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5 Reasons Every Songwriter Should Learn to Mix Their Songs

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By Michael Hahn

The development of a song from basic idea to finished release is a long process. Each stage requires specialized skills to get the best end result.

If you mostly identify as a songwriter, stepping into one these other roles can feel intimidating. But there are major benefits to learning new skills from other disciplines in music — especially mixing; one of the most valuable tools for songwriters in today’s music world.

In this article I’ll break down the top five reasons songwriters should learn how to mix their own music. Let’s get started.

1. Mixing has never been more accessible.

In the past, mixing and songwriting were completely separate You’d have to have years of training before senior studio staff would let you anywhere near a mixing console. Today, all the tools you need to create a great sounding mix are right there in your DAW.

That means you can dive in and start learning how to mix music right away. You can go at your own pace and stay focused on the skills that help your songwriting directly. Modern DAWs are intuitive and designed to be user-friendly for musicians. Picking up the basics might be easier than you think.

Not only that, the other music production gear you need for mixing is cheaper than ever before. You might be surprised to learn that some of the biggest tracks of the last decade were mixed on headphones using a budget audio interface!

There’s never been a better time to start mixing as a beginner, especially when there’s so many great educational resources out there to help you.

2. You understand your sound better than anyone else.

Great sound is subjective. Even some of the most well-loved mixes of all time have outspoken critics. But when it comes to how your own music should sound, the only person who truly understands your vision is you. Passing your work on to a dedicated mix engineer is a great way to collaborate.

But if you have a very specific sound in mind, you might struggle to communicate it to them. If that’s the case, you may never be satisfied with the result — no matter how much feedback you give. Mixing your songs yourself solves that problem.

It may take longer as you learn and develop your mixing ability, but in the end you’ll get to make every single decision in your mix. That’s the creative control you need to realize your unique vision for a track.

3. A good mix has never been more important.

It’s easy to see that trends in popular music favor great sounding tracks. It makes sense.

A great mix is essential for how your listeners perceive your songs. Your tracks need to hold their own against the biggest names in music on playlists and streaming platforms. Getting it right takes a combination of great songwriting, solid mixing, and quality mastering.

When it comes to mixing, pro production quality can seem intimidating. But building your skills will help with that. If you’re confident you can deliver a good presentation for your music, you’ll never worry about the vibe getting lost in translation.

Plus, If you’re working on your own, you might not have the time or budget to hire an expensive mix engineer for every song you write. You can work faster, cheaper and more efficiently if you handle mixing duties yourself.

4. Mixing isn’t just for the final touches.

Mixing skills help with more than just your final product. Many musicians use their DAW as a songwriting tool at every stage in their process. The basic skills you’ll learn while mixing make this workflow faster and easier for you.

You’ll also get access to more raw materials to spark inspiration. Starting a song with the same element each time can lead to predictable results after a while. Your DAW opens up all kinds of new tools and workflow possibilities.

Have you ever started a song from a sample? How about a loop or groove? Using your DAW this way compliments your creativity and gives you a new perspective on your songwriting.

5. Mixing is a key part of the creative process.

Your creative influence on your work doesn’t have to stop once the song is written. If you mix your own songs you can maintain your unique aesthetic throughout the whole process.

Modern mixing isn’t just some technical task to carry out at the end. It’s an art form with its own powerful modes of expression. Some even argue that tone colour and sonic texture are more important than melody in today’s music, such as this great video created by YouTube user Inside the Score.

Learning how to mix lets you take control of these key aspects of your work. Plus, creating your own personal mixing style is an exciting perk that comes with those skills.

Once you start to appreciate the sonic details in your favourite mixes, you’ll have all kinds of ideas to incorporate into your own own style.

Your songs, your mixes.

Mixing should be part of every songwriter’s skill set in 2020. Whether you want to capture your unique sonic vision or just streamline your workflow, learning how is worth your time. And there’s never been more tools and resources to help beginners get started.

Now that you know mixing can help you, get back to your DAW and keep crafting your masterpiece.

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Michael Hahn is a Montreal-based musician, audio engineer and music writer. Editor at the LANDR Blog and guitarist in the indie-rock trio Slight.

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