Code of Ethics: Creating High Quality Mixes


Gabriel Maybank || Published March 22, 2016

Yes, it’s true; I used to mix music in a small room on a little HP desktop using Cool Edit Pro aka Adobe Audition. Got to start somewhere right! Transitioning from one DAW to the next was a breeze because my mixing ethics remained the same. Each engineer should carry a mental code of order, ethics, and professionalism that applies to every session no matter who you mix or what you are mixing. That being said, organization is everything when it comes to mixing. Why you do what you do as a mixing engineer is how you create your own sonic stamp in a world full of sounds.

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The one thing positive I can say about using Pro Tools or any other updated DAW is how easy it is to organize your work. I use the same color code sequence for each session. It pays to be OCD in this aspect. Watch how this translates into how you handle people and sessions. You can have the best equipment and sound, but if you are no good at keeping things together and in order, not many people will want to work with you. I see it all the time. Sloppy sessions and lost files turning quality work into basically nothing but a huge mess. You have to decide how you mix best and which approach towards mixing works best for you. First things first, you need to have a vision.


Different Approaches to Mixing

Serial Approach
The serial approach is grouping like elements or instruments together and mixing them and then moving from section to section. You have to decide as the engineer what are the most important elements and mix those first and build everything else around it. This will vary greatly depending on what you are mixing.

Rhythm-Harmony-Melody Approach
Rhythm section includes drums, percussion, and bass. Harmonic section includes, guitars, keyboards, synths, pads, or organ. Melody section includes vocals or any solo instruments. Build from one section to the next. This can be your general approach to any session.

Parallel Approach
For the parallel approach, you would bring up all the faders evenly and adjust the parts until you’ve tuned the overall sound. This approach works when dealing with minimal tracks, so if you were mixing a large orchestra this would not be practical. I think this is a good approach to start with when going from coarse-to-fine mixing. You could mix each section of the song and automate which instruments will be more audible during that section. Then, move to either a serial or R-H-M approach and give each instrument its color and tone that accents how it fills that space during that part.

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When dealing with approaches it is important to factor in artist and producer direction above anything. I would hate for you to do hours upon hours of work heading in the wrong direction.

“I expected the Rocky Mountains to be a little rockier than this!”
Harry – Dumb and Dumber

Master this process and you can expect constant high quality results in every session.