Chris Lord-Alge is a king pin mix engineer who has mixed hit records for artists such as U2, Muse, Adele, Bruno Mars, and many many more.
How can a mix engineer have so many hits across so many different genres? It's simple...
- “The song always dictates the mix” -
It is not the engineer who dictates the mix. Without a doubt, certain mixing techniques work better for different certain genres, but the song speaks to him.
Having the largest drum sound possible isn't always the way to go. Guitars that screech like a bat out of hell aren't always going to work out just because they sound kick-ass.
No two songs are the same. A song's mission is to create a feeling inside the listener, and it’s the mix engineer's duty to bring that emotion to life with a combination of intricacy and sharpness so that it can fully bloom.
Sometimes a better recording with less plugins can do wonders to a final mix. The old saying "less is more" is often quite accurate when mixing. It is very easy to get lost in a mix and lose perspective. We often will sometimes need to fight the belief that because certain plugins are available, that we must use them.
- “The thing that makes mixes big is by monitoring really quietly” -Yes, mixing at low volumes can make things sound bigger in the end.Don't ever forget this.
This makes total sense. If something sounds huge at a low level, you can breathe easy knowing it will sound massive at higher volume and on bigger speakers. Another cool technique is to mix in Mono. If you're mix sounds well balanced in mono, you can bet its going to sound wide when panned to stereo.
CLA is extremely well known for his use of compression as a sonic sculpting tool. There is a difference between this and just throwing a compressor on snare because you think it needs one. A mix is a compromise of sounds and frequencies where everything needs to cohesively blend.
- "Sometimes an instrument will be taking up a lot of the stereo field with it’s energy, when it only needs to fill up one spot" -
Chris utilizes compression as a method to tighten up an instrument and restrict it to is designated position in the mix. The key is for instruments to sound big in the right spots, not everywhere.
Compressors are also great at adding colour to a mix even if the settings aren't tinkered with. If you picture yourself as a painter and your options for paints are compressors, your mixes will start to sound better. This means getting familiar with different compressors, what they do, and how they can alter sounds.
- "Monitor on as many speakers as you can" -Monitor your mixes on your laptop, earbuds, car stereo, aside from studio monitors.
If you can get your mix to sound great on something with terrible sound source quality, you should have much more confidence in your mix.
Chris Lord-Alge is someone who takes his job extremely seriously.
Listen to a CLA mixed song and you'll see instantly why he and his techniques are world-renowned.