3 pivotal stages of becoming a better mixer

stages to becoming a better mixer

After listening to thousands of mixes on MixCoach Member – and through my own journey of trying to be better everyday, I’ve found that there are three phases of a mixer’s journey. At each time in our progress, we may be in one or all of these phases.

The “Everything is there” mix

I teach on MixCoach that you should “mix for the moms”. In other words, in the beginning, you should strive to get everything heard.

For example: If you gave every musician who played on a song your mix to take to their mom, their mom would actually be able to hear and pick out their part. (That is of course if their part was good enough to add to the mix… in that case, you should save the mom from having to hearing it 😃)

If you are a beginning mixer and overwhelmed by all the different ways to go about a mix, this is a fantastic way to think about mixing right now. However, I’m not so sure now that as mixers this is the best “use-all-the-time” approach.

As we mature as mixers, we start to fully realize that there is a “loudness war” and we try to stand out, so we try this…

The “Everything is Loud” mix

Like it or not, our ears will tell us that whatever is louder is better in quality. We know this is not the case, but our ears still tell us that.
If I were to take a snare drum… the exact same sample, and let you listen to each of them and make you choose which one was the best, if you are a human with ears, you will most likely pick the louder one.

It’s ok. “That’s just the way it is, some things will never change”.

I’ve said it before. The moment you have to explain why your mix is softer, but better because of some geeky technical reason, you’ve already lost the loudness war.

The moment you have to explain why your mix is softer, but better somehow, you’ve already lost the loudness war. (click to tweet)

At some point, we want to make everything loud, but still good. We just need to know how.

As a matter of fact, I can usually tell on MixCoachMember who is new. Obviously, these are mixers who want to progress… and they need guidance. Some of the mixers “Go for the Grammy” in volume alone. Not always the best approach.

More experienced mixer will make something seem loud not only by sheer brute force of a limiter, but finesse of an EQ or a fader.

In my opinion, the best mixers help a writer or artist SAY what they want to say.

The “Something is conveyed” mix

As mature mixers, we realize that the whole purpose of a song is to make someone feel something – and at best, be moved to some kind of action… whether that be bobbing of the head, clapping or even more. Sometimes you get to this by actually muting tracks or only featuring certain tracks.

One of the best records ever made (in my humble opinion) is the Jonny Lang – Turnaround record. Every time I hear it, I have church in my car. It’s not JUST a spiritual thing. From what I’ve read, Jonny was trying to say something different in this record. He formed the best team. Drew Ramsey and Shannon Sanders who produced and co-wrote most every song with him and F. Reid Shippen who masterfully mixed it.

Thank you guys. You moved me!

When you get to this stage of mixing, people tend to bring you songs that are important to them and say, “This is missing something… fix it”.

So, what phase are you in? They are all beneficial in some way. Each song needs some, if not elements of all 3 of these phases of mixing. Putting these phases and techniques is really something only you can do in your own way…just keep learning.

Did I miss a phase? Anything I can be more detailed about? Let me know here.

2 Comments

  • Mark Bliss

    Reply Reply February 24, 2016

    This is good thought provoking stuff. Thanks Kevin!

    • Kevin Ward

      Reply Reply February 24, 2016

      Thank you Mark. I’m glad you liked it. 🙂

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