Fixing Bad Communication – Send Instructions With Your Mixes

Instructions.jpgI am obsessed with idiot proofing every part of my process so I don’t have to deal with the same problems over and over again so I have time to have a life. One of the biggest breakdowns in communication is when I send out my mixes to a band who isn’t attending the mix sessions. In the last year I have minimized the troubles I had for the last 7 years of doing this to nearly none with one simple letter. When the band gets the first mix I send them a letter that states some obvious knowledge that may not be obvious to everyone (we are talking about musicians here). After the jump is the email I attach to every time I send a first mix to a client

Hey _____,
Here are your mixes:
Password: ____ (case sensitive)

<Here I usually insert some personal notes for the project about some of the choices and alternate mixes>

I know some of this may be very obvious but it will help us communicate clearly so both of us are happy with the final product and understand each other correctly.

Please listen to these mixes on a stereo you usually listen to music on so you can evaluate the mixes properly.  Before you listen to your mixes put on a song you have been listening to a lot to get your ears adjusted to your stereo. If you wanna listen to your mixes on someones big fancy stereo PLEASE LISTEN TO SOME OTHER RECORDS YOU LISTEN TO ALL THE TIME ON THE STEREO FIRST. This will ensure that you make proper judgments on the changes we need to do.

When you guys are done listening to mixes get together with all the members and figure out what changes you want. I want you to all agree on the changes I don’t want to see changes like “Our guitarist says: turn up the bells”. If just the guitarist thinks it and you all disagree, there is no reason to state it. I also should not get notes from individual band members or notes before everyone in the band has weighed in.

It really helps to be very descriptive when going over mix changes… Please keep in mind the more words you use to describe things and marking times (see below). Keep in mind using terms like “The chorus” can be subjective in some cases. Sometimes what one person sees as the chorus can be someone else’s pre-chorus  this is why notating seconds is very important. Here is how a good mix change sheet looks like:

Please boost the Kick in all songs
Lower All lead vocals

Song 1:
@ 0:31 please turn up the high backing vocal that says “Hey woman gonna make you scream yeahhhaaawwww”
@ 0:10 Turn up the octave in Steve’s guitar part (right speaker)

Song 2:
Can we try an effect that make the vocal more spacey @ 1:31. Some along the line of Mew “Zookeeper’s Boy”
I feel like the kick drum is getting lost @ 2:45 can we fix that?

Please email me changes like the above. If you have a serious question call me but I need everything written down so I can make sure I get to everything and can refer to a list I can check off. This helps you to be as happy as possible with the mixes.


Jesse Cannon is the editor of Musformation. He produces records at his studio Cannon Found Soundation. Follow him on Twitter at @JesseCannonMusF. For more info please visit his website.