4 Things You Should Consider Before Hiring a Mixing Engineer
So you're considering hiring a mixing engineer. But what do you need to get right to get the most out of your investment?
Making records is like any other pursuit: you’ll get out what you put in. However, from my experience producing a great record doesn’t have to be costly, difficult or stressful.
In order to save you some time and energy that you could be putting into your music, here’s 4 things you should consider before hiring a mixing engineer. Keep these in mind and you shall be on your way to an amazing album and even better mixes!
Consider Your Instrumentation Before You Record
The instrumentation you choose is crucial in how your record ends up tonally.
Every genre has its staples of instruments. As a result, mixing in some left-field choices can really help you to stand out. It will also help to inspire your mixing engineer and get the best input and ideas from them.
Here’s a few great examples of original instrumentation for you to listen to:
When planning your song parts, have you considered whether they would sound better on another instrument? Most Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) come with a suite of MIDI instruments, so don’t be afraid to try some out!
When hiring your mixing engineer, look for someone who can help you try different instruments and get creative. It's all about what serves the song the most!
Try to think of the arrangement of your song as the landscape of a painting and the harmonic/lyrical content as the focal point.
The harmonic and lyrical content is fundamental for conveying the core message of your song, but the arrangement will set the scene and frame your message. Both aspects should serve and enhance each other.
As a mixing engineer, the best projects to work on are songs that have been meticulously thought out beforehand and follow a natural structure and flow. This doesn’t mean it has to be tepid, monotonous or generic to be easy to mix: it just has to make sense, whatever you’re doing.
Getting your arrangement right can make all the difference for identifying areas you want to impact your audience the most and when!
Here are two examples: one is a simple arrangement, whereas the other is more complex. If you can make a complicated song arrangement sound simple, you’re well on your way to a great song!
· Vola - Smartfriend: musical complexity wrapped up in a simple song arrangement, making it accessible to a wider audience.
· Thank You Scientist - Blood on the Radio: complex in both time signatures and arrangement, yet still listenable, catchy, and accessible.
It’s All About Connecting Sections
The sections of your song don’t have to be a simple drum fill or a ‘filler’ guitar riff. If they’re done correctly they can elevate a song and add incredible impact.
When song writing, it’s hard to think outside of being ‘only’ a guitarist. In my experience as a guitarist, there is an overwhelming tendency to write guitar parts through the entirety of the song. Do some experimenting with reverb, delays, or MIDI instruments as textures to connect sections. Not everything will work but you may uncover something really unique in the process.
Alternatively, ask some musicians who play different genres for their input on what they would do, a fresh perspective can change everything!
For some really experimental ideas, listen to film trailers without looking at the screen and write down everything you hear. Try and replicate those sounds within your recording software and see what takes you closer to your goal.
If a section change isn’t particularly strong, your mixing engineer will be likely to suggest getting creative on behalf of the band and try some things out to see if it increases the vibe of the song. I’m always looking to add as much tension and release as possible, no matter the genre, and i love getting creative if the band allows me to.
Linking your sections creatively is a subtle and effective way to keep momentum building whilst retaining your audience's attention. It’s all about what serves your song the most.
If you’re planning on running a backing track live the sky’s the limit, so get creative! And, more importantly, hire an experienced mixing engineer to get the best out of it. Check out these different approaches to linking sections:
· Mostro - Mob: Mostro gave me a hand full of riffs and drum MIDI to work with. I flexed my creative muscles and came up with some really wild textures throughout with the aim of maximum movement and progression for the song (most notably the distorted screaming, reverse cymbals and cinematic drums).
· The Contortionist - Language (Rediscovered): Subtle textural changes and interwoven harmonic content seamlessly join the sections.
So Should You Record Yourself or Hire a Recording Engineer?
You have to ask yourself, what’s your desire? Are you making songs so your friends say ‘well done, you did it on your own’? Or are you looking to break through onto Spotify playlists, grow your fanbase and have something to be proud of for years to come?
The reason why a recording engineer exists is to get the best results out of your talent, whilst you focus solely on your creativity. For bands that invest in their music, hiring a recording engineer is a no-brainer. These artists see the value a dedicated professional will bring to their music.
I’m a big believer in outsourcing for anything that takes away creative energy.
Put it this way, you could do your own taxes if you’re self-employed, right? But you don't, as it’s a damn sight easier to hire an accountant for a quicker, better, stress free tax return. Not to mention you know they’ll get it right for you.
I’ll often outsource for website tweaks, vocal editing, drum editing and more, to dedicated and reliable experts, so don’t be afraid of hiring a professional at any stage of the process!
With that said, a lot of bands are going the DIY route to recording, most commonly due to budget constraints (and notably the effect Coronavirus is having at the moment). However, there are other benefits to this approach, such as recording in the comfort of your own home and the ability to track a part as many times as you wish without any financial constraints.
Crucially though, wearing the musician and producer hats at the same time will be way more fatiguing, and is the main reason why I haven’t finished any of my own music in years. Provided you and your band can stay objective and quality control your recordings this is a very attractive option.
The key takeaway would be this: 9/10 times hiring a recording engineer or mixing engineer will provide an expert’s ear, professional gear, and the ability to get the best out of you.
Why would you say no to that?