The web abounds with sites promising to help you improve your mixing skills. At times, it seems like there is an online education outlet for every audio engineer, and with all these choices, it can be difficult to determine where to turn if you’re looking to up your your audio game.
The most obvious question is whether or not they’re worth the money. If they are, which ones are the right fit for you? And, are there any free options that can help you get to where you want to be?
There are probably more sites offering online audio education that we can reasonably cover, so for this roundup we’re going to focus on some the most popular around, including Mix with the Masters, Pensado’s Place, CreativeLive, Lynda.com, The Recording Revolution, The Pro Audio Files, David Glenn Recording and pureMix all of which I got to try out personally over the course of a month.
For The Beginner
Sometimes, the best place to start is at the beginning: The Pro Audio Files, David Glenn Recording, and The Recording Revolution all cater to entry level engineers who are just starting to learn to mix, or who have been mixing for a short while without much in the way of formal training.
These sites can teach you how to set up a Pro Tools session, route signal, get acquainted with efficiently editing and using effects, and will remind you to edit drums before you mix them. Many of the most basic of these courses can be especially useful to the beginner-est of beginners.
The kind of specific task-based knowledge found in these courses is quite easy to come by these days via Google, and of course, Google does have the advantage of being free. Still, for the novice, there may be some real value to having all of these lessons bundled together into a well-structured curriculum and taught by a single trusted guide.
Some of the additional features these services offered, such as session files that you can download to follow along with didn’t feel particularly useful to me, but if you’re not already working on projects of your own, it may be helpful to have these bundled sessions at hand to start playing around with immediately.
All three of these beginner-focused sites do cover the basics of recording and mixing, but I found that Matthew Weiss‘ lessons on The Pro Audio Files were more to-the-point than the others.
I appreciated Weiss for not making me wait for information. He says only what is needs to be said, allowing the viewer to get up to speed on the basics of mixing as quickly as possible.
I found that Graham Cochrane of the Recording Revolution, and David Glenn (whose courses can be found á la carte on David Glenn Recording or as part of The Pro Audio Files subscription plan) focused on similar information to Weiss, but didn’t quite have his talent for filtering out extraneous information and getting right to the meat of a subject.
Mixing, like most creative skills, is about getting a solid conceptual understanding and putting it into practice more than it is about rote memorization.
This means that taking time to memorize specific applications of an idea (such as placing a hall reverb on vocals, a short plate on drums, or a spring on guitars) is arguably less valuable than focusing on mastering the core concepts—especially if you are interested in developing your own style in the long run.
Matthew Weiss of The Pro Audio Files stood out to me as the most efficient of these options because he stayed so focused on making the essential concepts clear and quick to pick up.
When talking about four main flavors of reverb for instance, he would clearly explain what they are and how they are different, then let you hear them solo-ed, let you hear them in a mix, and move on to describe and demonstrate other essential new concepts.
That’s all you really need to get started. Once you understand what these tools are and how they work the rest is up to you to put into practice. On this front, Weiss gets my personal vote for the best educational resource for beginners thanks to his combination of speed, clarity and a strong focus on the fundamentals.
With this said, different learners may take a liking to the personal style of one teacher or another. Cochrane and Glenn, who both live in Florida, have a more relaxed and ambling approach that may suit some, while the more rapid and direct style of Matthew Weiss, who hails from Boston, is more likely to keep your average north-easterner like myself interested.
Fortunately, it’s easy to get a feel for the personal style of each of these three prominent beginner-focused instructors through their free content on YouTube, and each of them offers a money-back guarantee just in case.
The Pro Audio Files has recently switched over to a subscription-based model for their entire video library, which includes all the major courses from both Matthew Weiss and David Glenn.
In addition to appearing in The Pro Audio Files’ subscription-based site, Glenn also sells his courses on a one-off basis on his own site, David Glenn Recording, and offers a spinoff service there, called The Mix Academy, which is subscription-based.
Graham Cochrane sells all of his courses individually or in small bundles at his own site, The Recording Revolution, and offers two subscription-based courses for his more advanced students: A community site called Dueling Mixes, in which members get new multi-tracks to try their hand at mixing each month, and The Audio Income Project, which is intended to teach freelance business skills to budding engineers looking to monetize their newfound audio chops.
The Mainstream Marketplaces
Next up are Lynda.com and CreativeLive. Both of these sites host content from many different contributors, resulting in a wide variety in approach, feel, and quality. A subscription to either of these sites grants you access to education in more than just audio, as well: Between the two of them, you can find in-depth courses on everything from photography to video editing, from writing to web design, from business accounting to personal finance.
Lynda.com’s audio engineering series with Tape Op Magazine‘s Larry Crane is especially spectacular, but there are plenty of Johnny-bedroom-guy’s EDM tips to be found as well.
It takes a minute to filter through and find the best courses on either site, but both sites have a ton of great content to offer once you’ve done some sifting. The best of these offerings can be truly awesome (again, looking directly at Larry Crane’s course here), but a bit more of a burden is put onto the consumer to build their own curriculum.