Engineers, mixers, and producers spend tons of time improving their craft. Whether it’s done through new plugins or reference tracks – we’re always trying to be the best at what we do.
We ask others for advice, seeking guidance from peers and mentors about how our productions are coming along. There’s a lot of inspiration and reassurance that can come from somebody you respect appreciating your work. For many of us, getting approval from an industry figure can be motivation enough to keep us going with our art, continuously improving and advancing.
But what if you didn’t need those tools? What if there was something that could improve your mixes that no reference track could ever give you? What if there was something you could do completely outside of the mix itself that could catapult your audio to new heights within your professional circle?
The Biggest Improvement Comes From Clean Work
If you’re someone that loves mixing but hates the struggle of dealing with inconsistent or unprofessional source audio, you’re going to love this one…
The best thing you can do with any mixing session you receive or any tracking session you’re about to hand off to some else is CLEANING UP THE TRACKS!
Go through your audio and find the perfect placement for everything (and I seriously mean anything). The cleaning process includes things like time alignment, where you make sure each instrument is pocketed perfectly. Go through and clean up your drums as a group (not one mic at a time). Find the sweet spot where you’ve got a groove to the kit, even if that groove is locked to the grid at 200 BPM.
Your drums will act as the foundation for the rest of your editing, providing the feel for the rest of the track. Once they’re locked in place, it’s easier to time align things like guitars and bass. Consider it “pre-mixing” if you want, but you don’t need to touch a single fader to edit your song into place.
Getting Vocals To Their Starting Point
Once your instrumental track is settled, you can always dedicate some seriously well-spent time cleaning up a vocal. Your vocal is likely going to be the highlight and feature of your song, so any effort you can make to get it right before the mix should be worthwhile. Performing tasks like coming together various takes and time aligning them is just the start. This is where you can tune your vocal without it becoming a nuisance during the mixing stage. Getting a tuned vocal here will make your mix session that much more enjoyable down the line.
If you’re really serious about getting a great vocal from the start, you might even consider applying some volume automation at this point, especially if your DAW has a trim function for later. Even without a trim – the track can be printed down and act as your starting point for the final mix.
All of this adds up to a final mix that’s about achieving a better blend and overall feel than it is about fixing problems. When you edit your audio before the mix, you account for many of the obstacles that distract mixers as they work.
An Editor Is Worth Their Weight In Gold
Have you ever noticed that “niche” producers always seem to have work? If you’re known for a vocal sound, you’re likely always going to be booked for sessions to achieve “that sound”. Look at some of the top rock, metal, and pop mixers – it’s the same thing!
Editors are a class of their own when it comes to audio work. They’re in demand almost everywhere because they can perform tasks quickly and efficiently that engineers, producers, and mixers would rather outsource than do on their own. If you’ve got the skills to edit my drum tracks into a clean, perfectly-timed performance in a couple hours when it would take me a day or more, why would I do that clean up myself?
There will always be a demand for those with clean, fast work. Do you have the skills needed?
Striving For Speed?
If you’re confident that you’ve got what it takes to be an expert audio editor but might not have the speed to keep up with your competition, we’ve got just the thing for you in the JST VIP group.
JST VIP members get access to cheat sheets and guides to achieving the perfect drum sounds, as well as tutorials on how to get the most out of them in the mix. Best of all, members get direct feedback on their sessions through my mix critiques. I’ll tell you exactly where I think your mix could use work and what I’d do to improve it in your shoes.