Mixing really is an artform

I’m currently mixing the second album, by my band The Nightwires. This will be the fourth album I have written, produced and mixed and I still feel like a bit of a novice when it comes to the mixing part. It’s the alchemy involved in it. Infusing the songs with the magic, the air, THE LEVEL!!

I’m probably doing my skills a bit of a disservice but making the album sound like a cohesive professional project, is so difficult. For this project, my first mixes were very far advanced. Normally, I would present my singer with a mix after the initial tracking, a warts and all mix. I’ve just realised though that that method means too many changes are made and I’m forever altering things and doing endless CDs of mixes.

No, this time I did a first mix which, I hoped, would be not far off finished at the first attempt. And you know what, I have almost achieved that! The changes I’m having to make now to the mix are quite small and thats ended up saving me a lot of stress. However, its still the case that the old adage is correct: you never finish a mix, you merely leave it once you cant stand hearing the song anymore!

That’s the problem. You listen to the songs so much whilst mixing, that when you listen to a CD of mixes, you are instantly disappointed. My advice is definitely to leave it 24 hours before you listen to that first mix on your car stereo. And it will then take a few listens for it to sink in and then, if you’ve done the right things to the mix, you will start to think it sounds good.

The problems I always hit first are, making the vocal level/volume consistent across multiple songs and also making the kick drum clear and loud enough without dominating. Add to that not wanting to make the mix too bassy from the off; these things can make you liable to holding back a bit on some vital frequencies.

And then there is the overall volume. Ahhh, the volume wars! I’ve been guilty in my younger days, of trying to make my mixes as loud as possible but, after heeding the advice of songwriting god and mixing guru Steven Wilson, I ain’t gonna take part in your loudness war!! These new mixes for The Nightwires are loud enough, but I’m not going to push them beyond that. It makes things sound overly compressed and so small. Also, mid range is king. Too many albums have that smile EQ curve, with all of the mid range sucked out of the sound. Mid range is where all the body of a sound lives. I want my music to breath and pump and be dynamic. Hopefully I’ve achieved that.

So, I cant wait for you to hear the fruits of my labour. I shall be putting the first song up here soon.

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