What is the best way to learn to mix music?
Updated: Apr 25
Practise makes perfect
People often ask me the best way to learn to mix music and I always have the same answer: BY mixing music! As with any skill in life whether it's fixing a car, laying bricks or developing mixing skills - it's about the time spent practising and doing.
The difference between an amateur mix and the work of a pro mixing engineer is a matter of time and experience learning to make the right mix choices and quite often working through all of those common mix mistakes along the way as you learn. Of course, things were different when I started as there was no simple way TO just start recording and mixing. - you had to get into a recording studio, to begin with! If you managed that, you could learn from other sound engineers and producers, which I did. I spent a long time near the mixing board before getting to run it. Now you can start with a laptop and DAW, but the same facts apply - skill is built by learning the knowledge, and then applying it. Repeatedly!
I see these posts with titles like "free mixing cheat sheet essentials" or something and cringe. There is no cheating. You do not always place the hi-hat slightly to the left, there is no single type of EQ that will work on every vocal, and under no situation do you always do anything. So, Coach you may ask...if there are no rules how am I supposed to learn about music mixing in the first place?
So many resources
Even though it's harder to get into a recording studio to learn, it's never been easier to find resources to learn from. These range from YouTube, to hundreds of video courses, a virtual mixing academy, to online communities. My suggestion would be to study the ones you feel would be useful to you, but bear in mind the ideas and opinions out there will vary wildly. Apply them, try them, see what works for you but above all - PRACTISE. Somewhere during this journey, you may start to get frustrated. You can learn a ton of detached techniques online, but what they miss is everyone is different and has different needs. Each is separate and not specific to YOU. While you have every mixing tool imaginable at your fingertips, do you know how and where to use them? Maybe you're a relatively experienced home recordist already capable of a decent mix but want to achieve a truly professional mix and need someone to mentor them, to listen to your work and for once provide useful constructive feedback you can take action on as you put your own album together. It's about putting all the pieces together.
Where coaching comes in
This is where coaching helps get the best result: Going through what you know, putting the pieces together and fixing the weak points. If you want to improve your vocal mixing skills, I'll help you improve your vocal mixing. I'm not going to waste your day side-chaining things or arguing about what the best plugin manufacturer is like some YouTube random or have a set rigid path of instruction like some mix academy with many students. If you want to get better at mixing guitars, then we'll mix guitars. One on One.
I also strongly believe in the fundamentals. I'll teach you the boring things like how great mix prep is important before you begin. How simplicity matters, a process. I'll help you understand how the stereo bus mix signal chain works, to more subtle mixing tricks that help you make a perfect mix. That, and constant availability and feedback to help you get the result you want. If you'd like to discuss coaching, by all means feel free to reach out at any time. And while you're here, why not sign up for a free mix review to see where you are?
All the best, and happy mixing - Coach.
Want more? Here's an article on one thing to improve your mixing now