MixCoach Podcast 038 : Being Confident in Your Final Mix

In this episode, Kevin talks about how to be confident while printing your final mix. He also discusses some great techniques to use while printing your mixes.

Question: How do you print your final mixes?

By Jon Wright

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.

16 comments

  1. Cool! I’ve always walked away to listen to my mixes in a more casual way. More often than not, I’ll definitely find something that needs attention by just doing that.

    One thing that has helped me tremendously as far as feeling confident with a mix, not only while printing it but also as I actually build it, is to define the sound I’m shooting for and find some reference tracks in the same style, similar instrumentation etc…

    I try not to emulate mixes that have been heavily processed at the mastering stage and if for any reason I’m using a super loud song (say constant 9-10 dB RMS) then I’ll bring the volume down to match my mix average level. I do my very best to avoid using overly compressed mixes as reference tracks unless the style I’m working calls for that kind of sound.

    Once I have decided on which reference tracks to use, I import them into my mixing session and CONSTANTLY toggle between my mix and the reference tracks in order to avoid ear fatigue or just the environment from deceiving me.
    Thanks guys for all you do!!
    God bless,
    -Luis

    1. Luis, I do the same thing. It’s important to get that great reference song though.

      I remember doing a whole set of “recalls” for a client because he was listening to a completely different reference than I was. Both were great records to reference, but very different from each other.

      kvein

  2. This may be off topic but I’m curious to know what anyone thinks about this. How do you think the guys that mixed those songs that we use as references got theirs to sound so good? Those guys didn’t have references mixes to check back and forth with so how did they do it?

    The mixes of mine that are “done” (I’m a wanna-be mixer, btw) are the ones that I want to hear, not because I’ve found something to hate but something to love. So, when I keep going back to a song because I get chills from it, I better quit nobbing it to death.

    Because I work from my bedroom which has no acoustic treatment and terrible everything, most of my problems start with getting terrible source tracks. The recording itself is bad from the get-go. I’ll record distorted guitars with more hiss than a pack of cats in a snake pit. The low end will shake a license plate off a car and hidden in it all is bound to be a family of birds whistling off key. It’s BAD. So, for me, I’m done with a mix when I realize that I’m incapable of making it better with what I have.

    I’ve let my mother listen to some mixes of mine and she has been BRUTAL with the feedback. So, make sure that whomever you’re getting to listen to your track will be honest with you but also won’t crush your confidence.

    1. Hey Andrew. Thank you for the comment. I know we’ve connected on YouTube, but I think this is the first time you’ve commented on the blog. Thanks!

      I heard an interview with one of my favorite mix engineers, Tom Lord-Alge, and I remember him saying that before he even listened to what he was working on that day, He would put Def Leppard’s Pyromania on and listened to the whole song while drinking his coffee.

      That sounds like he was referencing… maybe not in real time though.

      I don’t know of a pro mixing engineer that doesn’t reference at some point.

      As far as getting good source tracks, are you aware that We just started a membership site where you get monthly downloads of great source tracks? We are going to have fun. You may want to check that out HERE.

      It may not be anything you want to do, but it would give you a standard to judge your tracks from. Even if you joined for a month.

      Oh, and by the way, I’ve heard some of your tracks… They are NOT BAD at all!

      Kevin

    2. Hola Andrew!

      If we look back through history, we can certainly learn that, sound recording was more like taking pictures. You know? It had to happen right then, and no Photoshop or anything like that to ‘enhance’, ‘polish’ and/or ‘alter’ the pictures later.

      Let’s think of Eddie Kramer for example. Mr. Kramer was the engineer/producer for Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix among other great artists whose sound is familiar to most of us. You’ll hear from himself that, there wasn’t any ‘mixing’ later for the most part; so, they had to get it right at the source. Not to mention the limitations as of the total number of tracks available to them (4 in most cases!!) Same thing with Sir George Martin and his work with The Beatles. And the list goes on…

      Now, technology wasn’t then what it is now of course. I mean, even the reverb used in most of those awesome recordings was the actual sound of the space where the recording would take place. However, things were more organic, and therefore, these guys had a different approach and vision because they simply knew what they were trying to achieve in the first place.

      These days, with so many capabilities at our finger tips, that focus/vision has shifted. And therefore, referencing has become a necessity to most engineers since there is so much variety of sounds these days. With so much processing and the development of synthesizers and virtual instruments we deal with these days, it is just easy to lose perspective while working on a project for long periods of time.

      Today’s mixing engineers job includes a lot of fixing, manipulating and in many cases even recreating something that did not happen in the first place!

      Last but not least, our ears will naturally get fatigued after long exposure to any direct sound; and that’s the main reason why I would never work on a mix without crosschecking against sources my ears are familiar with…

      God bless,
      -Luis

    1. Sorry to step in Eric, Tom Lord-Alge is Chris’ brother and he is also a big time engineer. Google him, you’ll learn a lot. There are a couple of interviews on Sound-On-Sound you might benefit from.

      God bless,
      -Luis

    2. Hey Eric. Actually Tom is Chris’ brother. They have similar mixing styles and tastes in vintage compressors… I think both of them have two of everything. lol

  3. Hey, Luis! Thanks for the message. You’re right about ear fatigue. I will try to mix guitars for probably 15 minutes and I’ll save and close the session, come back in an hour and wonder why the heck I ever thought those guitars sounded good! Referencing is truly a big help sometimes. I know that I’ve worked on songs that I thought sounded great on my monitors only to reference it to a big boy track and immediately wonder what the heck is so different and inferior about my mix. Some people may look at referencing as “cheating” and I really don’t but it really makes me wonder why I can’t ever get my mixes to sound at least SOMEWHERE in the ballpark. They don’t, they sound nothing like them. Not as big, not as wide, not as clean, the whole 9 yards. It’s really frustrating. I’m never confident because referencing is like a sledge-hammer on my confidence. I just realize that I’m never going to get my music to sound that good and I wonder what scientific reasons there are. What is it about the gear, the room, the monitoring, the console, pre-amps, scientifically that make their mixes sound so great? Ahh…..I’m rambling.

    1. Just to add on to my last comment…

      Do you think Chris Lord-Alge could make radio worthy, grammy worthy mixes if he came to my bedroom with ONLY my gear (which he would probably cry and laugh at)? I read a lot from mixing guys that it’s so much about technique and buying more gear will leave you in a G.A.S. tail-spin but seriously, have Chris work from MY little bedroom studio and we’ll check his big boy studio mix to my bedroom when we’re done. Which will be better? And what made the difference?

      1. Andrew. You are the one taking a sledge hammer to your confidence. I’ve heard your mixes. They are not bad at all.

        I think we all question whether or not we are “worthy”, but in the end, that’s exactly what makes us push a little harder on the next mix.

        I’d be willing to bet that if you listened now to something you did, say 2 years ago, you’d KNOW that you’ve come a long way.

        The fact that you are driving yourself crazy with the (necessary) minutiae tells me that you are getting better with every mix that you deliver.

        With Much Encouragement,

        Kevin

    2. Hello again Andrew!

      I think one of the biggest challenges (at least for me) has been learning what to listen for in a mix. That, of course, besides learning to EQ and how to effectively use a compressor and add effects etc… I know, this might sound silly, but I find it to be the toughest thing since mixing as well as mastering, are very subjective practices.

      I don’t see how can someone see referencing as “cheating” honestly. It’s not like you can actually steal something or copy somebody else’s compressor setting by listening to a recording and trying to get yours in the same ballpark. For me, referencing is more of a way to make sure that I’m not getting the low end too muddy, or the vocalist’s “s” sounding to harsh or my mids to pronounced and way in your face etc…

      There’s so much involved in the process of learning audio mixing and it never ends! It is not simply the ability to hear but the way we learn how to listen in a critical and very distinctive way according to the vision and goals of a project in your hands.

      I see your comment below about whether or not Chris Lord Alge could still make a “worthy mix” out of your bedroom using your gear. I would be willing to guarantee you that he could!!!!

      Think about Foo Fighters latest album Wasting Light, all done in a garage straight into tape, not a lot of glamour, just plain good music, arrangements, great performances and a vision!! As their frontman Dave Grohl mentioned in the Grammys, it is not about perfection!!

      I have learned most of what I know and do now days from Kevin Ward. One thing that struck me was this Rock Mixing video he put together, were he used a project recorded in somebody’s car garage, very simple, nothing fancy. He mixed the whole thing using only the stock plugins that come with Pro Tools. Aaahhh? Yep, and he was able to mix it in a way you could not tell whether he used his high end stuff in his studio or if he did it in his laptop while having a coffee at Starbucks.

      So, bottom line is, learning your tools and how to listen and then practicing, practicing and doing it all over again is key to this.

      My advice to you would be: Don’t give up if you think your stuff is not as good as you expect. Keep on trying until it clicks! and trust me it will happen… We are glad to see you hanging with us!

      God bless you!!

  4. Kevin,

    This pod cast is informative to say the least. But WOW to mix a song in an Hour! I’m not quite there yet. I could never find the delicate balance I’m after that quickly. Maybe that will improve with time.

    Joe

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