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Engineers, your guidance on mixing to artists

How to do this, that and the other. Share, learn, teach. How did X do that? How can I sound like Y?

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150 posts since 22 Sep, 2013

Postby steffeeH; Fri May 30, 2014 7:28 am Engineers, your guidance on mixing to artists

To all experienced professionals.
(I recommend you read the text below first, before reading the questions)

These days we have a whole world of tutorials made by professionals in both videos and articles.
But in the end, isn't this just the theory of an artform?
We learn the techniques, but we don't learn how to judge the track correctly.

To clarify this a little using something similar: while taking your driving license, you read a lot of theory, but without driving lessons with an experienced teacher you're still a horrible driver, because then they haven't taught you the proper judgement of each situation.

And when learning mixing at home, you come across all of the theory, but you don't get the chance to practice under the influence of an authority (=lessons with an engineer) and learn the proper judgement to make the right moves for the track, unless you go to an audioengineering school, and that's great if you want to become a professional audioengineer, but that's nothing for a bedroomartist that want to carry out a good mixing himself (probably because he can't afford sending his tracks to professionals).

Sure, we have interviews with famous mixers, but they assume you already know a lot of things, so they dive into others things than the stuff we artists may really need to know.
They may give some nice tips and tricks, but they are more the do's and dont's, not the philosophies of experienced judgement while mixing.

So the question is: If you had a person that you were teaching mixing, what advices/philosophies/judgements/etc would you teach him, when it came to:
- EQ/Filters
- Compression/Limiting (+ multiband)
- Gating
- Distortion/Saturation/Drive
- Levels (not just the gainstaging, but also the balance of different levels)
- Panning
- Reverb/Delay
- M/S-Processing (both M/S-Gain and M/S-EQ)
- Parallel/Serial-processing
- Creative effects
- Etc..

Of course you have the philosophy "Use your ears", and that's true, but it feels like only the top of an iceberg.

EDIT: As stated before in the text, this post isn't about further tips and tricks, but the foundational philosophy and proper judgement of mixing.

Thank you in advance!
Last edited by steffeeH on Fri May 30, 2014 8:14 am, edited 1 time in total.
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1230 posts since 1 Mar, 2010, from Paris

Postby Karten; Fri May 30, 2014 7:57 am Re: Engineers, your guidance on mixing to artists

While I'm no engineer, I have learned a lot of practical advice from watching the videos Dan Worrall made for FabFilter.
Check them out on YouTube. They are short but a gold mine.
4994 posts since 16 Feb, 2005

Postby camsr; Fri May 30, 2014 8:26 am Re: Engineers, your guidance on mixing to artists

Yikes, sounds like a book or something.
A general piece of advice is if it sounds good, it is good. Don't think because you mixed it different that it's bad.
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6874 posts since 22 Sep, 2008, from Windsor. UK

Postby tehlord; Fri May 30, 2014 8:28 am Re: Engineers, your guidance on mixing to artists

Study all you mentioned and then 'use your ears' for 5-10 years until it's cooked all the way through.

There's not a lot more to it than that.
120 posts since 16 Feb, 2012

Postby G.hostLA; Fri May 30, 2014 2:33 pm Re: Engineers, your guidance on mixing to artists

I think its important to apply what you learn, and learning techniques is good but until you understand the theory and reason for application you aren't going to develop as an engineer.
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9666 posts since 12 Mar, 2012, from South Bavaria - near the alps... :-)

Postby Tricky-Loops; Fri May 30, 2014 2:49 pm Re: Engineers, your guidance on mixing to artists

My recommendation: "Mixing Audio" by Roey Izhaki. There are a lot of mixing techniques from a professional engineer, not only some tips & tricks... :)

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sin night
594 posts since 1 Aug, 2006, from Italy

Postby sin night; Sun Jun 01, 2014 8:38 am Re: Engineers, your guidance on mixing to artists

I'm reading that book in my spare time and it's really nice!

With the premise that I'm not good enough to teach mixing (I've still lots to learn), I would first teach how to listen and what to listen for... this is something I'd like I were taught instead of having to learn it by myself (by the way, I didn't get any recording/mixing lesson).
When you're able to critically listen, it's easier to learn the tools and the techniques, you can notice what has been done on records we like (well... at least at a simpler level!) and it's possible to have a vision of the result you want to get.
Then I'd look for techniques and tools to get the job done.
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DJ Warmonger
740 posts since 7 Jun, 2012, from Warsaw

Postby DJ Warmonger; Mon Jun 02, 2014 7:36 am Re: Engineers, your guidance on mixing to artists

G.hostLA wrote:I think its important to apply what you learn, and learning techniques is good but until you understand the theory and reason for application you aren't going to develop as an engineer.

This. Many artists seek for simple tips and tutorials, but they can't get you far. To actually engineer a track, you need to know WHAT are all these effects doing and WHY.
Only then comes experience you may compare with theory. Not all the things that would theoretically make sense work in real tracks. However, nearly none of things that are simple, short tips will work in real tracks.

For example, I came up with a way to make compressed yet driving tracks by accident, fighting very different issue.

If you had a person that you were teaching mixing, what advices/philosophies/judgements

Advice, philosophy and judgement all come from knowledge and experience. Otherwise these are just empty words.

Tricky-Loops wrote: (...)someone like Armin van Buuren who claims to make a track in half an hour and all his songs sound somewhat boring(...)
11961 posts since 18 Oct, 2003, from Berlin, Germany

Postby Compyfox; Wed Jun 04, 2014 5:57 pm Re: Engineers, your guidance on mixing to artists

In all honesty, if I'm teaching anyone (which I do from time to time), I start with the absolute basics.
And I advice ANYONE to do so.

Learn at least the basic mixing tools, then go from there.
Considering that the person that wants to learn stuff and already understands how basic routing works.

Plenty of sources were mentioned already. I might even throw in the German DVD series by Ulli Pallemanns, called "Effekte in der Musikproduktion" (3 DVDs, PPV Medien - or back issues of the "Recording Magazin", if still available - I'm on subscription since issue #1, I never missed a DVD). This gives you a basic overview of the most essential tools.

Another good source is the RANE Pro Audio Refence page. (google is your friend)

Forget Multiband, forget limiters, M/S, special effects, parallel processing. That is advanced stuff.

Learn the basics, learn what a peak meter is, what a VU/RMS meter is, learn how to properly gain stage and once more... learn your basic mixing tools. Once you understand all that, you can pull off pretty much everything with the most simplest tools at your disposal.

For starters:
An EQ can be: a passive filter (HP/LP), active filter (EQ), a Wah Wah (automated HP or LP)
A delay can be used as: a delay (echo), a HAAS effect (delay times within the very first 20ms), a chorus (delayed signal within a certain timeframe, sometimes with pitch modulation), a flanger (delay with feedback for further modulation)
A compressor can be used as: signal compressor (very basic: voltage controlled amplifier, or VCA in short), transient designer, a limiter (with very short attack and >10:1 ratio)

You can easily go from there.

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