These days, it is the norm for recording engineers working with independent artists to include tracking and mixing in a session. Clients usually expect to take home something from their recordings at the end of a session. This puts pressure on the engineer not just to know how to mix music, but how to and prioritize their workflow quickly and efficiently. Overall, the ability to manage client expectations and create an environment where you can mix songs quickly is one of the primary skills the average recording engineer can have.
Build A Template To Help You Stay Organized
When it comes to working quickly and efficiently, having a working template is one of the most valuable tools in your kit. What that template will ultimately look like will depend on what type of genre(s) you tend to work in. Over time it wouldn’t hurt to develop multiple templates that you can use.
Since I primarily work as a hip-hop engineer, my own templates cater to this approach. My approach to tracking involves a dedicated “Record” track from which I drag takes down to other tracks called “Leads,” “Doubles,” “Ad Libs,” etc. Those are all routed to a vocal bus, and all of them have my go-to plugins waiting for mix time. As fast as an artist can record, I can open up processors and begin mixing.
For another example, if you work with full bands, keeping your tracks neatly labeled can be huge. Knowing exactly where you will find your drums, bass, keyboard, guitar, and vocal tracks (as well as any bussing you will use) will speed up the process significantly.
Though no two recording sessions are the same, having a standard template consisting of your essential go-to tools will help you stay prepared in any situation where you will need to throw together a mix quickly! Creating and utilizing a consistent and streamlined workflow is one of the most valuable mixing tips an aspiring producer must always keep in mind.
Manage Artist Expectations
Before you even step foot into the studio with an artist, it’s your job to manage their expectations for what is possible and reasonable. Making sure an artist is aware of what is possible to accomplish in the amount of time they have booked is crucial.
Let’s say you have a client that has booked three hours in the studio. You can probably track two or three songs in that time, but mixing would most likely need to be finished in another session. Alternatively, you could use that time to record and mix just one song.
How you structure your sessions is ultimately up to you, the engineer, based on what you and the artist are capable of handling. Keeping the lines of communication open helps keep everything moving along nicely. By having those conversations early on in the process, you can avoid many disagreements or, worse, disappointment.
Offer A “Quick Mix” If You’re Short On Time
Most clients you will work with will expect to leave the studio with a hard copy of their music. Even if you’ve finished recording with minimal time to spare, throwing together a fast rough mix so the artist can walk with an initial hard copy of their day’s work goes a long way.
For the most part, all you will need to throw on a track to take it from “raw” to “almost finished” usually is a bit of EQ, reverb, and compression. This will give the client an idea of where things stand and help them decide how they would like to finish the mixing process in additional sessions.
This is where having a template comes in handy, as we already mentioned above. At that point, all you would need to do is “flip the switch” on template plugins you’re ready to go. You’ve got yourself a passable “quick mix” in no time at all.
Remember, the “quick mix” doesn’t have to be a total masterpiece, just something good enough to keep the client happy in the meantime!
Working For Free Isn’t Always Bad
If you’re just getting started as an engineer, there’s nothing more valuable to you than work. All the work you can get. It takes a long time for even the most talented engineers to develop a functional working system. There’s simply no substitute for hours spent actually “doing” it all.
This includes time spent building relationships with clients and time spent mixing as you will need to rely on both skills throughout your career. It’s not unusual to occasionally offer “freebie” sessions to a client as a way of showing that you are invested in your working relationship with them.
Say tracking with a new client took longer than you were expecting and took up the whole session. Offering to mix the track for free could go a long way in developing a long-term beneficial relationship with the artist.
How and when you choose to work for free is totally up to you, but don’t be afraid to show you’re willing to go that “extra mile” for an artist you would like to keep working with.
Essential Tips For How To Mix Music & Manage Sessions Efficiently
- Remember that your first and foremost job as an engineer is to please the artist/ client. While their reactions will vary, understanding what a client is after and knowing how you want to get there will take you far.
- It was already mentioned above but bears repeating; managing client expectations and goals within the time they have booked is essential. In the long run, it saves you the headache of having to “explain” yourself and your process to an artist while you’re already in the middle of it.
- Know your equipment! You will hear a lot of tips for recording and mixing music, but there is no substistue for knowing what tools you have available to use, and when they’re useful.
- Make as many mixes as you can, develop a template, understand what the word “process” means to you.
- Always send a client home with something in their hands- they will always appreciate it, and that’s the kind of stuff that brings clients back!