Let the Music Define Your Vision

As engineers we often spend an inordinate time focusing on what gear or plug-ins to use, or getting each track to have the best sound regardless of its role in the song. We can get caught listening to the tones and frequencies presented to us and letting those define our mix. In reality though, these are all secondary to the song itself.

If you throw all your tracks up and create a quick static balance before diving into the nuances of each track you can hear the song as a whole and listen to what the song is asking for. Your goal isn’t to make a mix that engineers love; it’s to maximize the impact of the song. When making each decision you should be asking yourself: is this just helping the individual tracks or is it making the song better?

Good mixing that lets the song speak is all about context. It doesn’t matter if you created the most beautiful big room delay chain of your career, it won’t work for your punk album. If you hear the kick drum insistently hitting every beat you’ll probably want to make sure the kick is prominently mixed so the listener cannot ignore it.

A well crafted song will always tell you what it needs. So, when in doubt, back out of the details and look at the big picture. Once you know what role the track is playing you can work to make it fit the context of the song. This will lead to a more cohesive, compelling mix every time. Like the Isley Brothers said, listen to the music.

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