Which came first — the chicken or the egg?

I’ll see your question and raise you a question.

Which came first — the mix engineer or the tracks?

At first glance, you might say, “Well duh, Joe. You can’t mix if you don’t have tracks.”

And to that I say…EXACTLY.

Imagine with me for a moment…

There’s an aspiring musician named Billy. Billy LOVES music, and he recently discovered the world of home recording.

He’s ecstatic.

He quickly acquired a couple mics, an audio interface, and recording software. He’s hooked. He records anything and everything he can. He can’t believe how much fun he’s having. (And his tracks don’t sound half bad, either.)

Billy knows lots of musicians. Most of them have no desire to learn how to record music. They would rather just play music and have somebody else handle all the recording stuff. Billy realizes that there might be a cool opportunity here. He loves to record music (almost as much as he loves playing music). He could record his friends’ music for him…and they might even PAY him to do it!


He loves recording, and he’s gotten plenty of practice there, but he really struggles with mixing. He’s only ever mixed his own songs, and he’s never been very happy with them. Billy’s really good at setting up microphones and making sure his recordings sound great, but when it comes to mixing, he’s a bit lost.

He’s entered the “twilight zone.” He’s experience the classic Catch-22 we all experience as mixers.

How do I get better at mixing when I don’t have any tracks to mix?

Or worded another way:

Why would anyone hire me to mix their song if I don’t have any examples of my work to share with them?

Not having a portfolio of songs to share with his potential clients, Billy struggles to convince anyone to let him work on their songs. Ironically, getting the chance to mix a few clients’ material would help him build his portfolio, which would help him get more clients.

Classic Catch-22.

The solution? I’ve got three:

1. Work like crazy on your own music.

If you’re a musician, this should be a no-brainer. Record as much material as possible, and make sure you’re finishing mixes on every song.

Pro: Lots of material and no pressure from clients.
Con: If you can’t record things like drums in your home studio, you won’t get any experience mixing drums, making it hard to attract full-band clients. 

2. Convince ’em to “hire” you for free.

This may be more difficult than you think, but try to find clients who are looking to have songs recorded and are willing to let you “learn” on their mixes for free.

Pro: You get experience. They get free mixes.
Con: You’re on your own with no guidance. And the clients could end up with a mix they don’t like and don’t want to share with anyone.

3. Become a Dueling Mixes member. 

So I know I’m biased, but Dueling Mixes is a really cool idea. You get a new song to mix every month, accompanied by tutorial videos from both me and Graham, showing you how we each mixed the song ourselves.

Pro: You get experience AND guidance, plus one new song each month to add to your portfolio.
Con: It’s not free. (But few things in life that are worth doing ARE free, right?)

To check it out for yourself, fire up your DAW and click here to get access to this month’s song: