How do you quantify how good of a mix engineer you are? Is it how close your songs sound to your favorite mixes? Is it how good you feel after a mix?
And who made you the judge of your skill anyways?
Today I want to share with you an amazing and encouraging observation I’ve been slowly making over the years since starting The Recording Revolution and coaching thousands of students worldwide.
Via Bre LaRow Flickr
From Cowardly To Confident In 30 Seconds
Recently, one of my students (we’ll call him Ted) sent me a mix to review. Ted had followed my free material for a long time and had recently invested in some of my more in depth training courses.
He emailed me with a recent mix he’d done to get my feedback. His email said that while although he had really enjoyed my courses and had learned a ton, had implemented all of my techniques and suggestions to his mix and even gotten much better results than his previous attempts, he simply wasn’t happy with it.
He felt frustrated that perhaps the problem was HIM and not more knowledge or training. Perhaps he simply wasn’t cut out to mix, even for his own music.
To be honest, in reading his email I felt really sorry for the guy. I mean no disrespect when I say that he sheepishly and almost cowardly was sending his mix along, practically apologizing for how “not good enough” it sounded, even after applying my material.
So I opened up the attached MP3 of his mix and began listening.
After 30 seconds, my jaw dropped. This wasn’t bad at all. In fact, it wasn’t even average. This was a GREAT mix!
It was balanced, clear, punchy, warm, and musical. Everything sat and felt just right. I was really enjoying the song and as a mix engineer myself, was noticing a lot of nice mix decisions that Ted made that really enhanced the already solid arrangement and performance.
I hit the “Reply” button and fired back an email to Ted right away.
“Ted,” I wrote. “This is a fantastic mix. You’re really talented bro! I’m not so sure what you’re hearing, but it’s wrong. You clearly know what you’re doing and have turned out a solid mix. Don’t stop, you’re already good and you can only get better over time!”
As you can imagine, Ted was pleasantly surprised to get that email back from me. And his next email response to me was very telling. Listen to what he said:
“Graham, I am so encouraged to hear that you think it’s a great mix. I guess I’ve just been too hard on myself and have lost perspective with all this mixing in isolation. My standard has been perfection, and I just never seemed to get there. Now that I know that you think I’m actually doing a good job at mixing, I feel way more confident and excited to crush the next one! I’ll keep you posted!”
Nothing About His Skill Or Studio Changed
What did you notice about this email exchange? How could a guy go from super bummed about his performance as a mix engineer to being majorly confident and excited to get back to mixing?
Did he learn a new secret technique? Did he purchase fancy expensive monitors or converters?
No. He simply was given an outside perspective. Those few lines I wrote back to him saying that I thought his mix sounded awesome and that he was really good, instantly made him confident.
And that’s what changed. His view of himself. Instead of seeing all his flaws and lack of progress (as determined by himself) he was now seeing himself as he really is, a super talented guy who can churn out a great mix.
Can he get better? Absolutely! We all can.
But perfection isn’t what we’re after. Otherwise we might as well give up.
You’re Better At Recording And Mixing Than You Think
Over the past 5 years I’ve met many “Teds” and their stories are very similar.
So many of you are way too critical of your own work. Most artists are. It’s the blessing and the curse of what we do. It both drives us to greatness, and also drives us to depression.
But ironically, in order to get really good our craft we need to hang in there and play the long game. And we can’t do that if we have too high of a standard that we constantly fall short and disappoint ourselves.
Sure you might not be as good as you want to be. And I’m not nearly as good as I want to be. But you and I are way better than we think.
And if you don’t believe me, just look at what kind of work you’re producing now compared to 6 months ago. I’m 99% positive you’re way better now than you were then.
And in 6 more months, you’ll look back on what you’re doing now and think, “Man my stuff back then sucked.” Which is another way of saying, I’m good at what I do. I’m getting better!
The 1-2 Punch Of Confidence
One final thought about the psychology of confidence. It is so critical that you stop listening to those negative (and mostly inaccurate) voices in your head that say that you’re never going to be good at this craft.
You need to develop confidence in what you’re doing every week in your studio for one simple reason: it actually is a hack to make you better.
That’s the crazy thing about confidence. When you have some, you do better work. When you’re feeling cowardly and deflated, you churn out worse mixes.
And there in lies the 1-2 punch of today’s point: the moment you realize that you’re better than you think, you instantly become better. You already ARE better than you think, and by thinking that way you actually produce better work.
It’s so simple it makes me want to high five myself. (Only because there is no one in my office to high five at the current moment)
What’s Your Story?
What about you? Have you had a similar experience as Ted? Are you holding yourself to a crazy high standard?
Put yourself in Ted’s shoes. If I listened to one of your mixes (or Dave Pensado, Chris Lord Alge, Tony Maserati, etc) and told you I thought it sounded awesome, how would that change the way you think about your skill?
Do me a favor, and leave a comment below and share your experience with confidence (or lack thereof) in your recording or mixing skill. Maybe it will encourage someone else today.