Over the years I’ve heard a LOT of mixing advice: how to get huge drums, how to get vocals to cut through the mix, how to make the bass shake so loud that small children fall over as they walk in front of the subs. It’s all great, but it’s not the best. The best, is a quote from the radio personality Ira Glass who’s known for hosting NPR’s “This American Life”.
Here’s what he said:
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”
Did you catch that? It’s absolute gold for anyone who works in any kind of creative field, especially in audio production.
“For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good”
What a relief! Your mixes SHOULDN’T be great right away! It would be weird if they were!
But check out what else he says:
“But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer.”
That’s huge. You got into this because you love great sound! You love hearing music move people and you’ve seen what God can do through music. That’s what you’ve got going for you, and that’s what you’ve had going for you since before you even stepped up to the mixing board.
When you serve in a creative capacity, it’s that drive to have the work you're doing (in this case your mixes you make) match up with your taste (the mixes you love) that can be the most frustrating. Like Ira Glass said: “your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit”.
But the good news is that you’re not alone! Glass goes on to say: “We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work.”
So right there, Glass gives the formula for success: DO A LOT OF WORK.
It seems so obvious, but it’s so true. The more mixes you do, the better you get. Your work catches up with your taste. Like Glass says, it can be one of the most frustrating things, but the good news is you’re not alone in the struggle!
So today, I’d like to encourage you: don’t give up! Even if you feel like you just mixed your worst Sunday ever, don’t give up. Even the fact that you’re not happy with the sounds you're getting lets you know that your taste is on the right track. It just takes a little more work to get your work to catch up with your taste.
Last, one of the biggest things that has helped me on my journey as a sound engineer has been getting to learn from other people who had figured out more than me. I was very lucky to get to learn from some of the best sound engineers and the impact they’ve had on my life and on my mixes has been tremendous.
But, I also know that not everyone is that lucky. That’s why we’ve created Mix-U.
In the coming months, we’ll be releasing training material on a regular basis that will help you reach the next level in your mixes. You’ll still have to put in the work, but you’ll be learning the tricks and tips to put in work more effectively.
The first thing we’ve released is a huge package of presets and show profiles for the Behringer X-32 mixing console. We’ve spent a TON of time getting these profiles to be plug and play ready for Sunday, and you’ll instantly notice a difference in your mixes.
Thanks so much for checking out Mix-U, we’ll be updating you on some more really great things soon!
-Worship Sound Guy