New controllers. New software. New standards. New plug-ins. New… everything. Over the last years the AV industry has been accelerating more and more with new stuff coming out almost by the minute. It’s great and important to keep up with key developments and milestones (we love toys, don’t we?).
However, I think it’s even more important to remind ourselves that despite all the new gadgets available, the most important mixing skills have not changed much over the past decades.
The most important mixing skills in 2019
When I did my audio engineering degree back in 2005 one of my tutors told me the following:
If you master equalization and compression, 90% of your work is done.
He continued telling me that he received this advice from a mentor when he started out, probably more than a decade earlier. And here we stand in 2019, and I still pass the same message on to my students. Every year, every term.
Get your equalization and compression right
Despite all the new and fancy sound shaping tools that are available to us today, at the core of our work still lie two skills: Modifying the frequency content as well as the macro- and micro-dynamics of your material. And the most commonly used tools of the trade are still compressors and equalizers.
There may be new variants out there like the easy to use ‘One Knob’ series. There may be plug-ins with highly creative parameter names like ‘Magic’, ‘Attitude’ or ‘Girth’. However, if you dive deep into the operation manuals you will see that at the heart of these new tools still lie the principles of modifying frequency response and dynamic range. Just the packaging is different.
By working exclusively with volume, equalization and compression you should arrive at a decent mix. It won’t be finished yet, but it should sound pretty good already.
You don’t need tons of expensive equipment
We think that the more toys (err… equipment) we have, the better material we will be able to deliver. However, the more stuff we own, the higher the chance that we get distracted by the vastness of technology that is at our fingertips.
We spend hours trying to figure out whether it’s better to put an SSL or Pultec EQ circuit on our tracks. In the end, we have less time to tweak the parameters of the plug-in!
A friendly advice for better mixing
Limit yourself to a couple of ‘go-to’ plug-ins and learn how to use these in all your day-to-day mixing situations. First work on volume, equalization and compression. Only after getting a good mix with those processors move on to working with effects like delay or reverb.
Remember to make some noise!