Mix With The Masters is doing an excellent job of getting some of the music industry's most renowned producers and mixers to share their creative processes with the rest of us. MWTM has been offering exclusive, week-long music production seminars at a residential studio in the French countryside since 2010. More recently, MWTM added a membership program for access to hundreds of online videos. In addition, members can register for interactive webinars and one-day, in-person seminars that are offered throughout the year. (Attendance fees need to be paid separately.)
MWTM's video content, which is accessed in your desktop web browser or through an app on your iOS device, is broken down into useful categories. Acoustic guitar, converters, clocking, bass guitar, hybrid mixing, and mix bus compression are just some of the topics offered — all of which are easy to find and navigate. The list of "Masters" is impressive, and video tutorials are available from the likes of Andy Wallace [Tape Op #25], Michael Brauer [#37], Jacquire King [#45, #88], Sylvia Massy [#63], Mitchell Froom [#10], Eddie Kramer [#24], Tchad Blake [#16], Joe Chiccarelli [#14], Andrew Scheps, Chris Lord-Alge, Al Schmitt, Young Guru, Greg Wells, Tony Maserati, Alan Meyerson, and more. New content is added weekly, so if you have a voracious appetite for the audio buffet, MWTM is essentially all-you-can-eat.
If you are like me, self-taught (with the exception of the occasional call to a fellow engineer, producer, or mentor to discuss a specific issue or ask a question), MWTM is a fascinating view into the ideas and practices of mix engineers and producers at the top of their game. Some of it is reassuring ("I do something like that!"), and some of it is new information or a new concept that could find a place in your own workflow.
For example, I loved watching Tchad Blake talk about his in-the-box mixing and his use of plug-ins. Or how, when he moved into his new space, he threw some panels up — so it "looked like a real studio." It's inspiring to see him using tools that are within reach of almost everyone. It's one thing to watch someone mix a record on an SSL with a mountain of outboard gear, and another to watch someone do it with software and plug-ins that are available for instant download off the web — and achieve a great sounding mix. Insights like this will certainly light a fire under your ass.
Some of the tutorials go into specifics about gear or mix placements, but I found myself gravitating to the more conceptual offerings from these storied engineers and producers. It's in many ways what I have always loved about Tape Op; for me, the tales and experiences are where the real knowledge comes through, and I can pull from them what is useful to me. Also, strategies like tuning the room, choice of instrument for the task, and minor adjustments — all with the end goal of making the drums sound better in the room — are great examples of tips and suggestions to consider, even before you walk into the control room.
One of the first segments I watched was Michael Brauer discussing his "Brauerize" compression technique. He talks about the process as well as the path that led him to this technique — and again, I found his narrative to be far more interesting than a demonstration of the settings on a processor would have been. He shares just enough with his viewers so they can go off and experiment with their own tools, using his theories as a jump-off point.
Similarly, I appreciated that, in the Joe Chicarelli tutorials, he walks you through his use of EQ and compression to give the kick some extra this and the snare a little that, without getting into the nitty-gritty of "+2 dB at 3.5 kHz" or the like. He leaves some room for you to listen with your own ears and find your own path — with a touch of his guidance.
I have always thought that anyone actually "cutting and pasting" someone else's settings for EQ or compression is a bit misguided. Each situation is different, and there's always more than one way to achieve a great result. In the case of MWTM, the viewers are asked to listen, think, and consequently, make their own evaluations of their own music or projects. That's not to say that straightforward advice is missing from these videos. For example, committing three snare mics to one channel, and similarly themed decision-making to eliminate option fatigue and save time at mixdown, are fantastic reminders to get it right from the start and be smart about your choices.
For the same reason I liked watching the Classic Albums documentary series for insight on the thought process of making a great record, I enjoyed firing up an episode (or five) of MWTM in the evenings, after the family was all tucked in. Although, in contrast to the high-level overview approach of Classic Albums, MWTM gets much more inside the nuances of record-making, hitting it from an engineering and production perspective, instead of from an artist or audience angle. In that way, MWTM is a deep dive into techniques, ideas, and audio geekdom. Also, MWTM's collection of videos is carved up into bite-sized, readily digestible segments. Even if you only have 20 minutes to spare at a time, you'll find meaningful content to watch. The videos are photographed and recorded well, and if you listen on decent monitors or headphones, you will actually hear the changes being made when EQ, dynamics, and other effects settings are tweaked during the tutorials.
Ultimately for me, it's all about the approach. No one person approaches the same challenge in exactly the same way, yet their individual paths get them where they want to be. This is the ethos behind MWTM that comes through clearly and makes these tutorials so valuable and inspirational to me. Granted, you shouldn't expect that watching a video of Sylvia Massy is going to make your mixes sound like hers. I still can't paint like Bob Ross, but I sure do enjoy watching him do his thing, and it's always enlightening. The same holds true here — only we're all painting with sound. (I know I've used the Bob Ross example in the past, but it's just so damn good I couldn't refuse.)
There is no chance I could have gotten through all of the MWTM material during my review period, but what I did sample as I jumped around was consistently high in quality and informational value. The content covers a wide variety of genres and styles of music, so there is certainly something here for most everyone. Whether you are just cutting your teeth, or you've been at it for years, Mix With The Masters is a great sharing of ideas and techniques — all in one place — and is a serious deal for such a wealth of great content. And, if you still need additional inspiration, you can watch full episodes of Joy of Painting with Bob Ross on YouTube.