Sometimes ago I watched a great interview to multiple Grammy award winning mixer Chris Lord Alge. His mixing work is simply great, he has the experience and the skills of a real genius of mixing, he’s the guy to follow, you can learn lots of things simply listening to his words during an interview. I was impressed by one of his answers, the question was: “What pieace of outboard gear would you take with you on a desert island?”. The answer was a blast:
My ears, I wouldn’t need anything else.
Can you believe it? Not a compressor or a parametric equalizer, his ears, nothing else. This should make us think about something: we have to listen. CLA has the experience, but his ears are just the ones of a human. The same as yours. You have to use them as they’re the best outboard gear you have, because they are.
Said that, you have to invest in some good studio monitors. You don’t need the most expensive ones, but some good ones. I have a pair of Samson MediaOne 5a, they’re really good, not expensive at all. During my mixing activities I learned how they render music, how they “sound”. This is the first thing we all should learn: how our studio monitor sound. It is critical to reach what we are thinking, this drives our choices during the mix. In fact, the first mixing proof is through you monitors.
This is not all. After you finished your first revision of a mix, you have to accept one listening challenge, by testing your mix listening to it through different speakers. These are the speaker that I use to test my mix, you have to trust me, I learned a lot about my mixing problems just listening to them:
- My car speakers: believe me, I really don’t have the best hi-fi system on my car, it’s just a standard kit. But I noticed that usually my mixes sound a little darker, they underline muddiness problems if any, and make vocals sound thinner. This listening is crucial to me. I can fix a lot of issues through this listening.
- My laptop speakers: laptops always have poor speakers, no bass at all, mid-range centered. If you can hear clearly your bass and kick drum sounds from these speaker it means that your mix is on a good way.
- My mp3 player earphones: I found that my mp3 player has a strange bass boost, this could be useful to identify fighting problems on your low end.
Last but not least, remember to always check your mix in mono. It’s important to identify EQ problems and other issues that in stereo it’s hard to spot.
If your ears can tell you that your mix has passed this multiple listening challenge, you can absolutely trust them. Your mix is a good one 😉