The Mixing Quote Explained
A long time ago I heard this audio quote many times from several sources. Over the years, as I became more experienced, I came to understand it more and more. In this tutorial I’ll reveal the people behind the saying, the meaning and the practical side of audio mixing.
This saying comes from Duke Ellington and Joe Meek.
Ellington was a famous American jazz musician and Robert George “Joe” Meek a British producer and engineer. They’re both important figures in 20th century music history.
An interesting fact is that reasonably priced audio tools, produced by PMI Audio Group, are branded under the Joe Meek name.
Sound and Emotions
During mixing, emotions, the story telling and the overall sound are the most important parts. We can make decisions based on these points.
In the mixing process I use both emotional and technical hearing. I mix a slow ballad a different way than a metal, dub-step or drum and bass track.
For example, I may decide to use a low pass filter on several tracks to soften the sounds and give a more warmer character to them.
For club music I’ll add different forms of distortion. Smaller or bigger amount of saturation depends on the style and the sub-genre.
“Nowadays, too few people use their ears… almost everybody mixes and composes with their eyes”-msl, gearslutz
Technical hearing gets better and better with development over the years. I can hear much more details, and errors in music, than five or ten years before.
This hearing can be developed. There’s software specifically for this that you can find on the Internet. Search using the term ear training.
“Who said, that you have to cut that track with an EQ at 3597 Hz?” – chrisso, gearslutz
If you are not sure in your technical hearing or you can’t decide what to do, then you consider self-development.
Be patient with yourself as this is an investment and it takes a long time to practice. This skill helps master the process.
Let creativity run free and experiment with different or eccentric ideas.
It is not worth to search and dig too many topics in forums. Instead, just experiment with what that compressor or equaliser does, what the effects are, how it changes the sound.
Work independently. Get a feel for experimentation, the effects and the surprises.
In many cases, there are no rules as to how an instrument should sound. There is no bible for mixing, for how to equalise or compress an acoustic kick or a ride.
And there is no official mixing police or mixing judges. But this freedom comes with responsibility. The audience and and professionals will always judge the music. How it sounds will determine if they like it.
Monitoring and Acoustics
Maybe the mix sounds great on monitor speakers. Check if it works on earbuds, laptops and headphones as well.
And also in clubs and festivals. With multiple tools you can become a better mixer.
Subjectivity and Objectivity
Somebody can use the saying for self-justification. In this case, the person can misinterpret the music and its sound.
Maybe a DJ hears his or her mix as wonderful, but it could be average or weak. Developing hearing and objectivity is a skill with which you can avoid this problem.
Using Reference Music
To avoid subjectivity, you should compare the mix with reference tracks. These are other pieces of music in the given genre, which have great sound. Try to choose a similar genre and sub-genre for this. The sound design and mixing should be similar as well.
If the mix sounds good, stable and in a similar vibe and lives up to those reference tracks, you can have confidence in it. If not, you can still change it. With time the mixes will sound better as you experiment, develop and experience.
Overview of Music Stages
Before mixing or post production, you need these for the quote to be valid:
- Good composition
- Good sound design
- Good recording
- During mixing you make decisions based on emotions and sound
- If you understand the vibe and story, you can feel that from the mix and you are heading to the finish line
- Use your ears. Judge lows, mids and highs, the stereo width, balance and space. These are the three dimensions of music
- Experiment. If you are curious about something, don’t reach for an opinion. Instead, try in practice first. Judge the sound constantly: if you like it, it is probably good
- Remember, there are no laws or rules, but there are best practices. There are many ways for the same goal