This past weekend was the very first Simply Recording Academy. Graham Cochrane and I got together with a bunch of home studio guys like you and tracked and mixed a band here in Nashville over two days.

It was epic.

I’ll be writing about it more, but my brain is still processing everything.

There were a lot of great moments over the weekend, but one that really stands out was on the second day. We spend the entire first day tracking a band (a really, REALLY good band called Manic Bloom — check them out, buy their music). We spent the second day mixing the song.

The moment that struck me was when we were probably over halfway through the mixing process, and Graham and I had only used the stock EQ and compressor plugins that come with Pro Tools. That’s it. We literally didn’t touch another plugin for most of the mix session.

That’s when David said it. The mix was sounding incredible. The drums were huge, the guitars were epic, the bass was punchy…everything was working really well. And David said, “But there are so many plugins we haven’t used yet!”

The studio we rented for the weekend had plenty of high-end plugins to choose from, but we intentionally didn’t use any of them. The result? The mix was sounding awesome. David and the other attendees were blown away that you could get such a great-sounding mix by only using very basic plugins.

We talked about this a lot of the weekend. Great gear is really great. But it doesn’t guarantee a great-sounding mix. So, you might ask, what DOES guarantee a great-sounding mix?

It’s simple. Record great-sounding tracks and then learn to blend them together using light EQ and compression.

For example, why did our drum tracks sound so good?

  1. Because the drums themselves sounded good.
  2. We spent at least an hour getting the right overhead sound.
  3. We used EQ to remove unnecessary frequencies in the mix.
  4. We used a little bit of compression to glue the tracks together, adding punch and attack.

You can’t have one without the other. Great mixing skills without great recordings will yield mediocre results. If you focus on great-sounding recordings (and get rid of that silly “fix-it-in-the-mix” mentality), then you’re giving yourself a HUGE advantage when it’s time to mix.

Instead of scurrying around, trying to FIX the tracks, you’re simply making subtle changes here and there to MIX the track together.

Why do you think we make it more difficult than it really is?