There’s an artist I work with, min.a, whose production I love. I’ve mixed a few songs for her and I’m really proud of those. Another one is Sabrina Song’s Thaw. I’m proud of that mix, but more than anything it’s just a great song.
These days it’s almost all mixing which has been great. I’ll take on a few production projects here and there and occasionally someone will twist my arm to do a master, but for the most part it’s mixing.
I’ve been making noise as far back as I can remember. I don’t come from a particularly musical family, but my parents were always very encouraging so I grew up playing pretty much any instrument I could get my hands on. Once I got to high school, I started playing in bands and became enamored with recording and production around the same time. I listened to all kinds of music growing up – I played in a lot of post-punk bands, but I also played jazz drums and made a lot of pop and electronic-based music. One of the great things about being a mixer is that I get to work on a different song every day and my clients are constantly turning me on to new music.
I’m lucky to have learned from some of the best. I studied at NYU’s Clive Davis institute with people like Bob Power, Kevin Killen, Nick Sansano, and Jim Anderson. Of course, I picked up a lot of technical know-how, but the most valuable thing about learning from folks like that is getting insight into their various approaches and philosophies. Possibly the biggest lesson for me was learning how to be intentional with my work. It's easy to throw up a vocal chain or a guitar effect because you heard about it online or saw it in a book, but if you don't know why you're doing what you're doing, I think you're sort of dead in the water. Those experiences really emphasized that everything a mixer does needs to be in service of the music and the artist's vision.
One of the biggest challenges is learning how to be bold and take risks with your work. Sometimes the textbook “perfect” balance is the exact wrong thing for a song. Knowing how to trust your gut and mix with the music in mind is so important. I can think of plenty of examples when I first started mixing where I was too timid to make bold mix choices in case the artist didn’t like them or in case they weren’t technically “correct” (whatever that might have meant to me at the time). I do still think it’s important for mixers to stick to the general vibe of the rough mix (unless the artist/producer says otherwise), but nowadays if I want to take something in a different direction, I’ll just do a “save-as” and make an alternate pass.
Not necessarily the most glamorous thing, but I think having good monitoring converters is essential. I’m currently using the Mytek Brooklyn+ DAC which I love. Plus, it has a great headphone amp that drives pretty much any pair of cans really well.
Be mindful of your health. There’s this pervasive idea in the audio industry that in order to “make it,” you need to work 18-hour days and eat terribly and never see sunlight. Maybe that works for some people, but to me it’s never seemed like a long-term strategy for success. Not only does that kind of lifestyle take a toll on your mental and physical health, but I’m not convinced it yields better results in the studio. What’s the point of working a 16-hour day if your ears are fatigued by hour eight? It’s definitely something I continue to struggle with, but I think anyone working as a mixer needs to try and achieve some kind of work-life balance or else they’ll burn out.
One other piece of advice: get your hearing checked annually and invest in a good pair of custom molded earplugs, especially if you live in a noisy city like New York.
I’ve been working with headphones for some time now. Being in New York, I’m constantly moving around and working out of new rooms. At first, using headphones was the only way I could overcome suboptimal room acoustics and still get work done. Now, I almost prefer them. Of course, I still rely on speakers, but whereas I used to mix mainly on speakers and check with headphones, I’m increasingly finding that the opposite is true these days.
These days, I’ve been using the Audezes to start almost every mix. The translation is really something else. I find they offer a very speaker-like presentation while still delivering all the detail and clarity I expect from a pair of headphones. As engineers, we all want monitoring we can trust. I know when things are sounding right on the Audezes, they’re going to sound right everywhere.
I’m using them with Audeze’s Reveal plugin (no speaker emulation, just some EQ correction) and my Mytek Brooklyn+ DAC and getting good results. I just mixed a track for the artist, min.a, which should be coming out soon and a couple tracks off Meg Smith’s “Cross My Heart” EP too.