I think this is a great question with potentially many different answers.
So why use a mixing engineer, why not do it yourself?
One word comes to mind, perspective.
When we mixers load up a session for the first time and gain-stage's the tracks we hear the song in it's rawest form and for the very first time that's where perspective comes in.
We have no preconceived ideas about the songs sound, arrangement, genre, nothing! We have a fresh perspective.
What does that mean? Well maybe we'll spot an arrangement idea that will improve the song that you as the song writer / producer wouldn't have because you've spent tens of hours working on it and are too close to the song.
Another reason is we have a different set of tools and tricks we use. You may be great at mixing but get stuck in a sonic rut which causes a lack of creative ideas. You can of course tell your mix engineer what sounds you like, effects etc but they'll bring another set of ideas to the table, ideas you both can bounce off each other to improve on the song.
In my opinion no one wants their mix engineer to throw up the faders do some processing and return the song without discussing their vision first. Communicating with your engineer really can make a project come to life.
As an engineer we spend everyday working on music, getting the bass to sit in the mix properly, making that vocal really pop, crafting elements of the songs to build a landscape of music. We have a lot of experience which can be useful to you.
We totally understand that not everyone wants input on their songs but for those who do we are here to not just make a living but to help you. We definitely didn't pick this job for the riches, we do it for the passion, a connection to everything musical because we live and breath music.
As any of my clients will tell you, I go the extra mile to communicate and understand what you as the artist wants from their music. That to me is as important as the actual mixing process. Blindly mixing strictly how I want with no concern for you the artists requirements is counter productive, leads to more revisions and ultimately a less enjoyable experience.
What about equipment?
I can tell you from experience equipment isn't the most important thing. I've been sent songs originally mixed in huge commercial studios that have $150,000 Neve consoles and $50,000 monitoring systems to remix from my very humble small studio. With results that the client is happier with! So yes a studio kitted out with the best equipment can give you the best sound but only when paired with an engineer that has the skill-set or desire to produce great sounding mixes tailored to the clients needs.
So to keep this short, you don't need a mixing engineer but having one on your side can be beneficial in more than one way. And choosing a mix engineer comes down to probably 4 simple things:
- Style - Can they mix the style of music you produce?
- Reputation / Reliability - Are they reputable, with testimonials or reviews? Will they be available during the mix process via email, phone etc.
- Sound - Do they have examples of their mixing and does it sound good?
- Budget - Are they affordable or can they tailor their services to your budget?
Let me know your thoughts, I'd love to hear from you.