3 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Try to Please Everyone with Your Mixes
There are virtually infinite ways to mix a song. And there are virtually infinite ways to write a song. Taking this into consideration makes it obvious that there are also virtually infinite preferences when it comes to both mixing and music making.
I’m sure you’ve experienced this yourself. You show a mix to a client or friend who’s super excited about the way it sounds. Then you show it to somebody else, and they can’t really hear what’s so great about it.
Mixing is complex, and with all the different possibilities, it’s almost impossible to make a mix that will please everyone. But don’t let that bring you down! In this post, I will go through 3 reasons you shouldn’t try to please everyone with your mixes and the benefits of not doing so.
Different music genres call for different mixing styles
A pop-rock mix needs a fairly different approach than, let’s say, a movie score. A sad pop-rock song may need a different approach than a happy pop-rock song. On it goes.
Different musical styles and expressions need different ways of mixing. And while you potentially could (and maybe even should) understand all the different approaches to different types of music, it won’t necessarily help you achieve an “ultimate mixing formula” that will sound good to everyone’s ears.
Some people like lush and spacy mixes, while others prefer dry and tight, and so on. And while you can make any mix lush and spacy, or dry and tight, it might not fit the tune.
A good mix is a mix that suits the song and emphasizes the musical expression.
The key is to dare to embrace a mix with the goal of making the actual song sound as good as possible while fulfilling the client’s creative vision. Trying to make “the perfect mix” that will please everyone, will likely turn out to be an impossible task.
Staying true to your style
As you develop your mixing skills and become more and more confident in your work, you will eventually develop some sort of unique “style.” Maybe you’ve figured out a cool drum-compression technique that not many others seem to use, or you have certain plug-in chains that seem to always work for various purposes, and so on.
All these techniques and tricks that become a part of your workflow are part of your mixing style, and having a unique style could be what truly makes you stand out from other mixing engineers.
Having artists say, “I really want that *your name* sound on my next single,” is one of the coolest compliments you can get as a mixing engineer and will probably gain you status and respect among their peers.
While you could carefully try to shape a unique style that you think will hit home for certain artists or people, these people might not be into what you think they are.
So I suggest you stay true to your style as you want it to be because you believe in your style and skills, and from there, you start worrying about what kind of people might benefit from having you mix their record.
Mastering your tools
Mastering the tools you use in your mixes is a crucial part of becoming a great mixing engineer. Knowing what every button on your compressor does, what kind of character different saturation/distortion plug-ins add, and so on will make mixing way easier and more efficient.
Besides making mixing more efficient, mastering your tools will give you more options. You can customize mixes better and add more depth, clarity, and detail because you’re familiar with the tools you are working with.
If you’re always chasing the latest and most popular plug-in to stay relevant and follow the trend, you might end up with worse mixes because you’re always turning new knobs that you don’t really understand or comprehend the effect of.
There are endless options when it comes to mixing tools, so choose yours wisely. Think about the styles of music you want to mix and your personal mixing style, and do your best to fully master your chosen tools.
Many times it’s not a certain trendy compressor or a certain reverb that determines whether it’s suitable for a mix. Many times it’s how you use your tools that make the difference.
With the endless options of plug-ins, “rules” of mixing, various techniques, and so on, it can be difficult to be confident in your work.
Trends evolve quickly, and new audio technology is introduced all the time. It’s easy to think that getting a hold of the newest thing in audio will automatically improve your mixes and make them better liked because you’re doing what everybody else is doing, and the technology seems so good.
But time and time again, uniqueness and personal style have proven to work in mixing, songwriting, and creative matters in general. As a mixing engineer, you should, of course, always have the main goal of satisfying your potential client.
Trying to be a mixing engineer that can please any client is a very difficult, if not impossible, task. The guy mixing the latest psychedelic rock hit might not be the best choice for mixing a calm singer-songwriter song. Not because he’s not a good mixer, but because his style is best suited for the likes of psychedelic rock. Instead of trying to please everyone, try to please the ones you care about and wish to please.
About Gerhard Tinius
Gerhard Tinius is a groovy musician, producer, mixer, and audio engineer from Norway. Listen to his debut album here.
Blog, Music Mixing