It's never been easier to learn how to mix, there's an almost limitless supply on the internet, as well as our own mix tutorials we have friends like PureMix, Groove 3, Dave Pensado, Graham Cochrane and Greg Wurth offering some excellent resources.
However one thing that troubles me and is highlighted when I'm often asked to mix tracks for other people and that is the same attention is not being given to arrangement. This can often leave you in the position of having to mix a poorly arranged track, which means in many cases trying to 'fix it in the mix.'
Perhaps as a writer and composer I'm more sensitive to the craft of song arrangement, I'm also a fan of artists like Frank Sinatra, just take a while to listen to the arrangements of Nelson Riddle, putting entire orchestras around the voice and rather than detracting they enhance the vocal, some are simply mind-blowing. Now you might think that it's just for arty Jazz types, but even a punk anthem like God Save The Queen by the Sex Pistols benefits from good arrangement, just take a listen to the way the vocal and guitar dance around one another in the verses.
I may also be sensitive to it because I've spent a large part of my career playing live with a band. You soon learn that if you don't learn to arrange songs live then you have a cacophony of instruments fighting for air-space and a live mix engineer pulling their hair out.
Good song arrangements do several things;
- They give the song shape
- They help to delineate the different parts of the song, intro, verse, chorus etc.
- They give the vocals space in the mix
- They reduce listening boredom
For me learning to mix without understanding the vital role of arrangement is like trying to learn how to paint a wall without knowing how to brick lay.
I just put this comment out on my Facebook feed the other day "It's about time we started teaching people to arrange songs rather than trying to fix them in the mix." and was surprised by the response I got, some from respected mixers and producers, here are some of the comments;
"When I was in bands, back in the day, we used to have these things called rehearsals that were quite handy."
"Amen to that! Arrangement is crucial to any song. It's interesting that the arrangement process is overlooked in the approach to creating songs and many wonder why there's something missing in music nowadays."
And this one made me chuckle, although for a mixer handed a badly arranged song it can sometimes be the only option;
"When all else fails, good thing there's a mute button"
So, seeing how much of a response I'd got from my peer group I wondered if others had the same concern? Discuss.