Recent Work

“Whatever Gets The Mix There”

These were the words spoken to me by an influential tutor at a certain point along my journey to becoming a full time audio engineer(whilst I was at uni doing my Creative Music Production And Technology BA). It was during the mixdown of an indie rock band we had recorded the day before. We (my group) were high pass filtering and making small tonal adjustments to a few instruments in a painstakingly slow manner. Things were not really coming together for various reasons. My tutor walked in, observed for a while and then chose a moment to step in. He slapped some eq plugins across some busses and proceeded to make some pretty radical adjustments to just about everything in the track. Within 2 minutes the mix had come alive and things were sounding much more cohesive. After some discussion about the eq decisions he had made and the fact they were, subjectively, against the rules he said “whatever gets the mix there”. It was a memorable studio session and a good lesson.

To be perfectly honest what he said coincided with thoughts and feelings I had always had about the way in which the final result of musicians endeavours are eventually presented to the world. That, in essence, it doesn’t really matter how you arrive at your final mix, so long as that mix sounds great. I had just never said as much myself out loud for fear of laughter, ridicule and fingers pointing at my unusual compressor settings or that 6 dB boost on the drum buss eq… Now, of course, there is an unquestionable need for guidelines, do’s and don’ts and rules of thumb. You do need to put the work in and learn why they are there and why one is employing certain methods to achieve certain results. It’s still important to understand the underlying principles behind those guidelines or ‘rules’ and it’s only once a good grasp on those principles has been reached that one can start to treat the mixing desk as their oyster. Prise it open, experiment and break the rules – so long as you have a good reason for doing so. That ‘good’ reason may well be ‘because it sounds good!’… which is perfectly valid.

The point, is that there is no right or wrong. We are all making art after all. Sometimes it’s good to run with what the emotions are telling you rather than looking at the numbers and the meters.

1 comment to “Whatever Gets The Mix There”

  • Hey Loz,

    nice read. 😀

    Some words of wisdom. Funnily I was thinking something similar today. I remembered the time when I started out mixing and mastering (lol) on my own. I was the usual suspect. I asked my friends for “perfect” settings, I never ever boosted my freqs more than 3dB on my eq, mostly used cuts because “cuts are better than boosts”, I always highpassed everything “because you need to highpass your stuff”…stuff like that.

    But somehow I managed to get rid of all that and found my own way while using some kind of “strict” guidelines that helped me finding a better workflow. Stuff like gainstaging, mixing in 3dB steps, setting up a reverb stage with 3 cue busses etc.

    I think I had some advantages in the beginning because I already started making music in the 90s but I was more some kind of studio hangaround and not that involved into mixing and setting up the recording space. But I think that their workflow influenced me a lot.

    Whatever works and if it sounds good it sounds good.

    Regards
    Sebastian

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