I took a break from blogging for a few days to try to think of something funny to say, some wisdom to impart, or a delicious recipe to share.

Still thinking.

I’ve been working on mixing two songs that are both well on their way to being finished. I mentioned before that there is some certain software I need before I can finalize the recording process but I can still mix in the meantime.

Mixing is hard.

My monitors are Mackie HR824s. (Good grief! Those suckers used to be almost $700 a piece when I bought them.) These are studio reference monitors. That means they are extremely accurate at reproducing exactly what is recorded. They don’t make the music sound better or worse, they only make it sound like exactly what it sounds like. That’s what you want in a studio.

When I mix, I make every effort to make the music sound great on my monitors. If you could hear my two latest songs sitting in the seat I’m sitting in right now you would be very impressed with how sweet they sound.

Whenever I get the mixes where I want them I then burn a CD and listen to them through my stereo upstairs and in both cars. Then I usually decide that the mix sounds like total garbage everywhere but on my Mackies. Then I go back and turn this thing up a little, that thing down a little, a little brighter on that thing, a little darker on that thing and then – Voila! It’s still garbage. But now the guitar is just a little louder on top of the garbage.

This happens with every song. Every time. It’s been going on for years.

I know how the great mix engineers make their mixes sound so great. At least I know a good deal about how it’s done. But even after all these years I still haven’t resigned myself to idea that I need to make my mixes sound like rubbish on my reference monitors for them to sound great in your car. Not just any old rubbish of course. There is a very specific kind of rubbish that smells like freshly cut grass if you’ll just take the time get it there.

Bob Clearmountain and Jack Joseph Puig are two very famous producers/mix engineers. Whenever I listen to their mixes on my reference monitors I am always astonished at how tiny and harsh they sound. The snare sounds like tin foil. The kick drum sounds like…uhhh tin foil. The vocals sound like a dentist’s drill wrapped in tin foil and drenched in reverb. And the guitars sound like chainsaws. But then you pop the CD in you car, or your iPod, or your computer and they sound like butter. Big fat transparent velvety butter.

The reason this works is because your car stereo (if you’ve got even a half way decent stock stereo) is going to emphasize all the stuff the mix is apparently missing. Your car (or home) stereo boosts the low end and boosts the sizzle on top so all of a sudden that puny kick drum sounds like a cannon and the lead singers voice now sounds like a summer breeze.

Then when you listen to it on your little iPod headphones it sounds great because the mix is already squashed into a smaller frequency range that roughly matches the limited frequency response of the ear buds so you can’t tell that there’s really anything missing.

You would think that since these truths are so evident to me that I would (at least in theory) be able to approach mixing the way the pros do. But I can’t. But I’m gonna. Starting tomorrow. Maybe.

So for now let me recommend that you buy your own set of Mackies and just dedicate them to my music and my music only. Hey, they’re a steal at $1,000.00 a pair these days. And then starting with my next song I’ll try to make sure my mixes sound equally as good to you as they do to me.