When I was first creating music as a teen, I would do whatever I felt when I mixed, I had no fear, no method, just feel. None of these mixes were as they should be, but many of them were very vibey. Then I met a producer who mentored me 5 years and taught me all kinds of things about mixing. None were very easy to implement, but his ideas of sonic correctness, creating space, making room, what eq does, what makes a good mix, what makes a bad mix etc. These ideas went whirling through my head, I decided "he makes good productions, he knows what he's talking about" and began implementing such ideas when I mixed. I'm not saying these ideas were bad, but they took over, and I lost something.
My mixes just got worse, and worse, and worse, I began to fear mixing, feel it was never ending, and never release my songs, I am still kind of at this phase, but I'm nearing the end of it. Recently, I've begun asking God to show me what it is I'm missing in my mixes, and whether or not you believe in the source this is how He has been changing my thought patterns and I'm hearing improvement. I feel like rather than the rigid philosophies that my producer taught me, the philosophies I get through faith are more life engaging and freeing. So here are some things I believe I have learned. They are true for me, and apply to me, decide for yourself if they may be true for you.
1. Do not FEAR your controls and do not believe in "perfection". There is no perfection, there are vibes and you are pulling them out of the frequencies you have to work with. If you strive for perfection you will nitpick and pull yourself out of a creative and inspired mindset and into a scientific and rigid one. Fool around, play with the controls, have fun, see what can be done. You can't screw up what isn't right yet, just be sure to remember anything you may want to get back to before you tinker with it.
2. PAINT. Every sound has a shape, a thickness, a weight, a color, a coolness a warmth, a tone, use these to paint a picture. Rather than focusing on one single instrument at a time and thinking "How can I bring that out" or "I want to hear more of the umph of this sound" or trying to emulate things you imagined in your brain, try to listen as a whole and paint a picture. Once you get it in the ball park volume wise, what kind of picture do you have? Is it flat? Hollow? Not giving you a feeling? Boomy? What do your ears want to hear, and I don't mean idealistically. It's not what your brain wanted to hear when you wrote the song, or imagines on the radio, what does your brain want to hear from the real sounds coming out of your speakers.
examples: There's no rhythm, I'm not feeling the beat. It all sounds apart from each other, there's no congruency. My voice is piercing.
3. MIX FROM THE HEART. If you are trying to emulate something you've heard or a band you want to "beat" or your motivation is to be the most "slammin" or "poppin" or whatever it is, you are probably not being very realistic and not getting very good mixes. Center yourself, be honest, quench pride, now listen, and pull out something that is compelling. This is your chance to make yourself feel something from your creation, come to that with reverence, awe that you are allowed to do something so expressive and wonderful and now see what can be done! See what can be done!
4. LEAVE NOTHING OUT. Keep a watchful eye over your whole creation, don't let anything go left amiss, it's easy to think guitar and bass or voice and piano are all there is and then Mr. Hi Hat or Ms. Snare are destroying your whole world. Be conscious of your entire creation from the commanding guitar solo to the sprinkles of a shaker. You can liken this to the love you would put into fine cooking or building a home, love your entire mix. And if you don't love a part? Get it out, and replace it with something you do love.
5. KNOW WHEN TO QUIT. Your brain is a divinely created machine, but it is still a machine and one that isn't even functioning at high capacity! (various reasons, wrong thinking, state of the environment, health etc) Sometimes the desire to finish is so strong that we keep going even when we know we aren't having fun, aren't feeling it, we're tight. It's always good to stop then, even if it's 5 or 10 minutes, just be peaceful, let your brain stop straining, get back to the essence of your song, all of mixing should be a joy, if it's a chore, stop.
6. LISTEN HONESTLY. Sometimes I find myself mixing as I think about other things, mixing but focusing on the sounds and not the feeling, and the whole time I'm telling myself "this is sounding pretty good, it's going alright, I'm making progress" but in reality I'm aimlessly making changes, mixing but not LISTENING. You've got to let your song take you on a journey, that means learning to space out, not having expectations, not dwelling on the last moment, not anticipating the next, but LISTENING. This is also a huge part of hearing the voice of God but that's for another blog and possibly another forum But yes these principles apply to life but they apply to mixing as well. Being in the moment, having a still heart, closing your eyes and being taken off on a journey, this is how you will know if you are really getting what you want. I think sometimes it's easier to just pretend the journey is going how we want and not listen for fear of disappointment, but if you have faith you can correct the problems and achieve your goal, it's the only way to truly know what's wrong. You have to be unafraid to close your eyes and objectively listen and see if you are happy with the journey you've created, if not, don't fear the correcting process, it's how you grow as a mixer. You tinker, honestly, and are unafraid to acknowledge the flaws. And DON'T be afraid to re record, sometimes you can't make a sound work because the sound ITSELF doesn't work.
7. KNOW WHEN TO QUIT FOREVER. A mix can always be changed and made better, but usually by the time you have something you can really live with (if you're being honest with yourself and it gives you good feels every time you hear it) the audience would rather just have it than have you tinkering away forever. At some point you have to consider it good enough to put out there, and this is usually when you are already happy but your brain keeps wanting to go "weeeeell... I mean maybe I could get that just a liiiiiiittttllleee more" or when you start to think it's ready but say "well it doesn't sound like this band..." or you get fearful people will compare it to *blank*. At that point? Just put it out, if there's something wrong with it the people may tell you, but who cares, we get better at mixing by sharing mixes, you won't bust out of nowhere with perfect sounding songs, you will grow and grow and grow forever and ever.
Most churchy mixing post ever hahahahahahahahahaahahahahahahahahahahahhahaahahahahaha Deal with it.
I might make more of these as more come, let me know what you think my friends.