How To Pick The Right Mixing Engineer
A common mistake I see many recording artists make in the beginning is they pick the wrong mixing engineer to work on their music. They spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars only to end up with a product that feels incomplete, unprofessional and overall dissatisfying. It’s my hope that this article will help you avoid being another recording artist that wastes time and money on mixing engineers that aren’t ideal for you.
Before you are able to identify which mixing engineer is right for you first take some time to identify what your needs are by considering the following questions.
- What genre of music are you making?
- Are there songs from other artists that have already been professionally mixed and mastered that have the sound that your shooting for?
- Are there any particular types of effects and styles that you need used on your vocals such as Autotune, chopped and screwed, & DJ stutter and scratching?
- Do you need constructive feedback and guidance on getting your best vocal performance in the studio?
- Do you get nervous when working with new people and need someone who’s going to encourage you and make you feel comfortable?
- Are you wanting them to be creative and try out ideas of their own that align with your vision for the song? or do you want them to do only what you tell them?
- Are you wanting to be present while they’re mixing or do you prefer letting them mix after you leave the studio?
- Would you like the mixing engineer to ask for your feedback after they’ve mixed your track so they can make any changes you would like made?
- What’s your budget?
- Do you wish to pay on a per hour bases or a flat fee?
- Do you prefer to pay half up front and the other half once the song is completed?
- Is there a deadline on when you need the song completed?
- Do you want them to also master your song or do you prefer to send it off to a 3rd party for mastering?
- Would you like multiple versions of your song such as main listening version, instrumental, acapella, and performance?
- Do you want your song in multiple formats such as Mp3, 16 bit Wav (CD Quality), 24 bit Wav (DVD Quality).
Different Roles In The Studio
As you can see there’s a lot to take into consideration when it comes to what your needs are. Knowing the answers to these questions will equip you to make a much more informed decision when seeking out the right mixing engineer for you. Now that we’ve covered your needs it’s time to briefly understand all the different roles played in the studio so you can more easily identify what type of engineer you’re considering working with.
Tracking Engineers as basically assistants for mixing engineers. Their role is specifically to record the talent in the studio. They will try out different mics, experiment with mic placement and do everything in their power to ensure they’re getting the best recordings possible. They will also organize all the recordings within the session on the computer, make necessary edits and then pass everything over to the mixing engineer so that they can strictly focus on mixing.
A Mixing Engineers job is simply to take all the recordings they’ve been given and use tools such as but certainly not “limited” to EQ, Compression, Volume, Panning, Reverb, Delay & Automation to balance things out and give everything it’s on space in the mix.
Producers are basically people who “produce” sound. This could be someone making beats, playing an instrument, using a sampler, beat boxing, sound designers, creating sound fx etc.. Often times producers get confused with the term record producer because often times the lines get blurred between the two. Allow me to explain.
A record producers role is more like a manager over a project. Their job is to implement quality control to ensure the desired sound they wish to get out of a record is achieved. This means that they may not produce any sound at all! They could actually reach out to a songwriter, beat maker, rapper, guitar player, and singer then book a studio session with a tracking and mixing engineer and oversee the whole project. They are the coach of the team that they assemble themselves. So they may tell the mixing engineer to switch the arrangement of instruments during the intro of the song, or for the rapper to add more of a different emotion to their performance. Often times Producers become Record Producers because they know exactly what type of sounds they want.
Now that you understand the different roles that make up a studio here’s another important piece of information. Times have changed! Once upon a time the only way you could record music was to book time in a top notch recording facility and the only way you could afford it was the financial backing of a major record label. Now everyone has the ability to record at home which means now there are more mixing engineers than ever! Which is awesome but it also means that you will need to filter out the ones that don’t add value through applying the information shared in this article.
But here’s the thing, the mixing engineers that provide the most value of today have merged the roles of a tracking engineer, mixing engineer, producer, and record producer all in one. Dr. Dre is the perfect example of this. They take ownership of all these roles and are able to wear all of these hats at the same time! But that’s no excuse for you to be a lazy artist. You shouldn’t set foot in the studio until you have gotten everything on your end as tight and polished as possible.
What To Look For
First look for a mixing engineer that fits your needs. Are they skilled at mixing music in your genre? Do they fit your budget? Do they have examples of their work that you can compare to commercially released music that’s already been professionally mixed and mastered? Do they wear multiple “hats” at the same time? Do they add value? Takes sometime to do as much research on them as possible and reach out to them with any questions you may have that will help you decide if they are right for you.
Be The Record Producer
Start thinking of yourself as the record producer who’s looking to assemble a winning team. You may find a mixing engineer that’s perfect for you but isn’t local. One way around this is to record your vocals at a local studio and have them act as the tracking engineer and then send everything off to the mixing engineer over the internet. Make sure you check out this article on how to properly do that.
Did you enjoy this article? Have a question or a comment? I’d love to hear from you so make sure you drop your 2 cents in the comments section below!