Do you have to be good at mixing in order to be a music producer/sound designer?

How to make that sound...
KVRer
18 posts since 5 Nov, 2020

Post Thu Jul 29, 2021 2:44 am

I love creating sounds on my synthesizer and recording samples to use in my music. I also love composing songs, creating different textures, and arranging them. However, I must admit my mixing skills are very poor, and because of that, I always end up hiring a mixing engineer and a mastering engineer to do that part of the work for me.

I should add that I work as a producer for myself only. I don't work for other people.
Last edited by I_V_502 on Thu Jul 29, 2021 5:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.

KVRAF
1790 posts since 2 Jul, 2010

Post Thu Jul 29, 2021 6:46 am

It depends what you are trying to achieve. If you want to get your own ideas out into the world, and you are happy with what the professionals do with those ideas, then all is good. If you want to work for clients, they will expect release-ready results. Subcontracting is an option but takes time and money.

If you want a record contract, the consensus seems to be that labels are lazy these days and expect any demo you send to be release-ready. Given the typical success rate of demos sent to labels, that could get expensive unless you can mix well enough to get feedback on which tracks are promising.

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KVRAF
1905 posts since 4 May, 2012

Post Thu Jul 29, 2021 8:47 am

I regard mixing as a sub category of sound design - which includes so many more disciplines. A sound designer should understand principals employed when mixing audio but a mix engineer doesn't need to understand DSP.

To be a producer you have to know how to network and operate a telephone.

KVRist
57 posts since 22 May, 2020

Post Thu Jul 29, 2021 2:36 pm

Generally speaking: Yes.

However, keep in mind that the caveat to all this is that a lot of "mixing" is actually in the composition and arrangement itself. You have to remember, for most of history recording music wasn't possible, but they still got good "mixes" anyway.

That being said, it's my biggest gripe about being a musician and composer today. When I started, I just had my guitar, my mom's piano, and guitar pro 4. My friend had a 90s Rompler keyboard which had "string" sounds and stuff. That was as high-tech as it got and that just blew my mind back then. How it worked is I'd just write a song using Guitar Pro and my instruments. I could probably finish a song this way in a single day or even a few hours.

After, jamming along and listening to the fairly crap General MIDI playback, I'd say "This is gonna be so great when the band gets together and plays it and records it in a studio one day!" and then move on with life. I could focus just on what I was good at. Hell, I could just write the melody and write chord names above it, show it to any competent band, and we'd have the song going in a matter of seconds.

Then, in the mid-late 2000s, I was taught of DAWs and VST instruments/sample libraries. That was so amazing! I could record from my own home and have access to any instrument imaginable! This then consumed most of my early 20s.

However, after I started getting professional composition work and such, what I've come to realize is that the problem with all this is that whereas most technology seeks to remove workload from a single individual, music technology does exactly the opposite: It seeks to put the entire process on one individual.

This then turned music into an office job. To meet deadlines and such, I'd be sitting at my desk the entire day, staying up sometimes until 6 in the morning to get stuff done. Writing, recording, re-recording, mixing, screwing around with MIDI CCs to get the performance right, etc. precisely because I'm the guy who has to do EVERYTHING, and the budget just isn't there to outsource some things.

Today, especially since I'm not doing music composing for hire much anymore, I can spend months on a single track.

Sure, the end results are spectacular, but because it's possible for one person to wear all the hats, it is now an outright expectation that you can and you will. In the video game industry for example, it is now even starting to become an expectation that composers are also sound designers ffs.

So yes, if you want to get into doing freelance work for tv/film/game/whatever clients, even down to the indie level they are all going to be expecting you to write the music, mix it, master it, and everything else. A one-stop shop for all things music and audio. If you refuse, they will almost certainly just hire someone else who can because there are so many who just do whatever "the industry" demands of them.

The way around this is to just do music for libraries to license out, but it could take many years to see a ROI with that.

Alternatively, just writing music for people to listen to and not bothering with "clients", but it could get expensive...

KVRer

Topic Starter

18 posts since 5 Nov, 2020

Post Thu Jul 29, 2021 5:50 pm

Chr!s wrote:
Thu Jul 29, 2021 2:36 pm
Generally speaking: Yes.

However, keep in mind that the caveat to all this is that a lot of "mixing" is actually in the composition and arrangement itself. You have to remember, for most of history recording music wasn't possible, but they still got good "mixes" anyway.

That being said, it's my biggest gripe about being a musician and composer today. When I started, I just had my guitar, my mom's piano, and guitar pro 4. My friend had a 90s Rompler keyboard which had "string" sounds and stuff. That was as high-tech as it got and that just blew my mind back then. How it worked is I'd just write a song using Guitar Pro and my instruments. I could probably finish a song this way in a single day or even a few hours.

After, jamming along and listening to the fairly crap General MIDI playback, I'd say "This is gonna be so great when the band gets together and plays it and records it in a studio one day!" and then move on with life. I could focus just on what I was good at. Hell, I could just write the melody and write chord names above it, show it to any competent band, and we'd have the song going in a matter of seconds.

Then, in the mid-late 2000s, I was taught of DAWs and VST instruments/sample libraries. That was so amazing! I could record from my own home and have access to any instrument imaginable! This then consumed most of my early 20s.

However, after I started getting professional composition work and such, what I've come to realize is that the problem with all this is that whereas most technology seeks to remove workload from a single individual, music technology does exactly the opposite: It seeks to put the entire process on one individual.

This then turned music into an office job. To meet deadlines and such, I'd be sitting at my desk the entire day, staying up sometimes until 6 in the morning to get stuff done. Writing, recording, re-recording, mixing, screwing around with MIDI CCs to get the performance right, etc. precisely because I'm the guy who has to do EVERYTHING, and the budget just isn't there to outsource some things.

Today, especially since I'm not doing music composing for hire much anymore, I can spend months on a single track.

Sure, the end results are spectacular, but because it's possible for one person to wear all the hats, it is now an outright expectation that you can and you will. In the video game industry for example, it is now even starting to become an expectation that composers are also sound designers ffs.

So yes, if you want to get into doing freelance work for tv/film/game/whatever clients, even down to the indie level they are all going to be expecting you to write the music, mix it, master it, and everything else. A one-stop shop for all things music and audio. If you refuse, they will almost certainly just hire someone else who can because there are so many who just do whatever "the industry" demands of them.

The way around this is to just do music for libraries to license out, but it could take many years to see a ROI with that.

Alternatively, just writing music for people to listen to and not bothering with "clients", but it could get expensive...
That's an interesting answer. I guess I missed adding to my post that I make music for myself only. In that sense, there are certain advantages because I don't think I could ever work as a producer for other people; If it's not my thing, I can't put the same effort into it. However, in your case, you were working for other people, and I imagine you had to deal with a lot of pressure because most people today take the producer as a synonym for mixing engineer.

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GRRRRRRR!
12327 posts since 14 Jun, 2001 from Somewhere else, on principle

Post Thu Jul 29, 2021 6:09 pm

I find this a weird scenario/concept. In my experience mixing is something that just happens organically as I work. It is not something I put much specific effort into at all. Yes, it takes me a very long time to get to a point where I am satisfied with a song, 6 months minimum, but that's 6 months of trying different instruments and/or different patches, playing around with the arrangement and adjusting levels to make it all work together. I honestly can't imagine separating it from patching synths or creating riffs or arranging or any of the rest of it.

It was easy in the old days, in a commercial studio, because you had to get everything onto tape before you could even think about mixing, and every track had to be recorded as loud as possible to keep the noise floor at bay. So I'd spend one weekend (and $1500) getting everything to tape, then come back the next weekend (with another $1500 to give to the studio owner/engineer) and mix it all. But these days mixing starts as soon as I have two instruments loaded into my host and it doesn't end until I render out the finished song. The old paradigms are completely subverted today.
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KVRAF
13027 posts since 8 Mar, 2005 from Utrecht, Holland

Post Thu Jul 29, 2021 10:50 pm

... to be a music producer/sound designer?
I make music for myself only.
Like me, you have music production as a hobby only.
You'd call yourself by your name, perhaps also a job title.
Not by your hobby.

You could ofcourse say (but to whom?) "I'm a music producer... a very bad one"
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