In Theory And In Practice
Man, how do the pros make it look so easy? I can't seem to do what they do...
It really hit me the other day. Running through the mixing process in class, bringing up the faders and building a mix from scratch. As I started explaining what I was doing and why, I realized how quickly I can build a mix. It was second nature for me. But looking at the students, it made me think back to when I started. I started thinking about what it was like watching someone build a mix and it sounding so great. Every time I would try, it would never sound them same. I could never seem to get a mix settled in as quickly. As I explained the why and what I was doing, it made me question, "Are they going to understand, or is this going over their heads?"
Of course my hope is that they "get it". That everything I was doing at that moment was being soaked up, and they could go home and reproduce this mix quickly and easily. But sometimes it isn't as simple as that. I have spent years studying, watching, learning, and doing. Years of continually working on my skills, getting a little better each time. To the point now, I can quickly and easily build a mix. I am just talking about panning and setting levels, no eq, or compression. No reverbs delays, etc. Just the basics, using my ears to set the mix to sound balanced.
Of course I explained my methods. The "why" is very important, more important than the "what" I am doing. (At least in my opinion) In the end that's the theory behind what I am doing right? I'm teaching my thought process, the reasoning behind my fader and panning moves. However, my theory is derived from years of "doing". Yep, years of making stupid mistakes, what I now look back on as "bad" mixes, and eq and compression mistakes. At the time though, I really didn't know any better. I was mixing to the best of my abilities, using every tip and trick I knew. And while I want to spare students from these mistakes, I feel like they have made me a better mixer.
For me, I learn best by making the mistakes. I'm sure others would agree, we learn from our mistakes. The idea of me showing students, "Don't do this" is a conundrum at best. While I can teach and show the "do this" "don't do that" concepts, until they experience it themselves, will they learn the lesson? I never did, I had to make the mistakes in order to teach myself what was incorrect. Granted, not everyone learns that way. Some are able to watch and replicate. But If they are replicating what I ma doing, will they figure out their own methods?
It really boils down to the practice. As with most skills in life, you have to do it, learn your limits. Aim to grow where you are weak in order to become better. I know I fell a lot when learning to walk or ride a bike. So the same can be said about learning to mix. I can give someone all the tools to make a master piece, but unless they have put in the hours, it might not come to fruition. Am I going to stop teaching the little tips and tricks? Definitely not, I would have loved someone to give me pointers on honing my craft faster. Whether or not my skills would be where they are now faster is a matter of debate. The fact remains, help is help. Knowing how to do something and actually doing it is very different.
Make the best you can with the knowledge you have. Teachers and tutors can help you achieve your goals, but know you will still make mistakes. Perhaps even the same mistakes they teach us to avoid. But what a way to learn, to have experienced the silly, stupid mistakes that made you strive to be better. Don't forget to accept the failures with the triumphs. In the end, mistakes strive us to do better, and push our limits. Use your acquired knowledge to make the mistakes, and experience the joy of growth.