You listen to your favorite artist and think: “Damn, why it sounds so big?”
If you ever dig deeper into recording, mixing and production budget for major artists, you know what I’m talking about. For example, top-end mix for one song costs around $5,000 and this is not the most expensive part in the whole record and reproduction process.
But if you spend $500 on your EP, then it’ll definitely sound shitty , no offence.
Is there any trick to get world-class sound (or 80% close to that) without spending thousands of dollars?
And if so – how much it’ll cost?
The truth is that average listener don’t feel the difference if you put $1,000 or $10,000 in your next single.
So you don’t have to spend a big stack to make yourself and your listeners happy!
3 ways how to sound BIG without spending a fortune
1) Find the right engineer
This could be the most expensive choice but probably the best one.
Top engineers and mixers are always expensive. If you’re in the indie music and looking for a great mixing engineer, you should start searching by the top bands in your field.
For example, if you take Mumford & Sons, look at their best album, find which guys were working with them in recording process and contact them. It depends of your budget, but if you’re at the beginning of your career, you’ll find out that you really can’t afford mixing in that kind of level.
If you look at some new, unknown bands that are just starting out, they always start with young engineers and often recording+mixing costs are around $100 to $500 per song.
You’re definitely not interested in that kind of level, because the result will not sound BIG.
So these were two levels of sound recording and reproduction services. $100 mix is in scale 1, but $5,000 mix is 9 or 10. There are a lot choices between those two.
I’ll share my example
I’ve worked with many local engineers but was always kind of upset with the result.
I knew about the Top engineers, how they’re working and how much does it costs. Sorry, $5,000 or even $2,000 was above my budget.
I found some bands in my field (alternative rock) that sound really great but they were not super popular at that time. One of them was a band form UK called Young Guns. I really loved their biggest track “Bones” back then. This song helped them to sign a record deal with Virgin/EMI.
So I contacted their engineer and producer – Dan Weller. I found out that his price was a good fit for my budget. Everything seemed fine and we started to work together. In the end, we got a world class track for the price which was not thousands of dollars.
It was great!
I should note down that Dan was only mixing our material. We did tracking with another guy – a local engineer. Also, we skipped production process and did it by ourselves. However, Dan helped us with some feedback there.
I truly suggest you to go a similar way. Just find the band and sound you really like.
Then go one step back, find the engineer that worked with that particular band one or two albums before. And just check if that same guy would like to work with your band and how much would it cost.
I contacted about 3 to 5 engineers, some of them where above my budget but some just didn’t answer me.
2) Make a mixing contest
I’ve never tried this but I know that mixing contests are pretty popular for young engineers. This is one of the best ways how they can find new clients.
Just go to gearlutz.com or puremix.net, put out your recorded tracks and search for the best engineer you can get. You will probably get one song mixed for free but the thing is – you’ll get new, talented engineers for really good prices. And this is a great way how you can check their skills as well.
It’s win-win situation for you and for them!
3) Hands on Mixing
This is the place were almost all artists start their journey.
You start by finding the best affordable engineer in your music genre. There are some specific things when it comes to recording different styles, especially in the mixing process.
When you find the right engineer, start to work with him (or her) really close.
Top engineers have their mixing and recording style – their signature. It’s natural for them to feel how you should sound and do their work to achieve that.
When working with a middle-class engineer, he’ll do his job pretty well but it’ll probably not be the best thing you can get out of your tracking material.
So in this case, hands on mixing and tons of comments will work good. Just keep working till you get the exact sound you have in your head.
Here’s a simple trick that can help you to check your mixes and improve the way how you will listen and analyze them.
First, find some reference tracks – about 3 to 5 songs that you like in your genre, something that could be close to “the sound in your head”.
Second, when you get your mix done – start by listening to your reference track for 20 seconds, then switch to your song, then after 30-40 seconds switch back again. You’ll hear the difference and things to change immediately.
But be aware that you have to find reference tracks that you can really trust!
Also, get in the habit of regularly listing to world-class mixes from other bands.
By finding your most favorite TOP mixes from other bands, you will train your ears into hearing the way your own music should sound like.