Charles Dye lives and breathes mixing. When he is not at the console, he enjoys giving away his hard won techniques and views on mixing. A quick Google search would have you reading many insightful forum posts and online articles Dye has written over time. We decided to add some here too, stay tuned and happy reading!
Learning To Mix
It’s Not As Hard As You Think
by Charles Dye
As I traveled the world (quite literally from Paris to Taipei) teaching a Master Class about mixing in DAWs at Digidesign’s DigiWorld events, I noticed that users were most interested in learning how I was able to get big sounding, finished record results while the entire time working completely inside the box, without using a console or outboard processing of any kind.
As well, I have read a lot of posts on various web sites where users say they cannot get mixes that sound this way without: a lot of hard work, or changing their approach from analog dramatically, or by bypassing their DAW’s mix bus and mixing on an analog console instead. And there are others who just don’t know how to make their mixes sound good because they are new to mixing altogether. I feel this is creating an incorrect impression about DAWs, and it’s simply because users don’t know exactly how to get the results that they are searching for.
Based on the questions from the Master Classes, and from hearing users’ frustrations with the results of their mixes in DAWs, I started to examine my mixing process to see what it was that allows me to accomplish the results that I do, and why I don’t find it difficult at all. For me it is quite the contrary, since I began mixing on DAWs I’ve found that mixing on large-format consoles can be frustrating and limiting at times. I believe that part of the answer is that I’ve always felt comfortable working on hard disk. From almost my first day in professional recording studios I was exposed to it, first with the NED PostPro, and then later Sonic Solutions.
As well, as a mixer I did a number of records on SSL’s and Neves, and was quite happy with the results, but when I started to work on Pro Tools it was at the same time that my mixing skills really began to mature. I was hearing ideas in my head, and I had in my hands the tools to create them, and this caused me to dive deeper and explore how I could take advantage of the system’s power further in my mixing. In the end, some of the techniques that I came up with were actually ones that were unique to DAWs.
So, that explains why mixing on DAWs comes second nature to me, and why I don’t have problems getting “record” results on the box. I just happen to become a mixer on Pro Tools, and I’ve been perfecting my skills on DAWs continually for the last ten years to become even better. And though I have recently been doing mixes again on Neve’s and SSL’s, this has only reinforced in my mind why and how the techniques that I employ on DAWs keep giving me results that I find more satisfying than what I can get on the large-format consoles.
As a younger engineer, I bought every book I could find on the Mix Bookshelf, and scoured magazine interviews with mixing engineers to learn how to get mixes that sounded like a record. But, if you’ve ever noticed, successful mixing engineers can be notoriously guarded with their hard earned techniques. It took most of them years to learn these tricks, and nobody showed them. They worked long and hard in the studio to discover each one. Soon, it became apparent to me that the book or interview that I was searching for just did not exist.
I was beginning to believe that mixing was an illusive skill I may never attain. But by working hard I eventually discovered that mixing was not a singular skill, but a culmination of a number of individual skills that when combined delivered the magical results. One by one, I uncovered each of the tricks, which on their own didn’t make great mixes, but when added all together created huge, dynamic, and powerful mixes. Mixes that conveyed the emotions of the lyric, and made the artist sound like a star. And I too could see why those engineers were so guarded, because IF you learn how to do each one of these things, then BAAMMO!!! Now YOU can mix. It was actually a lot easier than it had originally appeared.
So, just imagine with me for a moment – turning back the clock. If someone would’ve sat me down back then, and broken mixing into to each of its individual components and taught them to me, one by one. If they would’ve just walked me step by step, through each technique, and then explained how I should put them together, so that I would have the potential to get big, powerful, dynamic results. And lastly if they would’ve taught me how to breathe life into a mix, how to give it emotion, and how to make the artist sound like a star. Now, wouldn’t THAT have been grand.
Oh well, next life…
I have to tell you though, if that would have happened back then, it would have saved me years of hard work. As well as a lot of frustration listening to hours upon hours of weak, thin, over-processed and just not very inspiring sounding mixes, that I was the only person responsible for.
But like I said earlier, mixing is not as difficult as it first appears… AND if you could find someone who was willing to show you each of these tricks, which aren’t tricks after all – just simple techniques. Then you could be way ahead of the game, and more importantly spend less time being frustrated with your results, and more time simply satisfied with your music.
Now, if only you could find that someone…