3 Creative Ways to Inspire Better Mixing

I’ve found that with new shows on the horizon again, my studio has become much more busy out of the blue. This of course is great, but it in turn brings the issue that mixes can become stagnant and lose their excitement the more you do the same mix over and over.

I found that in my earlier years, I was always trying to essentially achieve the same mix, just in an expanded and more exciting manner, and for a time I lost a little bit of love for doing it - until I started trying to find new creative ways to challenge myself and broaden my mixes so each one still had ‘my sound’ but each with their own unique character.

Let's dive in.

New Tools for new sounds

I’ve often found myself reaching for the same tools over and over, utilising them in the same way or in new ways to try and bring to life the sound I have in my head. This is great to not only learn more about how to use what you already have in new and exciting ways, such as a stereo compressor in dual mono mode for example to achieve a new sound.

But there’s always only so many new tricks you can learn from one piece of equipment and so finding a totally new avenue to walk down will broaden your horizons a little more.

Recently I’ve been using the new BB29 mic on my vocal sessions and acoustic guitar sessions and it’s worked stupendously to my advantage to bring music to life in the same way I always have, but with a slightly new variant of ‘my sound’ which has allowed me to in turn keep the services I offer to clients ever evolving.

Another new tool has been the new Pigments 3 from Arturia that was kindly gifted and since then, I’ve been using the new modes, oscillator types and noise generation as well as the incredible step sequencer to bring to life sounds I did even know were possible.

The point is, none of this would have been possible if I wasn’t comfortable with venturing outside of what I already know; so make sure you invest some time into learning new tools you think will help you build upon what you have already learned.

Go Against the Fold

Doing a repetitive task can make work tedious and invariably build stress and in turn feel like the work is forced, which is the opposite of what this job requires! A creative mindset and enjoyable atmosphere gets good takes from the band, and in turn, makes your job much easier!

A way to keep things fresh for yourself if you’ve been doing this a while is to make sure you’re always learning new things, and then putting them into practice and trying them on the fly; a good example would be the 7 Stereo Mic’ing techniques I wrote about recently in the new eBook for JZ which houses a plethora of ways you can switch up your typical go to techniques to broaden your sound palette and force you out of your comfort zone.

Another good way would be to bring something else special to the mix if you’re struggling to keep mixing fresh. I always approach every mix as never being the same as the last, but there’s always a selection of things that I’ll often treat the same.

I’ve been trying to break the habit of always cutting 500-700hz in Tom mic’s for example in drum recordings using a console plugin like the API 50 Channel strip from Plugin Alliance. Instead, I’ve been learning new ways to use a Pultec type EQ to achieve the same sound, or better. The reason I chose a Pultec is to force me to use my ears, but also give me less options to achieve the sound in my head, thus challenging myself to achieve more with far less options at my disposal.

Fresh Sounds with Fresh Ears

Over the years, my music taste has developed but not necessarily changed. However, I’ve found that the more I’ve listened to varied music genres, the more I’ve seen my mixes and recordings improve. Familiarising yourself on a regular basis with new expanded sounds other than the perhaps singular remit of work you typically stick to, say for example Metal, can have a profound impact on widening your scope of vision and how you approach the next session.

One of my favourite composers, Ólafur Arnalds, is a perfect example of this in my case. I’ve always enjoyed the way orchestral elements can blend so well with almost any genre of music. But the way he utilises these orchestral instruments is what is so special; everything from detache bow, to purposely including harmonics and squeaks from brittle instruments such as violin or viola, to envelop a new level of emotiveness never ceases to astound me each time I listen to a new piece of music from his beautiful mind.

Thankfully, Spitfire Audio has a selection of libraries built for use in Kontakt using incredible players, instruments, and studios around the world for us to bring a little of him to our mixes.

The same can be for so many amazing libraries, but making a concerted effort to experiment and always keep on the lookout for new exciting music - as well as more importantly, being open to listen to new things and new genres, will in turn only inspire you to naturally approach the next sessions in a new light rather than it ever feeling forced.

As always we always want to hear your sessions, so make sure you send us examples of your latest works - especially if you took advantage of our summer sale and you picked up one (or more) of our mics!