Want to crush your mixing spirit in a heartbeat? Compare your mix to that of someone else. Chances are high that you will envy their mix (and therefor their mixing ability) and want to quit this whole home studio thing.
Now, I’m not talking about referencing a mix. That is a helpful tool to make sure your EQ balance is comparable to that of the pros. But when it comes to strictly listening to other people’s mixes and comparing them to yours, it could be a bad move.
A Top Pro And His Insecurities
This week I was in Virginia, visiting family and catching up with old friends. On Tuesday my wife and I had dinner with a mutual friend who is one of the world’s top photographers. He has a thriving career and is well regarded in his profession. And yet he shared something fascinating: he doesn’t look at other photographers’ work. It only makes him feel deflated about his own.
How could this be? Someone who is as successful as he is should “know” that his work is excellent. And I’m sure he feels that it is, when he’s not comparing it to someone else. The reason, he said, that it’s easy to assume that someone else’s work is better is because everyone has a unique way of seeing the world.
Your Unique Way Of Hearing Music
So when he looks at another photographers’ work, it is different than his own, and therefore he thinks it must be better. When in reality it might be just as good as (or worse than) his own work. The same is true of us in the audio world. We are getting better with every mix, not just techincally but artistically as well. We are developing our own musical tastes.
We each hear music differently. This is based on an entire lifetime of influences and circumstances that shape the way we think music ought to sound. Consequently, our mixes will reflect that. But guess what? The same is true for every other mixer out there. I will hear music differently than you, and therefore my mixes will sound different than yours. Not better, just different.
Keep Learning But Tune Out The Noise
Here’s where I’m going with all of this. I want you to be the best mixing engineer you can possibly be. That takes a combination of time, talent, and hard work. Keep putting in the time for training and practice and you can only get better. But all the while, you need to do one crucial thing: tune out the noise and stop comparing your mixes to others’.
Don’t spend much time listening to your mix next to a pro mix and noticing all the ways that theirs sounds “better.” Instead focus on making your music sound as good as it can. Am I suggesting you stop listening to great mixes all together? No. I think you should always be listening to music and enjoying great mixes. But please just listen as a listener. Take note of some things you like about the mix, sure. But enjoy the music for the music.
Ignorance can be foolish, I understand that. But selective ignorance can be useful if it helps you grow and keep the main thing the main thing.