I’ve never understood why people spend so many hours mixing a single song. Maybe because from personal experience I know that I hit a wall pretty quickly where the excitement wears off and I become obsessed with over-tweaking in search of the perfect mix.
I’ve also learned that I churn out much better mixes when I mix quickly and move on. I’ve written before about leveraging the 80/20 rule and Parkinson’s law to get better mixes in less time, but today I want you to hear it from someone with a bit more pedigree than me, Chris Lord Alge.
The Longer It Takes, The Worse It Gets
A few months back, Focusrite released a promo video for their new RedNet system of converters and studio networking, featuring legendary mixing engineer Chris Lord Alge. Most of the video is him talking about his collection of favorite gear and of course why he’s chosen transition over to Focusrite’s new D/A converters.
BUT, in the final few minutes CLA gives some golden nuggets of wisdom related to his mixing approach. If you want to, skip to 3:30 in the video and watch the final segment.
Did you catch what he said there?
“Time is your enemy in mixing. The longer it takes, the worse it gets.” And you know what? He’s absolutely right.
We think that by taking more time, we will somehow refine the mix to a point where it’s getting better and better with each tweak. Now maybe to a certain point this is true. And to be honest I’ve rarely done a mix that didn’t come back with a few mix adjustments needed.
But generally speaking your first impressions of how a mix should sound are correct. Go with that and move on.
Pull Up Faders And Go
In the video, CLA starts off his mix process by sharing how he literally has not heard the song before. His assistant (from what I’ve read) gets his sessions and console setup so things are properly labeled and he can simply fire it open and hit play.
Why? Because he wants to mix fast and react to what the song is giving him, not some over calculated formula for creating a “correct” mix.
He pulls up the faders, takes note of any problems or issues, creates a balance that works, and does the basic EQ and compression tweaks necessary to make things fit together nicely. Remember, all you are doing in mixing is balancing.
Part of what seems to help him work this quickly is the limitation of track count. He said multiple times in the video that he works with 48 tracks. That’s it. I’m sure many of the mixes he gets are in the 100+ track count realm, but his assistants have taken that down in half to 48.
Mix Like A Musician
One thing I love about Chris Lord Alge is his exuberance for music. You can tell that he likes to have fun. His approach to mixing seems to be one of a musician and less of a scientist. He’s not doing math equations or sending a rocket to a moon, he’s mixing music.
His approach to move quickly and boldly comes in large part from his personality and his past success, but I think the real key here is that he is having fun.
Whether you have 5 Grammy awards or 5 adoring family members who love your music, shouldn’t you be having fun while you mix? Shouldn’t you react to the music like a musician and let it tell you where to go and what to do?
Question: What is YOUR biggest takeaway from this video and CLA’s approach to mixing? I’d love to hear your thoughts.