One of the most important aspects of the music production process is the mixing stage – It can make or break your song. So it is very important to work with a mixing engineer that is right for you and your music.
But what does a mixing engineer do exactly and how do you choose someone that is right for your song?
What do mix engineers do?
Mixing engineers craft sound with a unique blend of technical skill and musicality. They have a huge impact on the overall sound of your song. Depending on how well is it recorded, they can take your band’s song that was recorded in the garage to being a hard-hitting rock anthem. A bad or mediocre mix can make that same song sound like it was a demo recorded on a Tascam in the 80’s. Choosing the right mixing engineer is much more important than what snare your drum kit uses or even what microphones you choose to record with.
Balance – They take all the individually recorded tracks and balance them so that each element can be heard and have its own space.
Sonically Enhance – Through the use of various tools such as EQ and compression, they enhance the sound of the tracks. They can remove “bad” parts of the sound and make it have more impact and depth.
Effects – This is where many mix engineers will differ. They can add tasteful levels of effects and creativity to make your song more interesting.
However, they do not do…
Magic – Mix Engineers can really do amazing things to a recorded sound that can dramatically impact the sound, but they can’t turn a poor performance or recording into pop magic. It is your job to give the mixer the best possible performance and recording so the mixing engineer can apply his technical skill and creativity to make the recording shine.
Timing – Mixing engineers usually do not fix timing issues unless is it specifically brought up as an issue during the consultation phase.
Editing – This is the job of the artist or recording engineer. Sometimes minor issues they will fix.
Pitch – Corrective pitch could also be considered the job of the recording engineer or the artist in my cases these days. However, creative uses of pitch manipulation can be left to the producer or mixing engineer.
How do you choose a good mixing engineer?
Here are a few points to consider when choosing a mixing engineer.
Local or online – There are both advantages and disadvantages to getting a mix done by a local studio or a remote studio that you find online.
Local – It can be easier to build a working relationship with a mixing engineer that is in your local area that has a studio. This can also help you connect with other people in your local music scene. However, depending on where you live, you might have limited choices. If you live in Nashville, you will have no problem finding a local studio, but if you live in a smaller city or in the country, finding a professional studio can be difficult.
Online – Finding a mixing engineer online is as simple as googling online mixing, but the services may vastly differ in quality. You want to find someone with a portfolio of their work and seems to be operating professionally. You don’t want to work with the kid that just got a DAW and downloaded a cracked Waves bundle. Now, there are some websites that offer indexes of services of people in the music production industry. One of those sites that offers quality services from professionals is SoundBetter. On the other hand, you may have heard of this site, Fiverr, it does offer a lot of services in the music production field, but the quality I feel is a step-down. Plus you really get what you pay for, $5-$10 for a mix? A professional mixer is going to take anywhere from 3-8 hours get a good mix. It is best to do a thorough search of engineers and listen to their portfolios. Here is an example of a portfolio.
Style – You need to find someone that has experience mixing a similar style or genre. Each style of music a little different so the approach to mixing that genre will be a little different. A mixing engineer with experience will know those nuances. You wouldn’t choose a country singer to be on your metal album. The same applies to mixers.
Personality – Choosing someone that is easy to work with and understands your goals can save a lot of stress down the road.
Credibility –An established mixer will probably have some reviews and testimonials available for viewing. This lets you get a look at how other clients thought of their work – was he patient?, professional, skilled, etc. Another element to look at his credits. Having credits shows that they have successfully worked with a client. However, there are many talented mixing engineers starting their career without pop star level credits that will be able to make your song really shine.
Price – Finding the right engineer that also fits your budget can be difficult. Most mixers charge on a per song basis.
A person that went to an audio production school or interned at a recording studio may charge around $100-$200 per song when just starting out professionally.
A mixer with some recognizable credits under their belt can and will charge much more from the hundreds and even into the thousands of dollars.
Now that you know some of the key points to look for in a mixing engineer, get searching and choose the right mixing engineer for you!
Chris is an audio engineer and owner of CLFsound.