Abi Asks: Carl Bahner

Hey fellow Safari Blog People!

For the past few weeks, it has been my goal to reach a point where I feel that I can confidently get consistent mix results (and not feel unsure about whether I am either going to nail the mix, or have it sound like a farmyard in a blender). As the wise philosopher Miley Cyrus once said ” I, I gotta be strong, Just keep pushing on”. (if you didn't get that reference, I hate to break it to you: you’re officially old.)
So in the spirit of that, for this week's blog, I asked Mix Engineer, Carl Bahner: What do you think is the key to getting consistent mix results every time?

Some studio pros will make the argument that the key to consistent mix results is having great room treatment, being super familiar with your go-to plugins, doing “the car test” and referencing on multiple listening devices, or some other great concepts. Don’t get me wrong, I see plenty of validity to those arguments! But I want to talk about the rarely-talked-about technique that has had the biggest impact on my mix  consistency:

***drum roll***

Using the same monitor volume settings every time that I mix.

I know, I know… that’s possibly the least-sexy answer imaginable. But hear me out because it not only helps me get more consistent mixes, it helps me get those mixes sounding great in less time.

Whenever I’m mixing, I have my monitor volume on my Apollo set to the same position every time. I do it for a few reasons:

  1. I’m not as easily tricked by “louder is better” so I can tell if the mix is actually powerful and exciting, or just sounding powerful and exciting in the room because the volume is cranked. 
  2. I get my low end balanced quickly and confidently because I’ve done hundreds of mixes at that same level - so I can instinctively feel when the bottom end is too loud or the kick/bass relationship isn’t hitting me the right way. 
  3. Similarly, my stereo imaging is more predictable because changes in my monitoring volume will affect the intensity of room reflections in my mixing suite. 

It’s like when I’m making my morning coffee: I don’t need to pull out a measuring spoon in order to add the right amount of milk. I just pour until it feels like the right time to stop pouring. And it’s perfect every time. I’ve done it so many times the same way and I can sense when I’ve accidentally added too much milk - before I even stir it. The same happens in my listening environment - except it’s a lot easier to turn the kicks down than it is to remove milk from my coffee. 

You may be thinking, “Carl - do you ever check the mix at different volumes?”

Of course! I’ll crank it up when getting rid of amp noise, mouth clicks, etc. I’ll also check the mix in mono, I’ll check it as quietly as possible, I’ll check it on my phone, and OF COURSE I’ll check it in my car. But as soon as I’m done checking, that volume knob on my Apollo goes right back to where I started.

Like I said - I know it’s not the sexiest answer in the world, but mixing at the same monitor volume every time is a free, easy, and super effective way to minimize the variables that can get in the way of consistent mix results. So I’ll leave you with a little challenge - pick a comfortable monitoring volume and stick with it for a full week. You’ll be surprised how much more confident you’ll feel in your mixing decisions, and how much easier it becomes to evaluate the impact of your favorite Safari Pedals plugins on your mixes.

When Carl sent me this answer I was like: 🤯
In all honesty, I was expecting him to write something about experience, room treatment, gear etc.. This surprised me in the best way possible! What also makes this answer slay even more (for folks here over the age of 28: slay=splendid) is that it is applicable to EVERYONE. Whether you're a seasoned engineer mixing in a studio, or someone like me who mixes at home with headphones- we can all be mindful of the volumes we monitor at. So let’s be mindful of our volume, not blow our eardrums out, and have fun while mixing!
Thanks Carl for this super insightful piece of info!
Catch you next week!
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