The mixing stage of the recording process is a unique beast. Many audio engineers can get good quality recordings of bands and artists with even the most basic of setups. The techniques are very similar and the goal is typically to get a high quality recording of each instrument. But in the mixing stage, it’s all about taste, and maybe the studio you are using doesn’t get the “vibe” or “sound” or “feel” of what you want your end product to be. That’s probably not because the audio engineer is bad at mixing. It probably has more to do with their taste and what they want to get the song to sound like. This is heavily influenced by the music the mix engineer likes to listen to and their experiences. So how do you solve this challenge if you don’t like the local studio’s “taste" or just want to get a more professional product than you can get in your hometown?
The beauty of technology is that bands, musicians and songwriters now all have access to an entire world of mix engineers. With online collaboration tools like Dropbox, you can send your files to a mix engineer thousands of miles away and they can help you realize that sound you are looking for. But how do you find the right one?
Go to the Source
To figure out the options, it’s time to look around at what mixers would fit your band and music. Think about your genre, influences, and favorite records. Then check to see who has the mixing and production credits for the song. If you have a physical album the liner notes are a good place to check, but if you are a child of the digital age you can check allmusic.com for who contributed to an album. Another option is to ask bands directly who mixed their records. This gives you a few ways to identify who is out there.
Check the Reviews
Once you have identified some potential mixing candidates, look for a Google business listing to find some reviews. You need to get a good idea of how much work they are doing and what the response is from those who work with them. Do they have a quick turnaround time? Are they good to work with? Do the bands feel like they get to have input into the mixing process? With some idea of the reviews you can go to their website to see what else they have worked on and maybe even some testimonials that they themselves have collected. The big thing here is to confirm that the way this mix engineer works has the sound that you like. You want to make sure your expectations for your final record line up with what this mix engineer has produced in the past, otherwise you will likely be disappointed and wrestle through numerous revisions.
With the website and business listing checked, you should have a few different ways to contact the mix engineers that you are considering hiring. You want to narrow this down to just 2-3 mixers at this point (otherwise the logistics become crazy). You can always have a longer list if these fall through, but keep it simple at first. Reach out via e-mail or phone and ask if they are available to mix a record in the near future. Some guys can get to your songs right away, while others have a backlog. Some may be too busy to take on your project. Whatever the case, this is where you start getting the information you need. If they are available, you need to get a few details before hiring them to mix your recording:
Firm quote for cost
When they could begin mixing
How long until the initial mixes are ready for review
How many mix revisions are included
How files will be delivered
With all this information, you should be able to determine if this is the right mix engineer for your project. You may find out this mixer is too expensive, so feel free to ask if there is anyone else they could recommend. Also, if you aren’t completely sold on them being right for your music, just ask them if they would be willing to do a test mix. Many highly sought after mix engineers will be too busy to accommodate such a request, but I know plenty of others who do. In fact, mention this blog post when you contact me, and I'll give you a free test mix of one song. But before that, make sure you check the samples of my work (you know, consistency and all that).
Hopefully these guidelines give you a roadmap to being able to identify and hire the best mix engineer for your music, whether they are local or in L.A., N.Y. or Nashville. Going in with a plan will likely ensure you get great songs that you are excited to listen to over and over (and your fans will feel the same way).