Approach towards mixing… Do you feel it?

For our first article, we asked a dear friend of ours to share some of his knowledge with us. Emiliano Caballero recently got the opportunity to move from being music studio supervisor at Galaxy Studios in Belgium to moving to the big Apple and becoming Michael Brauer’s assistant at Electric Lady Studios in New York.

Sometimes audio engineers spend an obsessive focus on making things sound as “natural” as possible. This compared to other engineers that love adding distortion to shape specific sounds. Certain hit records might not sound “correct” to some engineers but they sure evoke an emotion. And isn’t that what music is supposed to do – Make you feel a certain way?

Emiliano mentioned that his first sessions with Michael were an incredible eye opener for him. It has changed his approach to mixing and experiencing music.

So here you can read Emiliano’s personal take on this and other matters:
Emiliano Caballero
Photo: Emiliano Caballero at Galaxy Studios.

Why did you get into this business?
Me? Because I love music. It’s one of the greatest feelings someone can experience… and I always try not to forget that! Once you start getting into the engineering world, where physics meets art, there is a fine line where the science stops, and the artist takes over. I do believe you can be a combination of both, there are no restrictions in being just a science guy, or being creative in any field.

As a musician and engineer, I have learned what it means to just jam or feel a song, and then go with it! But sometimes, when we put on our ‘engineer’s hat’, we tend to get lost in the search for the ‘perfect sound’. I remember meeting legend Bruce Swedien a couple of years ago. When I asked Bruce to sign his book for me, he wrote: Never forget, MUSIC FIRST! And he is damn right. At the end of the day, people will relate to feelings, stories and emotions. Very few people will listen to a song to admire a perfect snare drum sound.

After meeting and having had the privilege to see Michael Bauer’s approach, day by day, I have a better understanding of the importance of chasing feelings while working in music.

From what I can see, there are two parts of the story while mixing a song:

  • Understanding the feeling, and recognizing what you want to achieve: do you want a more intimate vocal, or an angrier feel to it?
  • Knowing how to ‘get there’ in terms of feeling (eg: techniques, sounds, emotions etc.)

Below I will share 3 basic steps I take every time I approach a new mix:

  • Separate the technical preparation from the creative process: when you start a new project or song, do the editing, tuning, cleaning etc. before you start mixing. That way, you prepare yourself, so that you don’t have to worry about anything but getting the right feeling for the track.
  • Don’t get lost in the gear: gear is important, but it’s not everything. Have your favorite sounds ready to go, and that will inspire you to create new landscapes and textures!
  • Trust your first instincts: don’t be afraid to try and experiment with new ideas, the worst thing that can happen is that they don’t work. And when they do, it’s a great thing!

Again we’d like to thank Emiliano for sharing his knowledge with us. We also want to thank David Miles Huber and Michael Brauer for their contribution to this article.

Emiliano on Linkedin
Electric Lady Studios
Galaxy Studios