How to Find and Hire the Perfect Mixing Engineer for Your Tracks
Hiring a professional mixing engineer is one of the most important steps when producing a record. A great mix can take good songs and make them sound incredible by balancing and shaping all the individual tracks. The mixing engineer’s job is to take the raw, unpolished tracks that have been recorded and turn them into a radio-ready, commercially viable record by adjusting levels, panning, EQ, compression, effects and more.
While mixing is a learnable skill, most amateur mixes don’t have the polish and impact that a professional engineer can bring. Their ears, experience and high-end gear allow them to create mixes that sound like a major label release. Many mixing engineers have Grammy-winning mixes in their portfolio.
That said, hiring a pro mixer is a significant investment. Rates range from $100 per song to over $1000 per song depending on experience. The mixing process also takes time, with top engineers sometimes taking weeks to finalize a mix. This guide will walk through the key steps so you can find the right mixing engineer and end up with mixes you’ll love.
Determine Your Goals
Before hiring a mixing engineer, take some time to determine exactly what you want to accomplish with the mix and set some clear goals. This will help guide the mixing process and set expectations with the engineer. Some common mixing goals include:
1. Get the sound you want for your genre/style
Think about the overall sonic aesthetic you’re aiming for based on your musical style or genre. Do you want an intimate feel or a huge, expansive sound? Should it be bright and crisp or dark and moody? Define the sound so the mixer understands the vibe you’re going for.
2. Make vocals/instruments stand out
Decide which elements need to be the focus and communicate that, so the mixer balances the song appropriately. For example, having the lead vocal sit on top of the mix or making the guitar solo cut through.
3. Fix issues in the raw tracks
If you recorded your own tracks, there may be performance inconsistencies, tuning problems, excessive room noise, etc. Make the engineer aware of what needs fixing or editing.
4. Prepare tracks for distribution
If you plan to release on streaming platforms, discuss broadcast-ready loudness and clarity. The mixer can ensure the right headroom and EQ balancing so it translates across systems.
5. Match a reference mix
Providing a commercial track with a sonic profile you’d like yours to match gives helpful direction. The engineer can listen and try to emulate the vibe and balance.
Defining your goals upfront allows the mixing engineer to understand your expectations and work toward the sound you have in mind. Take time to think through what you want to accomplish before discussing it with potential mixers. The more direction you can provide, the better your results will be.
6. Set Your Budget
When hiring a mixing engineer, it’s important to set a realistic budget upfront. Mixing rates can vary greatly depending on the engineer’s experience level and demand. Here are some typical price ranges:
– Entry-level/bedroom mixer: $50-150 per song
– Mid-level professional mixer: $150-250 per song
– High-end mixer: $250-500+ per song
Rates are also commonly quoted by the hour, especially for larger projects like full albums. Expect to pay $50-100 per hour for entry-level engineers, up to $200+ per hour for top mixers.
The total budget will depend on factors like:
– Number of tracks/songs being mixed
– Complexity of the arrangements
– Amount of editing/processing needed
– Analog outboard gear rental
– Experience level of the engineer
Keep in mind mixing is usually just one stage in the production process. You’ll also need to budget for mastering, which runs $50-100+ per song.
Aim to set aside at least 10-15% of your total production budget for mixing/mastering. The better your recordings going into mixing, the less time and polish they’ll need.
Setting realistic expectations upfront will help you identify an engineer that best fits your budget and project goals.
Find Mixing Engineers
There are several ways to find qualified mixing engineers for your project:
**Online Directories and Job Boards**
Look for mixing engineers on platforms like SoundBetter, AirGigs, and SoundCloud Jobs. On these sites, you can view portfolios, reviews, and rates. Post your project and invite applications or browse profiles and directly contact promising options.
**Social Media and Industry Connections**
Use your existing networks on sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and music industry forums to ask for referrals to great mixing engineers. People you know and trust can provide recommendations. You can also search relevant hashtags and groups to find active professionals.
**Recommendations from Colleagues**
Talk to your bandmates, producers, and fellow musicians. Ask who they’ve worked with for mixing and if they recommend anyone. Word-of-mouth referrals from those familiar with your sound needs can help surface suitable mixing engineers.
**Check Portfolios and Client Lists**
When evaluating potential mixing engineers, listen to samples of their work in their online portfolios. Also, look at past client lists to see if they have mixed for artists similar to your style and needs. This can help assess their fit. Make sure to check out our playlist here
Compare Mix Engineers
Choosing the right mixing engineer for your track is crucial. Here are some tips on comparing potential mixers:
– **Listen to samples of past work:** Listen to the mixing engineer’s portfolio and samples of previous work in your genre. This gives you a sense of their sound, mixing style, and technical skills. Try to find recent examples that match the vibe you’re going for.
– **Look for experience in your genre:** Seek out a mixing engineer with lots of experience in your specific musical genre. Mixing rock is very different from mixing hip-hop or electronic music. You want someone familiar with the conventions and techniques for your style.
– **Communication and collaboration style:** Make sure your work styles mesh. A mixer who is communicative, open to feedback, and easy to work with will make the process smoother.
– **Check reviews and testimonials:** Read reviews from past clients. Reputation and word-of-mouth recommendations from other musicians can reveal a lot. An experienced mixer with shining reviews is likely a strong choice.
Thoroughly comparing the expertise, technical skills, and work style of potential mixing engineers will help you make the best choice for your project. Take time finding the right sonic match.
Book Your Choice Mix Engineer
Once you’ve compared the portfolio, rates, and references of a few potential mix engineers, it’s time to book the one you feel is the best fit for your project.
Reach out to your top choice engineer and have an initial discussion about your project. Provide details about the type of music, number of tracks, and your goals for the final mix. Discuss the project scope and make sure you are both on the same page about what will be delivered.
Send over the raw, unmixed tracks along with any demo or reference mixes you have. This allows the engineer to assess the project and provide an accurate quote. Make sure to clarify which parts are final takes versus just demo placeholders.
Agree on a delivery schedule and payment terms upfront. Most mixers require 50% of the quoted fee before starting work and 50% upon delivery. Some may allow smaller incremental payments. Be clear on expected turnaround time and have a schedule in writing that fits your release plans.
Before booking, make sure to request references from past clients and listen to examples of the engineer’s mixes in your genre. Once you’ve vetted their work and agreed on project details, sign a basic services contract or letter of agreement to protect both parties.
Booking the right mixing engineer is key to achieving the sound you want. Do your research but also trust your instincts on finding the best creative fit. The mixer will shape the tone and enhance the emotions of your music, so take care in selecting the right set of “ears” for your project.
Send Files and References
Once you’ve booked your choice of mixing engineer, the next step is to send over all the necessary files and materials for them to start the mixing process. This includes:
– **Final raw multitrack session files** – These are the unmixed tracks from your recording session, often sent as a consolidated session file from your DAW of choice. Make sure these files are organized, properly named, and that you include any virtual instruments, edits, busses, etc.
– **Marked notes on changes needed** – It’s helpful to provide marked up notes on any changes, fixes, or adjustments you need made to the raw tracks before mixing. This includes things like tuning vocals, editing out bad takes, adjusting timing, etc.
– **Reference mixes and examples** – Providing reference mixes gives your engineer an idea of the overall sound, vibe, and direction you’re aiming for. This could include rough mixes you’ve done, as well as commercial references from other songs.
– **Project notes and context** – Give additional details and background, such as the genre, overall vision, intent, instrumentation, and any creative direction. Providing context helps the engineer craft the mix to suit your goals.
Giving your mixing engineer all these materials upfront ensures they have everything they need to dive into mixing your music. It also helps get you aligned on the desired results, minimizing revisions and back-and-forth down the road. With files in hand, your engineer can start applying their skills to take your tracks to the next level.
Giving constructive feedback to your mixing engineer is a key part of the process. As the client, you want to guide the overall direction and make sure the final mix matches your vision. However, avoid overnitpicking small details or making excessive requests. The mixing engineer is the expert in their craft, so respect their skills and experience.
When providing notes, be timely. Give feedback within a day or two of receiving an initial mix or revisions. Quickly pinpoint areas that need work or revisions based on your goals for the song. Be as clear and specific as possible. For example, say “The lead vocal sounds muffled in the chorus. Can we brighten it up?” instead of “I don’t like the lead vocal.”
Focus on the most important elements first before addressing smaller tweaks. You likely won’t get every detail perfect, so prioritize the core aspects like overall tone, balance of instruments, vocal clarity, emotion, and energy. It helps to compare your mix to reference tracks in the same genre. Explain what you like about the reference that yours is missing.
While you should voice your wishes, also remain open-minded. The mixing engineer may have insightful solutions you didn’t consider. Collaborate with them, but avoid dictating every move. Trust in their expertise while providing your creative direction. Giving thoughtful feedback sets your mixing relationship up for success.
Get the Final Mix
Once the mixing engineer has sent you the final mixed tracks, there are a few final steps:
– Get all mixed track stems and files from the engineer. This should include the final stereo mix, as well as any stem tracks or individual files you may have requested.
– Listen carefully and confirm your satisfaction. Make sure the mix is exactly how you envisioned it, with the right balance, effects, and polish. If you requested any changes or revisions, ensure those were implemented properly.
– If you are fully satisfied, pay the remaining invoice balance promptly. Most engineers will provide the final files only once paid in full. Make sure to pay on time per your agreement.
– Consider giving a recommendation or positive review if you had a great experience. This helps the engineer’s reputation and benefits fellow musicians searching for mixers. Even a brief written recommendation or positive rating on a freelance platform can go a long way.
– With the mixing complete, you can move forward with the next steps of your project, whether that’s mastering, releasing, promoting or something else. The final mixed tracks are now ready to share with your listeners!
After you receive the final mixed tracks from your mixing engineer, there are a few next steps to consider:
– **Get tracks mastered if releasing.** Mastering is the next stage after mixing, where subtle adjustments are made for optimal playback across systems. Consider getting your tracks mastered by a professional mastering engineer before releasing your music publicly. This will give it more polish.
– **Promote your music with finished mixes.** Now that you have professional mixed tracks, it’s time to get them out there! Promote them on your website, social media, streaming platforms, send to blogs/playlists, etc. The better mixing quality will make your music stand out more.
– **Credit mixing engineer.** Don’t forget to give your mixing engineer proper credit for their work! List them in the track metadata, liner notes, on your website, and social media. This helps build their reputation too.
– **Consider for future projects.** If you were happy with your mixing engineer, keep them in mind for mixing your next release! Developing an ongoing relationship with a mixer can be beneficial for consistency across projects.