The Magic Trick

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A common idea that gets tossed around in regards to mixing is you should be able to hear everything, but I’m not so sure I actually agree with this. On the surface this seems like the right thing to do, but how practical is it in reality?

You have to consider the fact that the ear can process only three things at once. When you get to the fourth thing, the attention drops away somewhere.
Jack Joseph Puig (John Mayer, Lady Gaga, Keith Urban)

So, if the ear can only process three things at once, how is someone supposed to hear all 24, 48, 72, 135 inputs at once? Even if we start subbing things down to vocals, drums, keyboards, guitars, strings, banjos, etc., we’re still going to be well over three things in a full band scenario. So what’s the deal? How do we make sense of everything that’s showing up on our console? Does it even all matter?

These are important things to think about and a big part of what we discuss when I’m doing on-site audio training. Personally, I approach every mix, whether it’s on stage or in the studio, with the assumption that if it’s showing up on my console there’s a reason for it. It’s part of my job as a mixer, though, to balance it all together.

So, to me, the real trick in mixing isn’t putting together a mix so somebody can hear everything. The real magic trick is creating a mix where listeners can hear everything they’re supposed to hear at a given point in the music. It’s about finding those three things Jack Joseph Puig is talking about and directing attention to them while keeping everything else balanced. That means mixing isn’t just about how we make everything sound, it’s also about what things are DOING within the music.

If you’d like to learn more about how you and your team can improve at this this, I’m starting to book on-site audio training for 2020. A popular trend I’ve seen the last couple of years is for churches to split training costs between two budget seasons. If you’d like to find out more about how you can split training in 2020 across your 2019 and 2020 budgets, I’d love to connect. Contact me through my website or click here to schedule a time when we can chat.

David Stagl

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