I often hear people talk about how they recently learned mixing from YouTube or following social accounts with mixing tips. Or that learning mixing is “easy” these days with the wealth of knowledge available online. At risk of sounding like a grumpy old man, nothing makes my eyes roll more than those two statements.
Don't get me wrong, I think it's great that the internet has brought about a ton of free exchange of information. But setting aside the amount of misinformation out there from “content creators” that have little qualification to teach the subject, I don't think it's something that you can learn from watching a ton of content on the subject over a few weeks or months or even a few years.
Music is an inherently emotional thing. So is mixing. Yes, it's also technical, but every technical action is about bringing about emotion for the listener. Sure videos can teach you some techniques (some more questionable than others when you're listening to just anybody with a webcam), but what they CAN'T teach you is how to listen to your body.
Obviously if you're a musician, you inherently understand that something needs to feel right. You probably have personal opinions on tones, balance, etc – which is great! Knowing what you want to hear is one of the first steps of mixing. But in order to EXECUTE that takes thousands upon thousands of hours practice. It requires knowing how to listen to your body and how to make that happen. Knowing what CAN and CAN'T be done with the track. Knowing what's working and what's not. Knowing when you've gotten too fixated on a particular sound and need to step back and examine the bigger picture. Knowing when you've started doing what you want to hear for ego's sake rather than serving the song. That's connection between your gut and the real world is something you have to develop through trial and error.
I do watch videos of how the greats work – but the key is that I'm wanting to learn from the greats. People who's work I love and respect. But even then, I'm not watching for “cheats” or “secret hacks,” but rather what's going on in their mind, what their flow looks like, what their philosophy is, etc. Then not be afraid to do the exact opposite of what they do. What works for someone else might not work for you.
At the end of the day, you have to trust your gut with everything related to music. Don't just listen to the speakers, but also listen to your body. No amount of “3 steps to perfect bottom end” videos or whatever will train your intuition and your ability to translate that into the real world. Within ANY musical discipline, until you can create with guts, confidence, and heart, your work won't be able to connect with others on that deep, emotional level either.
David Ryan Olson
Hey I'm David. I'm a mix engineer and I run Evergreen Records. We are all about helping you grow.
If you'd like to work with us on your next project, or would love to chat about the music business, please don't hesitate to reach out!