What Does a Mixing Engineer Do?

Mixing is the process of artfully assembling the various parts of a multitrack recording into a standard stereo track, and it has a tremendous impact on the sound of a song or a soundtrack. A good mix makes music sparkle with clarity and purpose, while a mediocre one can muddy even a great performance. After receiving tracks from the recording engineer following a recording session, the mixing engineer focuses on three main tasks: manipulating the volume levels to emphasize the important elements in each section, enhancing the sonic character of each track with the aid of processers such as EQ and compression, and adding effects like delay and reverb.

Patience is a virtue for aspiring mixing engineers, who must be rigorously detail-oriented and have the ability to concentrate on one assignment for long hours at a stretch.

Part artist and part scientist, a talented mixing engineer can make a guitar feel more emotional, a beat more urgent, and a vocal more ethereal—all in the service of a particular artists style or a film, television, or video game soundtrack's dramatic flow. At various points throughout the process, the mixing engineer will provide the producer or artist with samples of the work that has been completed to solicit feedback, and make tweaks and changes until all parties are satisfied. At that point, the final mix, or mixdown, of the recording is printed and delivered to the client. While many artists and producers hire a dedicated mixing engineer, in some cases the recording engineer will also mix the track. 

Mixing Engineer at a Glance

Finding Work and Advancing

Mixing engineers commonly start out as interns or assistants for more established figures in the field, honing their craft by observing a seasoned pro in the studio, although self-starters do set up home studios and build their own clientele via word of mouth. Once established, mixing engineers may be hired as full-time staff at a recording studio, or work as independent contractors in a home studio or in a rented space. Accomplished mixers also find work in the live concert and touring world, as a front-of-house or monitor engineer. As video game soundtracks become increasingly sophisticated and complex, opportunties are growing for mix engineers in the gaming field.

Employers

Recording studios, producers, artists, video game producers

Professional Skills

Music production, music styles, recording studios, sound boards

Interpersonal Skills

Patience is a virtue for aspiring mixing engineers, who must be rigorously detail-oriented and have the ability to concentrate on one assignment for long hours at a stretch. Although the work is largely solitary, mixing engineers need to be social enough to network and build relationships in order to hustle for jobs, which for the many mixing engineers who work as independent contractors are found via personal referrals and recommendations. 

Work Life

Freelance mixing engineers control their schedules and hours, but deadlines can be strict, making for a flexible but high-pressure lifestyle. Those employed by a studio typically have standard work hours, but may need to extend their hours to nights and weekends on a case-by-case basis.