Mixing EDM: Mix Engineer’s Perspective

Originally posted by Pro Audio Files
http://theproaudiofiles.com/mixing-edm-the-mix-engineers-perspective/

Mixing EDM: Mix Engineer’s Perspective

This will be a two-part article on some of the challenges of mixing EDM. First from the mix engineer’s perspective, then from the producer’s perspective. It will also include solutions for both sides.

Challenge 1: Mixing is part of the vision

In most genres, one of the best parts about bringing someone like myself on to mix a record is that I have fresh perspective on the recording.

I can bring out new things in an arrangement and create a depth to the listening experience that wasn’t there before.

In EDM, while I can certainly still do this, there is an increased risk of stepping on the producer’s intentions.

If an element is aggressively bright in a rock tune, it’s probably best for me to tame it back. If an element is aggressively bright in an EDM tune, chances are it was designed to be that way.

Solution: Communication

EDM projects require a bit more upfront and back-and-forth communication. I need to know what the client’s expectations are before I start mixing. Am I here just for technical formulation of balances and dynamics? Or is taking creative liberties warranted? And to what degree?

I also find that with EDM, communication during the mix process is crucial. If I add an 808to the arrangement, it will definitely influence the rest of the mix, so I need to know if that’s ok. Otherwise the next three or four hours of mixing might go out the window.

Challenge 2: EDM is technically very difficult

EDM producers generally spend a long time on sound selection and pre-treatment of a mix. The goal is usually to have the loudest, widest, tallest, punchiest, full, yet open mix — and push that to the extreme.

A strong producer will get 85% of the way there just with arrangement and sound selection. But that last 15% is excruciatingly difficult.

Solution: Experience

Well, I didn’t put out that tutorial for nothin’!

There’s no way around it. Constant practice with a focus on “technical” mixing is key.

If you’ve never mixed an EDM record before, go online, download some multitracks and do it.

Challenge 3: EDM breaks “good” sonic rules — a lot

A lot of EDM is squashed, harsh, overhyped, and often times breaking up against the speakers. These are things that we as mix engineers learn to avoid.

EDM casts a lot of these rules aside. The sonics are sometimes indulgent in the same way that adding too much sugar to your coffee is indulgent.

Solution: Piss off your colleagues!

At first, this disregard for “good sonics” seems like a major problem. But in truth, it can be very liberating.

It simply requires shifting your perspective on what makes something “good.”

As a rule of thumb, I think to myself: how would a bunch of mixing engineers react to this sound? If the answer is: they’d love it, I’m definitely playing it too safe. If the answer is: half of them would call me a hack and criticize the daylight out of it, then I’m probably doing it right.

Challenge 4: EDM is supremely aware of itself

EDM producers are very active with current trends. That doesn’t mean that producers are necessarily following the trends, just that they tend to be hyperaware of said trends.

The aesthetic of EDM throughout all the multitudinous sub-genres is constantly morphing — reacting to what came out last week while formulating what will come in the following week.

Solution: Pull very recent references

Before putting yourself out there as someone who “mixes EDM,” take care to understand that EDM is a very wide umbrella.

There are many many sub-genres, some of which don’t even really come across as “dance” music.

There are slight stylistic differences between genres like French House and Dutch House. There are major stylistic differences between Chiptune and Liquid Funk. And then there’s crossover genres like Chip Step. Know what you’re getting into and reference the shit out of what’s come out recently before embarking on this quest!

These are just the most glaring challenges when mixing EDM as a hired hand.