How To Take Your Mixes From Average to Awesome
AJ writes grungy indie folk-rock songs in between his job as an arborist in southern Arizona.
A laidback millennial hippie with a constant five o’clock scruff, he wears faded work t-shirts, flipflops and a trucker cap, his ginger manbun sticking out the back.
Whenever he walks across the street to my studio, he brings a cup of freshly brewed coffee from his French Press and a wide-eyed grin.
He’s always excited. He just loves working on his music in the studio.
AJ is a budding recording engineer as well. He has a small practice room in his house with some recording equipment and some acoustic treatment. But when it came time to release his songs, he wanted it to sound professional so he could be proud to show it off.
Some of his songs are odes to times long gone, like the union pacific railroad and the gold rush. I like to think that he comes up with his lyrics while strapped to a tree 20 feet above ground, hatcheting the branches away with a chainsaw.
When I first started producing his EP, I looked at the arrangement and thought, “Ok, this will be a straightforward project.”
Driving acoustic guitar, punk-rock drums, tight bass guitars over his baritone vocals. Simple.
But then we did his overdubs. Distorted shoe-gaze solos. Alto and baritone saxophone. Off-the-rails pedal steel squeals.
Then I thought, “oooooh….interesting.”
The arrangements were cool and I was excited to start mixing. After sending over the initial mixes we scheduled a time for him to come sit with me as I did any necessary tweaks he wanted to the mixes.
That’s where things went from “interesting” to “really fucking cool.”
AJs notes took the record from clean, garage-style indie folk to kick-ass folk grunge, complete with finely tweaked amp simulators on acoustic guitars, raunchy processing on his vocals and fuzzy, broken-speaker bass sounds.
We used up all of my pre-built busses in my mix template and the mixes stretched my parallel processing techniques to the brim. I almost feel like I need to redo the Parallel Processing Masterclass I have inside the Mixing With 5 Plug-ins course just because of the new ways I used my aux busses.
At one point, he looked at my screen with a curious look. As I scrolled through the different tracks, sending and routing effects and tweaking knobs he laughed out loud.
“Dude, I am completely lost in your session.”
And then it hit me how much production was going on during the mixing. We had the songs down, the arrangement was solid and the recordings were great. But working with the artist’s revisions made the song come alive and sound like a kick-ass record.
It’s pretty similar to how I work with my custom mix coaching clients.
They bring me their rough mixes. I give them feedback on what they can improve and then I show them exactly how they can get there.
In a way, the roles are reversed. They’re the mixing engineer whereas I’m the one giving feedback and possible revisions.
If they don’t know how to do a specific trick, I show them exactly how by sharing my screen with them. And at the end of our sessions together they’ll usually have a mix that’s way beyond what they started with.
Here’s what Matt, one of my coaching students told me yesterday after having applied one of the tricks I taught him:
“I listened to your video as soon as you sent it (super helpful — thank you!) but I only this past week got around to actually going through and applying your suggestions to my track. It is LIGHT YEARS better and both I and my friend…are thrilled with the direction it’s heading.”
If you’re frustrated with where your mixes are going and want to get concrete techniques on how you can take your mixes from average to awesome, you might be interested in custom coaching.
I just created some specific coaching packages on my coaching page yesterday and I still have a few open slots for students interested in taking their mixes to the next level.
If you’re tired of jumping from one Youtube video to another and just want concrete advice based on improving your specific session, it’s time to get coaching.
There’s no financial commitment in applying so finding out more is completely risk-free. I don’t want to waste your time if I can’t help you out so I make sure you’re a good fit before we get started.