Are you completely happy with all of your mixes and see no reason to attempt to learn more or get better at this craft? Then read no more — you might not need this book.
Foreword: I’ve been getting a lot of mix work lately. I guess it’s a combination of finally owning a decent analog console and the likelihood that people are discovering that learning how to mix on their own and mixing in the box are both very difficult. I’ve got almost 25 years of experience sitting at a console and trying to make a mix work, beginning as a musician and band liaison. I’m digging the mixing work — taking something rough and turning it around (while making the client happy) gives me a nice sense of accomplishment. Mixerman, whose identity is a much less veiled secret than when we talked to him in Tape Op #34, mixes albums for the likes of Ben Harper, Guster, and others. With Zen and the Art of Mixing, he runs through what one needs to know in order to successfully mix songs and albums.
I started reading this book thinking I would learn something. The main thing I learned is that I already knew all this stuff — either innately or overtly I had been working with most all of the same thoughts, practices, and techniques in place. Is that disappointing? Not at all. It was highly reassuring that someone with a decent track record works and thinks in a similar way and that I wasn’t out in left field with some stupid loose concepts that somehow accidentally worked at times. But I learned a majority of this stuff the hard way on my own, or though working with others more advanced than myself (hello Baccigaluppi and Goodmanson).
Mixerman covers many subjects within the concept of mixing music. Learning to let the tracks determine what the mix should be. Understanding panning, frequency, contrast, balance, and depth. Grasping phase coherency — my first concern and something I hear problems with in many “finished” albums. Arrangement and muting parts (yes!) comes up a lot. Gear is even discussed, and though Mixerman is understandably loathe to specify what gear to buy, in most cases he makes great points about how to find what works for you and what to avoid. Dealing with clients, perhaps your most important skill, and following up on mastering get run-throughs near the end. In all, a lot of important material gets discussed in a logical flow and in practical, real-life ways.
This book is ideal for someone who is unhappy with their mixes and wants to get better. It won’t cure them on first read — only experience and dedicated application will help one get better at this. But with the amount of general guidelines that Eric — oops, I mean Mixerman — sets in place and the practical “opinions” put forth, this book could certainly help someone get on the right track and give them a better understanding of the mixing process.
As Ken Scott (Tape Op #52) notes on the back cover, “Finally, a book that teaches the art of great mixing.” Yes, the art and not some stupid “mix with shapes and colors” or false claims of “buy this box and you’re set” bull. This book will set you in motion, but the real work will be applying the thoughts set forth here, doing the work for real yourself, and keeping your ears open. But this is a good start — a very good start. Good luck.
($24.99; www.mixerman.net, www.halleonard.com) –LC
Geoff Emerick is a legend among engineers and producers. He was the young "balance engineer" for The Beatles on Revolver through Abbey Road, with a spell off for later White Album and Let It Be...