where it seems like we worked all day but only got a handful of things accomplished.

So how do we remain productive?

There’s a guideline I always try to keep in sharp focus when I wake up each morning whether I’m working or not. I call it the: 100% on, 100% off principle.

The basic idea behind this principle is that whether you’re working or having down time you should make sure your mind is 100% on the task at hand.

This means when you’re working on a specific task, make sure to be focussed on that task, not letting your mind (and focus) wander to other things you may encounter while accomplishing the task. Those things can wait. If a task has multiple steps, only focus on one step at a time. When working on step 2, don’t let steps 4 and 5 sneak up and take your “mind power” away from the task at hand. You can’t do anything about later steps until you get to them anyway. Any personal, non-task related thoughts that creep up on you also should be pushed aside for the task at hand.

Work is only half the issue though, too many times when we are not working we let our work dominate part of our brain. When we’re off, we should be off. When we’re spending time with the family, we should be 100% with them. Not 70% with the family and 30% working on the problems of a mix, or on that “to-do” list that’s grown too large. When we’re on a date, we shouldn’t be worrying about how long tomorrow’s project will take. The best thing an engineer can do for tomorrow’s project is to relax and have a great evening.

Now this principle doesn’t mean that if an incredible idea, or strategy jumps into your head while at dinner with friends we should push it away saying, “I shouldn’t be working right now.” We should note the idea on a phone or on a nearby napkin, and save it to address later. When using this principle you may find that great ideas come to mind more often than before. I know I do. This is because you’ve freed up more of your mind, and it can subconsciously work while you relax. But to-do lists, untuned vocals, and that terrible snare sound, don’t really have a place over wine and cheese with friends.

Too many times we are worn out from thinking about work, and we haven’t even started accomplishing things yet. When we actually start working our mind (being already worn out) is only 75% there. 25% of our thoughts are elsewhere, maybe already on the weekend, or holiday. We’re working with a self-induced handicap.

You probably already know from previous posts that I encourage engineers to take frequent short breaks when possible to give their ears and minds a rest. This principle is for those breaks as well. I’ve worked with producers who take lunch “breaks” while listening to upcoming songs, or the song we just finished. These producers tend to work longer hours and have less mental focus at the end of the day than those who take an actual lunch break. Our minds (and ears) need true breaks. We’ve got to have down time to remain at 100%. So for someone who is listening to music all day professionally it’s probably best to take breaks in which we don’t listen to music. It will not only save your ears, but will increase your productivity.

Sticking to this principle is harder than it sounds, and will be a lifelong process. But as you learn to apply it, I guarantee you will be more productive at work and more relaxed when not working. Your productivity will skyrocket and you will feel more fulfilled and rested. What have you got to lose?

Noticing The Improvement In Your Mixing – PART 2

Last week I wrote about the fact that as mixers it’s often hard to see our own skills progress. We are in the moment-to-moment grind and it sometimes takes someone on the outside to step back and see how far we’ve come. Click HERE to read that post. This week I want to chat about what can happen when we don’t recognize our own progress.

Over on MixCoach Pro Member..
We see the results of mixers feeling like they aren’t progressing play out in a couple ways. People can get discouraged, which is never fun, but the more dangerous result is when people don’t put out mixes because they feel like the mixes aren’t “good enough.” This is dangerous because when people don’t put things out there for others to hear it’s harder to identify areas that need work or areas of growth.

To help get over this..
We always talk about how mixing is a performance. A snapshot of where we are at at a specific time and place. 3 years ago was a snapshot of my mixing skill before I started using my sub-woofer. Of course today I can tune the bass and kick better than I did then, but do I regret putting those mixes out? Not at all. I’m proud of those mixes. They are a time capsule from three years ago.

So don’t be frozen by lack of progress.
A great way to get better is to show people your work
. A better way is showing knowledgeable people your work and being open to honest feedback (without taking it personally). Does this mean that you should listen to random people on the internet that might claim your work “sucks?” Not at all. Find someone you respect, who knows more than you in some areas, and approaches things with the heart of a friend or teacher. Then BE CONFIDENT in showing off your work and realize that you’ll be a better mixer for it.

We offer MixCoach Pro Members the option to submit mixes for Coach Feedback (for additional cost). Find out more about the membership by clicking HERE. 

How To Work Faster and Mix More Artistically…

After one of my recent Mixing Tutorial videos for MixCoach Member, one of our awesome members mentioned my fast paced workflow and decision making process. He asked how I work so quickly. This got me thinking back on my mixing journey, about how when I first started out, I would get bogged down by very small details early in my mixing process. This would keep me working in circles until my ears were of no more use to me than a bear with a tractor.

After bumbling around like this I found that the best solution to keep me moving early on in a mix was “delaying details”. I try to focus on the big picture mix decisions and make them early. Global things like “intimacy,” “artistic direction,” “featured instruments,” and “ambience”, I decide on very early. I leave smaller details, till the end.

This is because deciding on the big things fast and early allows me to keep them in focus throughout the entire mixing process. It also allows me to make the biggest decisions when my ears (and mind) are fresh. Then because I made the global choices earlier, many of the small details… like the final fade, small vocal edits, small automated rides, plug-in automation, etc…  are already determined for me by the big decisions I’ve made. For example, if I decided I want the song to be close and intimate, I know I need the vocal pretty dry and close… no additional thoughts required when it comes to “which reverb do I want on the vocal?”

Making those big choices early is sometimes hard because as an artist (even a technically oriented one) you don’t want to “paint (or mix) yourself into a corner”… but to be honest, the more defined those global things are in your mix, the more people will connect with it, and the more they will get out of your art (mix) at the end of the day.

Not getting “stuck” on decisions that seem “hard” is something that is necessary to be productive… If you can’t decide on something quickly, leave it till later when you’ve solved some other issues and refined the mix more. Don’t chase your tail while mixing. Sometimes I can tackle seemingly insurmountable obstacles… and sometime I need to move on and refine other areas first. But regardless I always try to make the big, global decisions early.

It’s the focus that comes from making big decisions early that will really help to make your art the best it can be. You can take care of those pesky details later… it’s the last 10% of the mix… so I don’t think about most of them till then. 🙂

Avoiding DAE Errors and All Their Friends…

Ever seen one of these before?? Of course you have! Every audio engineer using Pro Tools has maxed out the power of their system at least once… probably more than once… and probably not on purpose.


So what can we do about it?

Is there a way to avoid seeing those pesky three letters, D A E? Wave a magic wand? Wish upon a star? Throw your computer out a 10th story window and head for the nearest Apple Store for a more powerful machine?

While that’s an option for some, most people will just need to find a way to make their session more efficient when they hit the “ceiling” of their processing power. This was originally a question from one of our MixCoach Pro Members, Gary Paquin who has developed into a really great mix engineer. After answering his question, I decided to go ahead and share the help and advice with everyone. So here’s some ideas of what we can do when the inevitable happens…

Dedicate Plug-ins:
If you are working in Pro Tools this is a relatively simple process. Every plug-in has a small downward pointing arrow on it, if you click on this arrow you can “Copy Plug-in Settings”. The next step is to pull up the same plug-in from the “AudioSuite” menu and click the same downward pointing arrow and click “Paste Plug-in Settings” Then highlight the files you want to process this way, then click “process” and POOF! you have “dedicated” a plug-in… No printing in real time necessary… Remember to remove the “in-line” plug-in after doing this and you’ve got a bit more processing power to use for other super cool things!

If this process is unclear to you, watch Kevin’s video tutorial about it HERE!

Print Stems:
There is another option that’s related to the last one… you can print entire sections of your mix… like Drums, Instruments, and Vocals. This saves you even more processing but it always feel more “clunky” to me. I’m always wanting to turn some individual element up or down after printing. So this is probably a “last resort” situation. The way to do this one is either use busses to route the different mixes to an audio track, or just mute the undesired elements and print them that way.

Lower the Levels of Undo:
In the preferences of Pro Tools there is a spot labeled, “levels of undo”. The interesting thing about these “levels” is that they are stored in your computer’s RAM. So they take up space in your processor. So if you want to squeeze just a little more from your processor you can lower this number and potentially get it. I want to say that this number is set by default to some crazy high number like 30 and if I were wanting to go back 30 undo levels I would probably just re-load a session file backup anyway. Which brings me to a suggestion I have: There is also a preference for how often your session is backed up in the “Session File Backups” folder. I would strongly suggest setting this to 1 minute or 2 minutes. That way if you ever DO need those extra levels of undo, you can always go back a minute or two via the backup files.

Ok so these may not be super magical ways to keep your session from those pesky three letter errors, (D–A–E) but this can help you get that last bit of power you needed to finish that epic mix you’ve been working on.

What are some ways that you’ve saved processing power when you needed it? Share with us in the comments below… we might even feature your comment!

079 Tips for Mixing Jazz Music

On this episode, we talk about mixing Jazz music and what makes mixing it different than mixing any other genre.

Show Notes:

Jazz Mixing tips we discuss:

  • Why all snare hits are not created equal (volume).
  • The feel of the mix is more important than the individual notes.
  • Why you shouldn’t necessarily worry about “trendy” mixing.

Raw Transcript:

Announcer: This is the MixCoach Podcast, episode 79. This week on the MixCoach Podcast we’re going to talk about how to nail a jazz mix.


Jon: All right, Kevin, this week we’re talking about jazz and genre conventions. We’ve kind of been in these series where we’re talking about things that you do and certain styles of music that are maybe different or unique to that style of music. So, for example, bluegrass. Last week we talked about that you want to bring up the G-runs and leave things a little bit more natural. With rock music, you’re evening out things. Country, you focus on the vocal. This week we’re going to talk about jazz. And they’re some things that are specific to different genres of jazz, there’s more like orchestral things that kind of happen. There’s acoustic instruments mixed in with kind of these smooth-tone electric guitars and such. So what are some things, specifically I guess on these new kind of things that you don’t necessarily have in other genres? What are some interesting things that you would do to say the strings in a jazz session that you may not do in rock session that has strings?

Kevin: Well, when I think of jazz I just think, timeless form of music.

Jon: Yeah.

Kevin: Not make anything hypey. And if I’ve noticed anything from our members when they mix jazz, especially the new guys, the guys who hang around for a while, there’ve been guys who’ve been members for four years now almost.

Jon: Yeah, and they’re great mixers.

Kevin: They are great.

Jon: I can’t praise them enough.

Kevin: I know, I’m the same way man. They keep submitting mixes. They just tend to nail it every time.

Jon: Yeah, they get better and better man.

Kevin: I know. I know. But the thing to remember with jazz is that, let’s just say you’ve got a traditional jazz song, and you’ve got a guy playing with brushes. And then one time he hits the snare kind of hard with the brush and it sounds like a rock snare or something that’s a little louder.

Jon: Yeah.

Kevin: They will try to get the brush sound to be significant with the drums.

Jon: Yes. That’s a good point.

Kevin: They’ll try to get the drums loud.

Jon: Well, they try to like even out where they say, “Well, I really want those ghost notes.” Ghost notes that he’s playing to be prominent, and to be as loud as these big hits. And I think what you’re saying is that’s not how they would anticipate it being, that’s not, “Hey, let’s make these ghost notes as loud as the big hit.” It’s kind of like leave that in the background a little bit.

Kevin: Right. The jazz thing seems to kind of ebb and flow. There’s a natural progression of dynamics. And if we can apply it to orchestral music too, which it’s a timeless form of music too. The biggest mistakes I’ve ever made in orchestral mixing music is to try to make everything loud. They don’t want that. In jazz, it’s more about the performance of the instruments, about the performance of the musician, and the tone of the instrument that they’re trying to capture.

Jon: Yeah.

Kevin: Not pure volume, but just nuances of – sometimes I’ve even heard them stumble on notes and it’s like, “You know what? That doesn’t make a big deal to me because the sentence that I said with the phrase that I played said everything I wanted it to say even though I mispronounced a word.”

Jon: Yeah.

Kevin: That’s what you should think about when you’re thinking jazz, it’s not about perfection of the music, it’s about the feel of the music more than anything.

Jon: Yeah.

Kevin: And I can’t stress enough how important it is for on jazz music to make the instrument sound natural, like you would in bluegrass. Any timeless form of music, make sure the phase is good, make sure that you’re capturing that over and above everything else.

Jon: For example, guitars, a lot of times in an electric guitar in jazz, sometimes their very kind of muffled and they don’t have a lot of high end, but a lot of times I’ve heard mixers counteract the natural tone that the guitar player was getting out of the amp and try to hype up the high end and cut out the mud. And that’s not really what they were going for. They were going for that kind of muffled and understated tone on a guitar.

Kevin: Right.

Jon: Something you mentioned about orchestral music and the dynamics there. Orchestral music, whenever you’re a string player and you’re looking at the sheet music, they will have dynamics markings on them. And so if you counteract all of the composer or the arranger’s dynamics markings and all of the players’ dynamics that they’re playing, that’s not a piece of the music. Whenever they put the dynamics where, “Hey, I want this to be quiet here, but I want it to be forte here, and they have very specific dynamics markings and loudness that they want whenever they capture this stuff.

Kevin: Right.

Jon: So whenever you mix you want to capture that as well.

Kevin: Right. So there’s several different styles of jazz music. I was listening to some music this morning from Larry Carlton from back in the day and I was listening to some Koinonia stuff. Some of the jazz stuff, Koinonia was L.A. session band basically, Abraham Laboriel Jr.

Jon: Got you.

Kevin: Abraham Laboriel Jr.’s dad, that was a base player and he was just phenomenal. But you listen to any of those records and they’re a little bit trendy. They’re just a little bit trendy. You can hear the verb trails and stuff like that, but they’re not a lot. Most modern pop jazz, you could say, is little bit trendy but not a lot.

Jon: And they even still slip in completely timeless songs in those same albums where it’s just a classic jazz thing. Even like in a Bublé album, while there are some like poppy or trendy – the bass or the drums are doing some trendy beat. But then there are also these moments of complete timelessness. Where, if you listen to Bublé versus Sinatra, it’s the same kind of mixing. It feels like the same mix.

Kevin: When you’re talking about Bublé, I think of jazz with him. I know maybe he’s not considered jazz, I don’t know, but I just think about the way it’s recorded is to me jazz.

Jon: Kind of like a jazz-pop.

Kevin: To me, one of my favorite mixers, Chris Lord-Alge, I don’t dig the way that he mixes Bublé’s stuff because – and this is a good example maybe, and this is just my opinion, I love the way Chris Lord-Alge mixes, and I love Bublé’s records. As a matter of fact, a friend of mine, or a friend of ours, Steve Genewick, helps record those records and everything.

Jon: Hey, Steve.

Kevin: Yeah, hey Steve. I’m not dissing anybody’s style but I’m just saying the difference in styles if you listen Bublé, let Chris Lord-Alge mix his stuff. Well, they hired Chris because of Chris’s style of mixing. But Chris’s style of mixing is rock and the kind of music was jazz.

Jon: Yeah.

Kevin: So when you put those two together, to me, those will be trendy jazz mixes in the future, which I don’t know if it’ll be as timeless as some of the traditionally stuff like Al Schmitt would have mixed on that kind of stuff.

Jon: Yeah.

Kevin: So the thing I’ve noticed about jazz, bluegrass is they’re always careful – and this is almost a mindset, they’re real careful to pay homage to the guys who’ve gone before.

Jon: Yeah.

Kevin: Like in bluegrass, a Bill Monroe thing. And they’ll play the lick just like Bill did it. They’ll play it out of time slightly and rigid like Bill Monroe did. And in jazz they’ll play it the same way that Dizzy would have played it or the Birdland stuff.

Jon: Yeah.

Kevin: They will play kind of that way, and really they don’t really want it to sound that much different most of the time. In traditional jazz, they don’t really want it sound that much different than it did on the original recording. Just recorded better or more modern, maybe.

Jon: Yeah.

Kevin: So, the thing about jazz to think, is a lot like bluegrass and any timeless form of music, the way it’s recorded and the feel of the music and the dynamics of the music will trump almost anything else.

Jon: And don’t try to counteract all of those things whenever you’re in the mixing process.

Kevin: No, if anything, you want to accent it.

Jon: Emphasize it.

Kevin: Yeah, emphasize it. So, jazz is one of those things where it’s really not that hard to mix if you keep in mind that you’re letting the performance and the dynamics trump almost everything else. I think you’ll nail the mix almost every time.

Jon: Absolutely.

Jo: Thanks for listening. This has been the MixCoach podcast. The podcast dedicated to making your next recording, your best recording. For more tips, tutorials and even a free course, be sure and visit us at

Do you have any tips on Mixing Jazz?

078 Tips for Mixing Bluegrass Music

On this episode, we talk about mixing Bluegrass music.  We talk about what makes it different than other genres.

Show Notes:

Bluegrass Mixing tips we discuss:

  • What are the roots of Bluegrass mixing??
  • Why is it ok to let things “pop out” a bit in your Bluegrass mix
  • “Less-is-more” approach to Bluegrass, and what NOT to do when mixing Banjo.

Raw Transcript:

Coming Soon!

Do you have any tips on Mixing Bluegrass?

077 Tips for Mixing Country Music

On this episode, we are going to be taking about the subtle differences in mixing Country music.  We are going to talk about what makes it slightly different than other genres.

Show Notes:

Country Mixing tips:

  • Mixing things is the right order is important.
  • How is mixing modern country different than classic country?
  • What’s the most important thing when mixing modern country?

Raw Transcript:

Kevin: This is the MixCoach podcast, episode 77.John: This week on the MixCoach podcast we’re going to be talking about mixing conventions as related to country music.Voiceover: If you want to become a more confident mixer, now you can get the training, tools, and community you need to achieve a better mix and workflow. MixCoach Member is a growing community of versatile mixers led by award winning engineer, producer Kevin Ward. Each month you’ll get access to Downloadable session files, so you can build your confidence and hone your mixing skills; mix tutorials, so you can see how a pro mixer approaches each month’s new mix; the forum, where you can get real time feedback on your mix from a huge community of mixers just like you; members-only webinars, where you can get your questions answered and get advanced training; plus hours of mix critique videos, so you can see what the mix coaches say about the monthly mix submissions.Steve: Hey it’s Steve Borden from Los Angeles, California. I’m a MixCoach member. I’ve been involved since its inception and my game in mixing has elevated greatly through the excellent tracks provided, the feedback, and the community. It’s a great group of people.If you’re thinking about joining MixCoach membership and you have any questions or any hesitation, just do it for one month. MixCoach will start you on a course that will only elevate your game in mixing.Voiceover: Become a more confident mixer now. Go to

John: This week on the podcast we’re continuing our talk on genre conventions as relates to different genres of music.

Kevin: Right.

John: And how you mix each genre a little bit different. This week we’re going to talk a little bit about country and some of the differences between country and some other styles, as well as country within itself, there are a few different types of kind of sub-genres, I guess of country.

So Kev, last week we talked a little bit about rock music. And so as country relates to rock music, I guess the thing that we’ve talked about before, you and I, is that modern country, a lot of times, ends up being like rock music was maybe 17 years ago. Something like that. And it’s very kind of classic rock kind of driven stuff with big guitar riffs and things.

So talk a little bit about the similarities, I guess, and then some of the differences between country now versus the classic country.

Kevin: Right. Well, if you look back to when I was a kid, it was The Eagles. They were squarely rock’n’roll.

John: Yeah.

Kevin: And they were top of the game.

John: Yeah.

Kevin: Now, you compare any Eagles song to any modern day country song and the Eagles song sounds really tame compared to what’s coming out now. So really country is morphing into this modern rock sort of thing. Modern country is anyway.

So really, country, these days — when you talk about Jason Aldean, some of the stuff he’s coming out with, he pushes the envelope as much as anyone, and it’s pretty much a rock mix with a vocal forward and the vocal just on affect a little bit more. You’ve got big room sounds on the drums. Basically it’s a rock song with fiddle in it.

John: Yeah.

Kevin: Mainly. That’s really what it is. And steel.

John: Well, and you even look at something like a Taylor Swift. Nathan Chapman, the producer in her first album or whatever, he would do different mixes depending on what market it was going to go to. So he would do a mix with the country people, it would have the fiddle in it, but then in the rock or pop, whenever you pitch it to a pop station, he would take the fiddle out and mix up the guitars and mix up some of these other things that are in it. So there’s a lot of that going on too, where depending on what you emphasize in the mix, you can potentially make almost a different style.

Kevin: Well, I think the biggest thing about country mixing is, as it compares to rock’n’roll mixing, we mentioned this last week about how rock is pretty much guitar and groove driven.

John: Yeah.

Kevin: Country is kind of the same way except vocal and the vocal hook almost always trump everything else. So, when you’ve got a Taylor Swift song, people, they don’t remember the hook, the musical hook.

John: Yeah they don’t remember whether or not there was a fiddle a lot of the times.

Kevin: They don’t remember it a lot of the times, but they remember what she’s talking about.

John: Yeah.

Kevin: Taylor Swift’s fans can quote you the lyric of the song. So country, not that Taylor Swift’s pure country right now.

John: Right. She’s more pop now.

Kevin: I guess she is, but country, fiddle and steel and banjo are kind of the things that…

John: Define it.

Kevin: Define country music, I guess.

John: Yeah.

Kevin: So I guess country is kind of a rock mix with fiddle and steel in it now, possibly sometimes banjo as of lately. Banjo’s the hip thing. But vocal trumps everything. So the way to mix country music, in my opinion, is just to make sure that you mix the most important thing last.

John: Yeah.

Kevin: When we talk about “Last is loudest.” So if you mix everything else in, and then you put the fiddle and steel in, and then you put the lead vocal in, you’re almost always going to nail it.

John: Yeah.

Kevin: If you’re mixing rock, then you probably need to mix the drums later. You talk about, “Should the drums always be first on rock music?” I’ve seen this on forums and stuff, it’s like, well it’s whatever’s the most important to that style of music should probably be last. And country, it’s almost always the vocal followed by usually the fiddle and the steel and the guitars and stuff.

John: What a lot of times, whenever we talk on MixCoach to guys what we’ll suggest is, “Hey, go ahead and ride the instruments.” Like for example, whenever we do mix feedback, a lot of times, in a vocal driven song, you’ll get a mixer who all of a sudden, the electric guitar is doing this cool lick and it covers up the vocal.

And you always, nine times out of ten, you ask them, “Hey, did you mute? What were you mixing whenever you did that?” And a lot of times they’re just listening to the mix, but whenever you do your vocal or whenever you do your fill rides, like you were saying, where you’re riding up the interesting parts — like the keyboard does an interesting thing here, and the guitar does an interesting thing here — if you mute the vocal, you’ll place those correctly, and then you put back in the vocal and it’ll be right. Whereas if you leave the vocal in while you’re riding those, you’re basically going to overdo the vocal and cover up the vocal in those instances.

Kevin: You could, definitely. That’s definitely something that normally happens if you mix things in the wrong order. Which, I think there’s a YouTube video that we did years ago where I was talking about the hierarchy.

John: Hierarchy of mixing.

Kevin: Yeah, and it’s basically the principle of “Last is loudest.” And that you should mix last whatever’s the most important for that genre of music. And as far as country goes, it’s almost like a rock mix now, especially modern country.

Let’s talk about bluegrass next week, because that’s what country used to be back in the day, but it’s got its own set of rules too.

John: Definitely. We can relate that kind of stuff, like the classic country kind of sound, the older country, that sort of thing.

Kevin: Yeah. But to sum this up, really the biggest, I guess the rules for country music is just make sure that you pay attention, special attention, to the vocal.

John: The vocal.

Kevin: Because country is, most of the time, lyric driven. So mix it in the right order. Mix the vocal up where it should be and then make sure that the fills and the musical hooks are in there too. And you pretty much got a loose set of rules for mixing country music. Don’t affect the vocal, keep the vocal loud, but not too loud. I know that’s the magic sauce that nobody knows exactly what it is, “How loud is too loud?” or whatever.

John: Right.

Kevin: Mainly, I think, if you concentrate on the vocal, you’ve got a good country mix.

John: For sure.

Kevin: Thanks for listening. This has been the MixCoach podcast, the podcast dedicated to making your next recording your best recording. For more tips, tutorials, and even a free course, be sure and visit us at

Do you have any tips on Mixing Country?