The Secret To A Great Audio Mix Over the years I have been on a quest to create the best mixes imaginable. Before I became a professional mix engineer I made every mistake in the book. I put tons of plugins on every track in the mix. I searched endlessly for that illustrious magic piece of gear. I even inquired about secrets from engineers far more experienced than myself, but I was just met with laughter. The truth is I was using far too many plugins and that magic piece of gear never existed. I had gotten nowhere until an opportunity presented itself that changed everything for me.
A friend of mine, who is an up and coming rapper from New York, contacted me about mixing a song that featured a very well known rapper he had built a relationship with. Needless to say I was excited for the opportunity to mix the song, but I was also self conscious of whether or not I could deliver a professional mix. At the time, I was only mixing records for local and regional artists who mainly recorded out of project and home studios. Being the perfectionist that I am, my need to have my mixes sound like the music on the radio, as far as quality was concerned, came to an end when I received the session files from my friend.
I loaded up Pro Tools, opened the session, hit the space bar and what I heard blew me away. The sound, oh my goodness the vocals, came through those speakers and it was like a light beamed down from heaven. What I had in my possession were the raw vocals of a major label recording artist, and what I discovered was, after all this time, the problem wasnâ€™t how I was mixing, the problem was what I was mixing.
For years I had been mixing lack luster vocals from recording artists who had been recording in sub par rooms, with cheap microphones going through built in mic preamps on low grade digital
interfaces with terrible internal word clocks. All the time wondering why I couldn’t match the professionals. I know I just rambled a bunch of technical jargon at you, but there’s a point I coming to, I promise.
You see, for the longest time I believed that having the “industry standard” Pro Tools was all you needed to sound like the big boys. I thought as long as the interface recorded, and the mic preamp provided phantom power, and the mic came with a shock mount all was peachy. I was wrong. I learned about the technical stuff mentioned above when I turned my mixing quest into a recording one.
That famous rapper had recorded his vocals in a very nice recording studio, with acoustically designed rooms, very high quality mics, preamps, converters, etc. with a very skilled recording engineer. My friend on the other hand did not. It was a night and day difference. So much so, that I had to convince him to invest a little more money and re-record his vocals in a better studio.
So my search for the best mix transformed into a search for the best recording. One of the first things I learned about recording is that the room is the most important piece of equipment. I know what you're thinking because I thought the same thing. There is no way a room can be that important. Well, you’d be wrong. It wasn’t until I visited my first professional recording studio and heard what a recording environment should sound like that the pieces began to come together.
As I began to study acoustic design, I learned all about the flaws of your standard square/ rectangle room. Standing waves, flutter echoes, ground hum, among other things play a major
part in mucking up your recordings. In a properly designed recording studio these issues are either eliminated, minimized, or controlled in a calculated way. I would tell any would be engineer to fully study and invest in acoustics in your studio before you even buy your first piece of gear. It’s that important.
Once your room is taken care of, You won’t have a need to spend a ton of money on super expensive gear to get a quality sound. In fact, if you used really expensive, highly detailed mics and gear in an untreated room, you would only amplify the problems in that room and make them more apparent.
So if you want better mixes, start with better recordings and a better recording environment. The term, you can’t polish a turd, exists for a reason. It’s true. Start with quality recordings if you want quality mixes.
If you need online mixing and mastering services, visit http://www.titantraxx.com/ My favorite resource for acoustics and studio design: http://johnlsayers.com/Recmanual/ index.htm