You'll see a lot of people claiming to help you 'Mix Like A Pro' or 'Record Like A Pro' I'm often tempted to put out this meme...
Mix Like A Pro In 3 Steps...
- Get A Track To Mix
- Mix It
- Get Paid
Of course I can imagine some people reading this and saying 'well being a pro is not just about being paid...' you know you're completely right. It's not just about being paid it's also about achieving a certain skill level. It goes without saying that in order to make a living out of any skill you need to be good at it, in fact you need to be the best you can be and hopefully better than most people who do the same thing.
So let me put it another way, if you want to make a living out of this then you're going to have to work to (often exacting) specifications, deliver on time and on budget.
Let's start with the creative part - I wear a number of hats in my creative world, some is creating video content, some is writing music and songs. I'm often presented with no brief from a client who needs me to come up with an idea, or my publisher will send me an email with a song needed for an artist. Most cases it's the dreaded blank sheet of paper moment - it scares the sh*t out of even the most seasoned pro.
At that point you hope for inspiration and then work very hard to come up with an idea. Rarely do I get a visitation from an angel telling me what to do, most of the time I get as much info as I can about the project. artist etc and then have to simply sit down and come up with an idea. As someone once said it's 1% inspiration 99% perspiration. Then of course the person you are working for has to like your idea, if not then it's back to the drawing board having spent a day creating an idea that's in the trash... however wonderful you thought it was. One small tip though, I never actually 'trash' an idea I often save it for someone else in case they like it.
Making It Happen
Then there's the production part where I'd love to have hours, weeks and months to explore loops, sound libraries, new synths, new gear, new musicians, but the reality is I have to reach for the things I know deliver. Trying the new stuff out has to wait for my down time, which incidentally is earmarked for me to watch tutorial videos, read manuals or take advice from colleagues and friends.
Delivering The Goods
The word 'final' is a nebulous term which most professionals I know avoid - we tend to simply stick to version numbers of deliverables. Why? Because an amend or change can occur any time in a project, definitely several times before the deadline, sometimes on the day and probably after the event to when the client needs a reversion of the mix.
Where's The Craft?
You might have read this far and thought that this all sounds very slap-dash, if I've given that impression then I'm sorry. There is a lot of craft involved in the entire process but craftsmanship that depends on a lot of processes, tools and people I know deliver and will give me, and ultimately the person I'm working for, something they will not only be satisfied with, but hopefully delighted. You don't get happy clients by delivering mediocre work and you certainly only keep them by delivering great work on time and on budget. You may have seen the meme of the triangle that has the words quality/speed/cost in three corners with the line underneath 'choose 2' - it's something a professional wishes for but in reality the client wants all 3! The good news is that the better you are the more power you have to negotiate but you have to have a proven track record first - by being on spec, on time and on budget!
'Like A Pro'
If I wait for inspiration to take hold of me then I'm dead in the water, or take one of the many post professionals on the Pro Tools Expert team, the mix is finished by the deadline - no excuses - the TV show is going to air.
I wouldn't swap this life for the world, I know many of my friends would say the same thing.
However the reality is that it's damned hard work that seldom entertains the notions of the 'I'm waiting for inspiration; or 'a mix is never finished' kind of lines.