Got an email last week from a subscriber who was looking for some sort of “cheat sheet” for mixing.

He wanted a list of settings for every instrument, exactly which frequencies to boost and cut with EQ and exactly which compressor settings to use.

He said he has scoured the internet, watching video after video about mixing, but they all had conflicting information. “Some people say to use a 10 ms attack when compressing guitars, others say 50 ms,” he wrote.

I understand his frustration. He’s just starting out and wants a shortcut to getting great-sounding mixes.

Here’s reality:


Yes, there are some things I do over and over when I mix particular instruments, but every single time I listen to the track and let it guide my decisions. I never mix the same way twice.

Let’s shift gears for a second. Let’s say you’re learning to play guitar for the first time. Would you ask your instructor for a cheat sheet of the best way to play a solo every time? Or which 3 chords you can learn to be able to play any song?

I wouldn’t want to listen to that guitarist, and neither would you.

Getting better at recording and mixing (just like playing guitar) involves two things — information and practice.

First you need to know what an E chord is, then you need to practice playing that E chord (and eventually all the different ways you can play that E chord).

With mixing, it’s the same thing. You pick up little bits of advice here and there (information), and then you take it back to your studio and apply it on a song you’re working on (practice).

Then YOU decide what works, what doesn’t, and what needs more practice.

The elusive cheat sheet doesn’t exist. And if I were to write one up for you, it would be a disservice to you.

I can teach you how to use the tools.

I can give you material to use for practice.

But I can’t do the work for ya.

That’s on you, hombre.

If you’re ready to put in the work and get better, sign up for Dueling Mixes here:

Joe Gilder
Home Studio Corner