Zen and the Art of Mixing 2021 – Preface & Contents


Big news! I’ve done a major revision to my best seller Zen and the Art of Mixing. This revision is so big, I gave the book a new cover.


When I released the first iteration of this book in 2010, I was still mixing on analog consoles, and my former publisher released this as a typeset book. I thought it would stand the test of time, and I still believe that. It’s just going to take more time than I expected to fully get there. You see, since I first wrote this book, everything has changed.

Not in terms of the art of mixing, mind you. That won’t change until how we hear music does. But in terms of the technology itself? Well! Let’s review:

CDs were still king
Plugins sucked compared to analog gear
Distortion algorithms were unusable
Internal summing left much to be desired, and that’s charitable Unattended mix sessions were way less common
High-quality converters weren’t so ubiquitous
Professionals and hobbyists had unique gear requirements Usable assistive technology didn’t exist

Technology drives music, both in how it’s made and how it’s delivered. If I were to separate the mixing principles from the technology, this book would be half as long and rather awkward to boot.

Where it comes to the conceptual information in regard to the Art of Mixing, that has all remained the same. There are still Five Planes of Space, I still offer 10 Steps to Better Mixing, and there are still Five Musical Functions (although I’ve since added one for a total of Six. Bass–for those of you who just can’t wait). There’s still a notes process that requires a good bedside manner. Even the decision-making process is the same. It’s how those processes relate to the technology that forces us to adjust how we work. This, of course, is true for all art dependent on technology. Even this book.

I produced Zen and the Art of Mixing 2021 with print-on-demand technology. The same is true for my other books Musician’s Survival Guide to a Killer Record, The Daily Adventures of Mixerman, and Zen & the Art of Producing 2021 (Coming Soon!). For many years print-on-demand publishing was the step-child of a protectionist publishing industry. Now it’s the future because people like me don’t need people like them. I just need you. I can assure you my former publisher wasn’t responsible for any of my sales.

And here we are.

Print-on-demand offers a number of advantages, including the ability to produce regular updates. Typeset printing, on the other hand, requires a publisher to print a large volume of books, store them, and then sell them, which makes the timing for revisions difficult at best. Five years between revisions is too long. There will be yearly updates to this title.

In this 2021 version: The Gear chapter is entirely new. The Mastering chapter has significant updates. The rest of the book has been trimmed, revised, recast, amended, and fluffed to match the realities of mixing today.

My goal wasn’t to rewrite the book, it was to bring it current to the times, which was a far deeper revision then I’d anticipated. And although I’m quite sure that I write much betterer today, I feel there was a certain charm to the original that shall remain.

For those of you who enjoyed the original versions, this is the book you love with the relevance you require. For everyone else, I present to you my most popular work, to date—Zen and the Art of Mixing 2021.


Zen and the Art of MIXING 2021
Table of Contents


Steps to Enlightenment
Mixerman’s 10 Steps to Better Mixing
Communication & Compromise
Caveats & Definitions

Chapter One
Mix & the Mixer   

The Great Mix
Song, Production, & Performance
Sing It Loud!
Fullest Potential
The Production
Replacement, Tuning, & Timing
Confidence Is an Attitude, Too
Your Musical Brain
Third-Party Mixers

Chapter Two
Arrangement & Focus           

Mixing Is an Illusion
Planes of Space

Panning—Left to Right
Frequency—Up & Down

Equalizers (EQs)

Low End
Lower Midrange
Upper Midrange
High End

Contrast—Sparse to Dense, Bright to Dark
Reflectivity or Reflection—Far to Near
Balance—Front to Back, Large to Small

Forward Motion
Visualizing Space

Chapter Three

Discovery & Framing
Phase Coherency
Organic Drums
Monitoring Levels
Bring in the Parts!

Electric Guitar
Acoustic Guitar
Piano & Keyboards
Science Experiments

Referencing Other Mixes
Rough Mixes
Make the Mix Sing, Pop, and Gel

The Vocal
Finding Compromise

The Payoff
Refining & Enhancing
Finishing Your Mix
Mix Notes

TV Mix
A Capella

Wrapping Up the Session

Chapter Four

The Room Itself

Monitor Varieties


VCA Compressor
FET Compressor
Valve or Tube Compressor
Optical Compressor

The Knee
Attack and Release Times
Auto Release

Audible Compression
When to Apply Compression
Compression in Series
Multiband Compressor
Parallel Compression
2-Bus Compressor
Mastering Plugin / Brickwall Limiter

Tuning Plugins
Reverbs & Delays

Analog Reverbs & Delays

Motion Plugins

Chapter Five
Communication Breakdown                                      

Declining Projects
Problem Clients on Attended Sessions
Establishing Trust
Pick & Choose Your Battles
Mix Notes (The Reprise)

Mix Notes by Committee

“More Me” Syndrome
It’s Their Record


Chapter Six

The Loudness Wars (A History)
How Do You Know It’s a Good Job?
Retaining Your Influence
Putting Up the Good Fight
Stems Mastering
Mastering Your Own Work

Chapter Seven

Convert Weakness into Strength


Factory Work
Art vs. Commerce
The Price of Mixers
Your Reel
Mixing Can Take Time
Outsmarting the Band
Break Time

Oversaturation and Hypersensitivity

Filtered or Radio Vocal / Double Vocal
Programmed Drums

Zen and the Art of Mixing 2021


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