Zen and The Art Of Mixing

Regular readers will know I l-o-v-e-d the Daily Adventures Of Mixerman.. I really can’t recommend that enough. Well, Eric Sarafin’s written another three (soon to be four) books, on mixing, recording and mastering… so was super keen to read each of those. I’ve started with the Mixing one, just because I love mixing.


What was apparent about The Daily Adventures of…. was Eric’s writing style was so forthright: I was wondering how it would translate to a book about a relatively narrow subject (but with wide scope within it), and one with already a load of technical books out there (‘use a DBX 160 on a snare, use a 1073 on a vocal’, ‘let’s examine standing waves’.. this sorts of things) The great thing is, this book isn’t really about these technical aspects.. they are unavoidable when covering this subject, but this is a book with attitude, and, that word is key to why this book works. It’s made me look hard at how I have and do approach mixing, and raised lots of things for me to try in future mixes. It offers pragmatic advice about everything from pricing your skills to phase coherency.

Even opinions you might question are presented with such weight and with such eloquence you just think ‘well, if Eric says this is how it is, then this is how it is’.. or, at the very least, you feel better about sticking to your original thoughts because you’ve weighed up an argument

“Mixing is a game of confidence. If you’re confident, you’ll mix great. If you’re not, you won’t. Confidence in mixing is critical” I love this quote, and this is a theme that crops up a few times in the book: makes perfect sense, really.. we’re all tortured artists with senses of self doubt, but mixing is where the whole process should come together.. we should be absolutely certain we can make a kick ass mix.. its the producer’s job to have presented us with the elements…let the producer fret, not the mixer!

Anyway, whether you’re new to mixing or have been doing it for years, this book’s great: you will get technical geek stuff from it, but you’ll get a host of the thoughtful stuff we all go through : absolute gold.

As an aside, here’s Eric on Pensado’s Place : is it me, or doesn’t Herb like him?


Best book ever?

Paul from Seamus Wong recommended The Daily Adventures of Mixerman a couple of years ago… and finally got round to reading it


It’s a satire based on the recording of a big budget album in 2002: back in the days when major labels threw money at bands, rich with the money from reselling catalogue on CD. Mixerman (engineer/producer Eric Sarafin) details his sessions with Bitch Slap, a ‘bidding war band’ : not particularly much to do with the technicalities…mic choice, pre amp settings and the like, but a massive amount to do with the idiocy of major labels, and the characters surrounding a band signed for silly amounts of money with the pressure on to sell hits. Well, to sell hits, they need to record hits, and that’s where the diaries reveal such a wealth of characters anyone who’s ever worked in the music industry will recognise. The recording of these hits is painful at best: ghost bassists, session drummers, girlfriends, preening singers, astounding wastes of money…all told in such a warm way by Eric with a story that unfolds in such a great way.Very much a time capsule in some respects of how never ending budget albums were made.

Mixer man clearly knows his onions: his people skills, the way he reads a room and the band, the way he recognises the dynamics of the team and tries so hard to progress the sessions is so interesting, and, so often made me laugh out loud.

This book should be essential reading for budding producers, engineers and bands: read it, absorb it and the mistakes that were made and learn from it!

More books to read, am some way into Zen and The Art of Mixing, and that’s making me look at mixing in a different way: great perspective changer.


Simon Says Pop Up Studio 2016

Annual festival recording made me return to Demontfort Hall for the Simon Says festival last weekend.

The last two years I’ve been in the Garden Suite.. lovely vibe there.. this year, we were stuck upstairs out of the way… less vibes, but some good stuff recorded.

Usual fighting against adjacent sound stages and time, but, again, managed to capture some lovely performances with a couple of students doing lots of the work. Mixed in between sessions then finished mixing off and mastered super quick in my studio here.

I used Logic X again: I set up a template in advance with go-to reverbs and delays to make the mixing as smooth as possible… short plate, hall-verb, amp verb and 2 tape delays: slap-back and mid length delay.. along with compression and EQ that was that.

Recording was taken care of with a pair of Beta 57s: I love these.. directional and warm. There was a couple of 58s and 3 DI’s to cover every eventuality.


All this was plumbed into an Alesis USB Multimix desk : this is the 5th year I’ve used that.. been pretty rock solid bar 1 restart.

I rarely record these days… I do much more mixing out of choice.. I can get super bored in recording sessions waiting for stuff to happen… so it’s great to gorge on loads of artists over a weekend recording some magic super quickly with no hanging around!





Song Exploder

So much great stuff out there in the Wild West that is the internet.

Screen Shot 2016-05-21 at 20.58.19Song Exploder takes a song, and speaks to the writers and producers about how it was written. Super simple premise, super short in length.. a definite easy win for any song writers.

Recent highlights.. Iggy Pop ( I like him) and Wheatus (I don’t like them), but all the episodes are fascinating

Take a listen here  

Pass it on

A great example of one thing leading to another… a recent blog post was on Bobby Owsinski’s Inner Circle Podcast….and how brilliant it was/is.


Well, through this, I found out Bobby is a regular on Audionowcast: it’s been going for ten years… so I’ve been ploughing through recent episodes. The premise didn’t inspire confidence: a group of audio geeks chatting for a couple of hours… but it’s brilliant. post production You’ve got guys at the top of their game talking about anything and everything audio related.

I’ve been learning a tonne of stuff about how post production works, foley, vocal chains, mixing techniques….just a load of really useful info. Reassuringly, I’m not out of my depth. I love the tone of the show: and even though all of the people are proper, and I mean proper professionals, they’re all still finding the feet, just like us mere mortals.

Go check it out

Bobby O’s Helping hands

I teach Music Business on a Music Tech Foundation Degree.

I’ve taught business for a few years now, and I’ve taught in general for over 15 years, but my main ‘thing’ in teaching used to be teaching just Logic. Although there was and is prep for that, as I use Logic daily in my mixing, composition, mastering and writing work, I have a million or so resources on tap, so prep-time is minimal. Music Business, on the other hand suffers for a couple  of reasons:

  • Students would rather be in the studios or fannying around on Macs so you have to work harder to engage
  • You expect students to read around the subject (and they can’t blag it when they don’t in ways they might in other more practical subjects)

So, when you find resources that can help you prep hopefully engaging content for what can be perceived as a ‘dry’ subject, you tend to grab them with both hands.


I recently discovered Bobby Owsinski’s Inner Circle Podcast , and what an amazing resource it is! Bobby Owsinski’s had a long career in the business, not least as an author of some pretty key texts . What is so important to the podcasts, though, is the massive list of brilliant industry players he interviews weekly. What I really love, though, is Bobby’s tone and lines of questioning: the questions are always thoughtful and the answers are broken down into evaluative chunks: so for students trying to make sense of the world of music business, this is vital.

Go check out this ace resource: with over a hundred interviews and counting, there’s something for all of you!

Incidentally… for a different Bobby O take a listen to this: