The Goal Of Every Mix

| Mixing, Tips

The goal of every mix you work on isn’t clarity, depth, punch, or even warmth (whatever that means), rather it is to ellicit an emotional reaction from the listeners. In other words, your mix should “move” them. It could make them happy and want to dance, or it could make them melancholy or introspective. Or perhaps it could even help them relax after a long stressful day at work. Whatever it is, your goal as a mixer is to make the song powerful and relavent to the listener.


Via Nickolai Kashirin Flickr

Getting Lost In The Science

I’ve admitted here before that I’m not a very technical person. I didn’t come into audio engineering from an “engineering” side of things. I can’t solder cables nor can I read a mixing console schematic. I can’t build a homemade mic pre, nor do I fully understand how impedance can affect microphone performance. But I do know what a gripping mix sounds like and I try my darndest to create compelling mixes myself.

The problem with the learning phase when it comes to recording and mixing audio is that you can easily get hung up on the science of things. You’ll come across a tip or technique that is supposed to help you get better mixes and you’ll zero in on that. You’ll try and recreate that suggestion in your studio and you get bent out of shape trying to make it work. Really what you should be doing is taking the tip or technique, trying it, and then seeing what it does or doesn’t do for your tracks at that given moment. Does it bring your music that much closer to impacting the listener on an emotional level? If not, move on.

Removing Distractions

Good recording and mixing technique should, in my humble opinion, showcase your music in the best light possible while at the same time removing as many distractions as possible. Distractions can be sloppy edits, out of tune vocals, or just amateur sounding drums and guitars that sound like they were played inside a toilet paper roll. If you can minimize the bad stuff then your mix has a better chance of “moving” the listener in a real way.

That’s a huge part of why I try to offer as many tips, tricks, and techniques as possible here on the site. I want to give you tangible tools that have helped me over the years to remove the newbie mistakes and in turn professionally present my music to the world.  Each suggestion or tutorial can be one more piece of the grand puzzle to creating sonic drama (in a good way).

Having A Clear (And Simple) Vision

At the end of the day, whether you are recording or mixing, you want to have a clear vision of how your music should sound. Do you want the tracks to kick people in the teeth? Or should they bring listeners to tears? Should the music simply get people to tap their feet? You have to choose. Pick a vision for the mix, and then make your mixing decisions based on how it affects getting you there.

If you find yourself getting too bogged down in panning adjustments, plugin presets, automation moves, and even drum editing then you’re probably missing the point. Stop what you’re doing, listen to a great song that moves you personally, and then go make your mix do that!


Get Better Mixes By Simply Changing How You Start

The first 60 minutes of your mix will affect everything. Here's my proven method!

14 Responses to “The Goal Of Every Mix”

  1. Baba Prasad

    Hi Graham,

    Yes this is really really a TRUE Statement, I complete AGREE with you Graham. Finally its not our Gadgets or Hi-tech mics etc., its all depends how we satisfy our clients the music and what they really want on their final MIX of the song.


  2. Nico Plett

    Hey Graham!I want to thank you so much for all these post and this website and everything you are doing! I am a 17 year old born-again believer and I thank God that I found this. I haven’t got any equipment yet but I will be getting $1500 when we sell our house and I have been working hard for the sole purpose of starting to recording. I will get some cheap foam and treat my room and such but I want to thank you again! You are so helpful! God bless

  3. David

    This is such a good post. Sometimes we don’t see the forest for the trees, so to speak. 2 thumbs way up!!!

  4. Sean

    Great reminder here Graham. As much as I love tinkering with and using tech stuff, lately I have realized my slump is caused by a lack of focus(on writing from my heart for the purpose of making people feel) and too much of an emphasis on technical details and gear. I heard a song for the first time and it made me remember why I love music so much and then I saw this post so it was something I needed. Thanks. BTW the song I just heard is Holocen by Bon Iver. You would probably like it. Cheers friend.


  5. jonmgill

    illicit means illegal. elicit means provoke. I assume you meant the latter.

  6. AMA Fru

    This resonates profoundly with my recent re-emergence from getting hung up on the science. After following a lot of tutorials & blogs I went through a crazy phase of trying to implement almost every tip I knew in every mix…in the process, “killing” two productions which have great potential as songs. After unsuccessfully releasing one of them on cyber space, a break off mixing (taking time to simply listen to great songs) reminded me of this key primary goal. It’s about how those post studio “3-and-a-half” minutes FEEL not so much about how many clever technical processes have been implemented in it. One needs the science to successfully birth the vision, but the science should only help towards creating the FEELING not become the main goal. Thankfully, I’ve been able to re-record one of those songs (using the science with common sense) and it’s coming along great!

  7. Jeff

    Right! My bassist, who owns all the studio and gear, gets carried away with all the fancy plug ins he has. He’s got many and I say ya you have a lot of really cool plug ins. But I’m always listening and wanting to just use the raw audio and get a good mix. I agree completely with you. You’ve got to recognize what in the song grabs you and makes you want to move or cry or whatever, usually my guitar playing makes me want to cry but that’s a whole other subject. I’m trying. It’s very hard to move him away from the arsenal of plug ins. I usually wait until he has to leave the room to use the restroom or do something then I will start adjusting. He is however very good at adjusting levels. I’ll give him that but he’s very persistent at trying to get me to use fifty different plug ins before we’ve done anything else…drives me crazy sometimes.



  1.  Mixing Wisdom From Dave Pensado » The Recording Revolution

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Read previous post:
Getting Clarity And Width On Guitars [Video]

Do you find yourself layering guitar parts in your sessions only have them wash together, sounding vague and mushy? Today...