Have a few years’ experience and a Pro Tools rig?
You can probably make a mix sound pretty good.
But the truth is…
There are a lot of good mixers out there.
And far fewer exceptional ones.
The ones plastered all over the Mix With The Masters website. The ones who charge $5K+ per track. The ones behind the biggest, baddest, best-sounding records ever.
So what separates you from them? And more importantly, how can you join them?
Keep reading to find out…
1. You make records that sound good. They make records that feel good.
It’s a given that a record should sound good.
Things should be balanced. There shouldn’t be any harsh or edgy frequencies. The vocals should be easy to hear.
But the truth?
This is merely where mixing begins. And a great mix is so much more than this.
Mixing is emotional. The way a record feels is more important than how it sounds. The best craft records that move listeners on deep, visceral level.
These mixers may make decisions that sound technically “wrong.” They may turn things up louder than they “should” be. They may abuse, martyr, or over-process tracks. But when you listen to their records, it’s undeniable that they feel right.
2. You spend lots of time mixing. They spend lots of time mixing…and listening.
To become a great mixer, you’ve got to spend lots of time mixing. That’s a given.
But this alone isn’t enough. In fact, it’s only part of the equation.
So what’s the best way to supercharge your skills?
Listen to more music.
Great records already exist. The answers are already out there.
The best mixers are connoisseurs of music. They study the latest trends and sounds, as well as iconic records from the past.
This is the best way to develop great taste. And taste, not technical skill, is what separates a good mixer from a great one.
3. You buy lots of plugins. They buy the right plugins.
The best mixers know that more plugins create more choices. And that sometimes, these choices can distract them from focusing on the decisions that really matter. They know that which EQ they choose isn’t as important as what frequencies they boost or cut, or whether or not they use EQ at all.
This leads great mixers to look at their plugin library like a box of crayons. Instead of buying every tool available, they only buy plugins that fill a hole in their arsenal.
4. You work slowly and meticulously. They work quickly and efficiently.
Are you a proud perfectionist? Do you spend days meticulously crafting your mixes? Do you feel like the more time you spend on a mix, the better it will be?
Spending more time on something doesn’t necessarily make it better. In fact, it can often make things worse.
Instead of spending forever to finish a mix, the best mixers work quickly and efficiently. They covet every second of listening time, so they can get to the finish line faster and retain more objectivity along the way. This helps them remain flexible when clients suggest changes. It also leads to much better mixes.
5. You focus on the sound. They focus on the song.
We’re all obsessed with sound quality. We do whatever it takes to make things sound great. And we often do a pretty good job.
But the best mixers focus on the song. They make decisions that support and anchor the song’s message and emotion. They put the song on a pedestal and present it in its best light. While they make the record sound great too, they know that sonics are secondary. The song is everything.
6. You get it wrong sometimes. They get it wrong sometimes.
Whether you’re good or great, you’re still human.
Sometimes you take a mix in the wrong direction. Sometimes clients aren’t happy. This will never change. It’s impossible to get things right all the time.
The best mixers know that failure is part of the process. When they make a mistake, they look for opportunities to learn from it. They determine what they can do differently next time, and move on.
No one is perfect. You won’t be either.
What do YOU think separates a good mixer from a great one? Let me know by leaving a comment below.