I care about music, I care about sound, and I care about the people involved in both. I want people to make music, to have it sound great, and for them not to be frustrated in the process.
I’m not the world’s leading authority on recording, mixing, mastering and/or audio in general. There are well-known people who rightly command a great deal of respect in these fields, the real ‘Big Names’. I’m not one of those. What I am is a bog-standard, day-to-day, slightly nerdy and generally unremarkable mastering engineer. I don’t do anything else; I listen to music all day – often many genres in one day – and am asked and expected to make it sound good. That’s all I do. I take the ‘finished’ product presented to me, remove the metaphorical inverted commas, and capitalise the ‘F’. When something leaves my studio, it is Finished. People entrust me with that responsibility and it is something that I not only take very seriously, but enjoy and care passionately about.
In the course of my work, in the emails I get on a daily basis, and in the discourse I have with people on the internet, I get to hear, or hear about, all sorts of weird stuff that people do with their audio. After several years of writing the same things in a multitude of different ways, it occurred to me that it might be an idea to compile it all into some sort of cohesive form. So here we are.
You can read this blog as a rant, as a prod at people’s ‘silly’ questions, or as a bunch of recommendations. While it’s all of those things, it’s not really any of those things. It’s mainly intended to help cut through the endless layers of confusion, nonsense and conflicting advice that abounds on the internet. It’s certainly an attempt to help reduce the frustration expressed to me by artists/producers/engineers, who wonder why things don’t sound right when they follow the advice they’ve read on whatever website. And if I’m perfectly honest, it’s a bit of a personal whinge about the processing-centric and visually-fixated approach to music fostered by the internet.
What this is not, is a technical manual on ‘how to mix’, or ‘how to make music’. Hopefully when you read this, you’ll see that I prefer a principle-based approach rather than specific directions, or even ‘approximate specifics’. Every sound, every song, every mix and every person is different. To recommend specific numbers/values/settings for something or someone is folly; rather, a principle-based approach will lead to the ability to work out specifics according to the specific circumstances. ‘Teach a man to fish’ and all that. It’s in that spirit that this blog is written.
To put it all another way, this blog aims to get people thinking about why they’re doing what they’re doing. There are thousands of technical tutorials online, mostly technique-oriented and case-specific. This blog aims to help you know whether you need to use those techniques or not, and make your music sound better for it.
DON’T EXPECT: Lots of numbers, lots of graphs, detailed physics, swathes of scientific tests, etc
EXPECT: Anecdotal evidence, food-related and other odd analogies, quasi-philosophical wafflings, apocryphal tales