The other day I had a somewhat frustrating moment with a client. The client was actually a producer and one of his artists had a song that needed to be mixed. I have worked with this producer before and had a great experience. After getting some feedback from the client after the initial mix, I learned something interesting about myself.
I Must Not Like Reverb
I was given some simple direction as well as a reference track that was the sound they were after with the final mix. It all made sense to me. So I mixed the song, got it pretty close to the reference track, and handed it over for evaluation. When the producer emailed me back with notes and changes he said something made me pause: “You must really not like using reverb.”
It was a confusing statement at first. The reference track was a reverb heavy song, very roomy sounding and natural. So I mixed in more reverb than I typically would and specifically tried to emulate the roomy sound desired. And here I was being told that it sounded a bit too dry, not even close!
Everything Is Relative In Mixing
So who was right? Was there not enough reverb? Or was there just enough? Well, in this situation the client was “right” in that he was paying for the mix. If more reverb is what he wanted, then more reverb is what he was going to get. The problem then is I’m creating a mix that actually isn’t the way I like to mix. So I’m pushing against my natural mix tendencies.
Is that a bad thing? Perhaps not. But the danger is when we forget that mixing is all relative and need to choose our words wisely. What is too much of one thing to someone, is not enough to another person. What one person says is dry, another person says is wet. What one person thinks is punchy, another person thinks is over compressed. When talking about warmth in mixes, Dave Pensado always says “Warmth is just another word for muddy.” Everything is relative.
What Are Your Tendencies?
What are your your mixing tendencies? What patterns and preferences do you find yourself making over and over again? Remember that everyone hears music differently, so your style may not match up with other peoples’ styles. You might not even like the way my mixes sound and that’s OK. Instead, simply learn to identify your signature mixing moves and embrace them.
I know I have to do this, otherwise I’ll find myself being swayed by the client every which way. The client knows what he wants, but at the same time you know what is best for the song. You are the mix engineer. The challenge is to be able to embrace your style and also follow the vision of the client or artist involved.