One of the signs of a great sound engineer is the ability to intuitively ‘feel’ their way through a mix. You don’t have to be born with this talent. It is one that can be acquired with deliberate practice, focus and a few tools. Here’s what it takes to mix in a way that makes you an unforgettable sound engineer.
These are the building blocks that will help you grasp the language of sound. Training your ears to have a laser focus will help you grasp details, such as how much reverb was used on a track you’re listening to. This requires you to be able to block out all other parts of the mix and focus on this one aspect. Blocking out all that doesn’t need to be heard for that which you want to hear is a key skill to learn.
Also choose a few albums that sounds really good in your opinion and use them consistently as a barometer to help get a perspective while mixing. Though the exercise might seem discouraging at first because your reference albums are on a whole other level in comparison to your mixes, you will soon see your skills rapidly improve. Another tip is to pull up an old session you haven’t heard in a while, remix it and compare it to your old mix and notice where you see improvements.
It gives you a reference point of what waveforms (proportions) to aim for when used with your favourite tracks. While Logic and Live have built-in spectrum analyzers in their native equalizers, you can get FabFilter Pro-Q 2 or other visualizing plugins if your DAW doesn’t have one.
From hi-fi stereo systems and your car to earbuds, find a balance where your mix sounds good everywhere. There will always be limitations to each system but you can then use reference tracks to understand how a system would sound. Undoubtedly, it’s a great tool for those who are starting out.
Remember to Keep Your Ears Fresh
Your ears are crucial in keeping your mixes crisp so it is a good idea to prevent ear fatigue. Take care not to exceed your auditory limit and also restrict the number of times you listen to a track during a session. Another good way to keep your ears responsive is to expose them to different frequencies, sounds, textures, tones and colors. Taking an audiometry regularly to check your hearing is also recommended.
Becoming a master sound mixer comes with consistent application, trial and error and building that focus muscle. So open your DAW and get started!