DIY or Pro: When Mixing, Hire a Pro

Here’s another oldie, but goodie, worthy of reposting:

For the independent musician, recording an album of late has often become a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) proposition. There are many reasons for not going it entirely alone: hiring a producer can get you a faster, more professional, and possibly even cheaper project. However, there are still some musicians who, for financial or artistic reasons, want to record themselves. Knowing when to call for help is the mark of a professional musician, and those looking to achieve sales or attract label support would do well to consider hiring a professional mixing engineer to round out their DIY spirit.

Mixing is an art. So is recording, but the basics – you put a microphone here and move it until it sounds good, then press record ­ make a certain intuitive sense to musicians. Mixing is not a technologic process and so has no basis in common experience. In other words, nothing about being a musician helps you mix. Mix engineers spend years developing a feel for how music fits together and actually learn to hear music, in time and frequency, in ways completely different from and foreign to a musician. This is not to say you can’t be good at both, but those who are recognize that these are two different skills entirely.

JT in studio with Mike Burke

Professional mixers in a professional studio make all the difference.

The anticipated cost of hiring a professional mixer might deter most musicians. However, a savvy artist knows that that cost is often less than you would think, and is certainly less that he/she would spend in time and gear to do it themselves. When you add in both the professionalism and polish that a mixer will bring to your project, and the added benefit of association of that mix engineer with your project, can you really afford not to hire one?

The sad reality in the Music Industry is that most label people who are in a position of help your project, aren’t going to give it the time of day. They are overworked, bombarded by crud-y demos, and only a small part of their job is looking for new acts. Standing out in the pile of demos four feet high on their desk is the key. To do this, you must have an undeniable presentation: great songs, superior recording, and professional image. Working with a great mixer will elevate your recording and give you some cred with the A&R guys too. Obviously, many mix engineers have contacts with whom they can “put in a good word” if they really believe in a project.

Technological advances have their benefit ­ you often don’t even have to leave your house to work with a great mixer. The Internet allows you to transfer files directly to your mix engineer, and geography is no longer any limitation on with whom you can work.

Given the benefits a professional mix engineer can bring to your project ­ experience, polish, professionalism, and visibility ­ even those die-hard DIYers should have their recordings professionally mixed. It’s less expensive than you think, and the benefits make it a no-brainer.

© 2005 Digital Bear Entertainment. All Rights Reserved. No portion of this document may be used, duplicated, or copied without permission of DBE.

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2 responses to “DIY or Pro: When Mixing, Hire a Pro

    • My point, which is pretty clear, I think, it that mixers and musicians think differently. Again there are some who, perhaps like you and me, who can do both, but they’re non-overlapping skill sets. As musicians we think it terms of instruments, tone, notes, and rhythm. As a mixer, we think about frequency ranges, dynamics, delay and reverberation, and stereo imaging. They’re really different ways of looking at similar things, but the different perspective stems from different tasks and skills needed at specific points in the record-making process.

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