Bobby Owsinski share some tips on how to more effectively mix your own audio tracks.
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Bobby is widely regarded as one of the best mixing teachers in the business. His books are found in college classrooms and at the workstations of world renowned mixers.
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Welcome to our Cartne video titled How Can I Effectively Mix My Own Audio Tracks? Our guest today is Bobby Owsinski.
I’m Bobby Owsinski. I’m a music producer, mixer, blogger, podcaster, author of 24 books, many that are textbooks in colleges and universities all over the world.
Bobby, what would you say are the most common mistakes that artists make when they’re mixing their own music?
There are several mistakes that artists make when they try to mix their own music. The biggest one is probably not fixing the room first. It doesn’t cost that much to acoustically upgrade your listening environment. It costs hundreds of dollars. As a matter of fact, I have a video that tells you how to do it for $150 or less.
If you’re willing to swing a hammer. But that being said, that’s the number one thing, because you can’t mix it if you can’t hear it. So along those same lines, the next thing would be monitors And that’s kind of scrimping on monitors because again, if you can’t hear it, you can’t mix it. So you don’t have to spend huge amounts of money, but you do have to spend some money.
And the alternative to that would be headphones, which a few years ago I would have said no, that’s not a good way to go. But however, with the options, the software options these days from sonar works from waves like Abbey Road, Studio three, which is one of my favorites. Certainly you can get in the ballpark or better on your headphones.
The third thing would be not mixing loud enough for a short period of time. And I mean minutes, not hours. Your minutes, meaning you need a few minutes to move some air just to hear what’s going on on the low end. And if you don’t do that, you’re never going to be able to tell you’ll be fooled. And usually you’ll be base light as a result.
So those are three things off the top of my head that are really impediments to mixing your own music. The fourth thing would be also not having some good reference material to listen against. So in other words, some songs that really sound great in your opinion that you could compare. So you want to listen before you start to mix and compare what you have, just calibrate your ears.
Then during the mix, it’s a good idea to go back to it. Have a listen and then towards the end. And that’s a huge help. And by not doing that, you’re short changing yourself.
Do you recommend that artists take a break between when they finish recording a song and when they go to mix in?
At one point in time? That was more important than it is now. And that’s because everybody mixes in the box. So you’re getting a natural break. It’s rare that you’ll mix one song all the way through. Usually it’s in a round robin situation. You’ll do one song, maybe get bored with it, go to another one, come back to the first one, etc. So you are getting a natural break in that and it’s a good idea to take, you know, some time off and clear your ears though, before you make final decisions and sometimes it’s just overnight.
It’s enough. The more time you have, usually the better. The problem is, many times artists are kind of under the gun. They don’t have as much time as and they don’t plan for as much time as would be probably required.
What value does a mix engineer bring to the table?
An independent mix engineer brings experience and fresh ears. So the thing that you’re looking for is somebody that has experience in your music but has mixed a lot of it. So understand what sounds good, what sounds bad, what’s required for the particular genre. Sometimes mixers can go across genres and can actually do very well. Doesn’t matter if it’s salsa or if it’s country, they’ll do well, and other mixers are much better in their own particular silo.
So you have to determine if that’s going to work or not. But you’re getting someone with experience that knows what sounds good and knows what doesn’t. And many novice mixers are chasing their tail constantly. They’re not sure what sounds good and what doesn’t and experimenting. And it takes forever. Where you can get a great result from a pro mixer and not that much time.
Where would an artist learn to get better at mixing?
An artist can get better by so many different ways when it comes to mixing. There’s so much online these days or so many tools books. And of course, I’ve written some of them about mixing engineers. Handbook has been around for 20 years. It’s kind of been a standard that There’s online courses. I have online courses, but there’s a lot of people that do it in order to get better.
The problem that you have, and there’s YouTube, of course, the problem with YouTube is there’s so much information there that it’s hard to drill down to what’s actually helpful. And many times and it’s the same thing with manufacturers, manufacturers have some great advice and material on this, but usually it involves the manufacturers gear, which isn’t always appropriate. For everyone.
And also, there are many mixing gurus out there that are A-list engineers, but have their particular way of doing things that work for them and might not necessarily work for you. So a fundamental, basic generic approach that you can adapt to what you’re doing to your style of music is really what you’re looking for. And sometimes just a coherent course could really help along the way with that.
If an artist is going to hire a mixer engineer, how can they make the job easier for them?
A mix engineer expects a number of things in order to actually begin mixing and unfortunately doesn’t always get these particular things. The biggest one being a well prepped mix, well prep, meaning that everything is and this is really simple stuff. Everything has excellent descriptions. So in other words, we don’t just have guitar one, two, three, four, or we don’t have something like Jim, Bob, Jill, Frank, as titles, track titles.
In fact, it will have something more descriptive chorus, guitar, verse guitar, a guitar line, guitar riff, things like that guitar solo that will help a mixer really get going quickly. The other thing would be good sounding tracks, and I mean from the standpoint of no noise, good sounding edits, edits are usually the problem because sometimes they have clicks and pops and all that stuff is cumulative and noises as well.
So in other words, you start to record 5 seconds before the guitar starts and you get all that amp noise for 5 seconds, and at the end, well, a pro will cut that stuff off. And for a vocal, for instance, you may go in and get rid of all the breaths, although sometimes you want the breaths because that is actually accentuating.
Emotion works sometimes. Sometimes it doesn’t. But what will end up happening is that if that stuff is determined beforehand, then it really helps the mixer get down to business. Rather than spending a day doing mixed prep of which you’re going to pay.
Do you recommend hiring a mastering engineer over using software?
Mastering engineers always preferred to use? Because what ends up happening is you’re getting two different things that you can’t get otherwise. One is an exceptional acoustic and playback environment. One that’s so much better than even the best recording studios mastering engineer can hear a 10th of a DB difference, for instance. And sometimes a 10th of a DB difference.
Which doesn’t seem like much can make a difference, especially in the hands of a really fine mastering engineer. So you’re getting the acoustic environment and second of all, probably most important, you’re getting the years of experience in the podcast that I’ve done with the master, with the mastering engineer as guests I would ask them, how long did it take you to really get good at it?
And most of them would say, Well, I started to get good at about five years, and this is working every single day, all day long with all sorts of different material where they hear what’s good and what’s bad, what works, what doesn’t work. So it’s super important that you have somebody that can understand that. Now, that’s not saying that the AI software doesn’t do a good job because it actually can. The AI software online is getting better all the time because it’s machine learning and it’s learning from everything’s being uploaded.
So it’s distinctly better today than it was two years ago, for instance, and does a reasonable job for not a lot of money. What’s probably on most artists’ minds is I will go get mastering software from this manufacturer, this developer that employs AI, and that certainly could work. But the stuff is so powerful that what ends up happening is you can do more harm than good.
So as a result, the best thing would be if you’re going to use that software, trust it, trust its suggestions, because that’s where people go wrong. They think, well, this can’t possibly be right or I’m going to enhance this even more. But in my experience, it works extremely well. If you just follow it and let it do its thing.
That concludes our video titled How Can I Effectively Mix My Own Audio Tracks? We want to thank Bobby Owsinski for sharing his years of experience and valuable expertise with us.