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The Roles of a Producer vs Mixer in the Context of Mixing

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The Roles of a Producer vs Mixer in the Context of Mixing
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Matt: Hey folks, this is Matthew Weiss here, and I’m here with my friend.

Samik: Oh, The Symphony. Hi guys.

Matt: Yup. And we’re here for You can check out Because I don’t know the difference between a forward slash and a back slash. So for some really cool tutorials about an hour length that go specifically in depth into one single topic.

Now, this is going to be a little cross interview thing here about the role of the producer versus the role of the mixer in terms of how we approach mixing.

Alright. So let’s get started here. Yeah, thanks man. I work on my intros. [laughs]

So, okay, so Samik and I have been working together for a very, very long time, and we’ve — to say the least. I think 2004? Right?

Samik: Yeah, 2004.

Matt: About 2004. Alright, so that’s like, 13 years. So we’ve established a very good back and forth working relationship, like I know what he’s going to do, he knows what I’m going to do.

In terms of mixing, when you send a record off to me, what is your expectation for what I’m going to do in terms of like, how you set the rough mix? Like, what — do you expect me to stick with it, do you expect me to deviate from it, where can I deviate, where can I stick with it? That kind of stuff.

Samik: Okay, you want the answers to all of those simultaneously.

Matt: All at the same time.

Samik: I’m going to keep speaking into the mic like this. But no, when I send you a record, I know that I want the record to have more depth than what I have, because I feel like I can get to a certain point with my mix, and it sounds decent, but I need all of those little transients and things to, you know, be there.

Matt: What’s a transient?

Samik: I don’t know. We just say it a lot.

Matt: So like, the attack, and the definition of the —

Samik: Yeah, it’s just the details of the sound. I like to think of it that way. The details of the sound.

Matt: Okay, so let’s say I get a record from you, and I hear a drum.

Samik: Right.

Matt: Like, let’s say it’s a snare drum, and I think to myself, this snare drum would sound really cool if there was like, a deeper snare tucked underneath a bit.

Samik: Okay.

Matt: When is that an appropriate decision for me to make and when is it not?

Samik: I would say that for the most part, when I send records, I like to — my drums are the way I like them, but if you feel there needs to be more punch in the mid-range, I guess, I would be interested to hear how it sounds. I wouldn’t shoot down the idea right away, I would actually just be like, “Alright, well if you feel that, then let’s see what it sounds like,” and I think we’ve done that plenty of times.

But yeah, for the most part, I think that if there’s a — if whatever makes the record sounds better, I’m with it. So I’ve got no problem with it.

Matt: So cool, so okay, from my perspective, it’s kind of like, the way I like to think about it is, especially when I’m working with a producer like yourself, who’s been doing it for a long time, and who has a very successful track record, I think, “Okay, when Samik sends me a record, he got it right.”

So if the snare doesn’t feel like it has a lot of mid-range in it, like lower mid or something like that, my first thought is, it’s probably meant to be like that. Once I start putting the record together, then it might change, and I might say, like, “You know, I think this is a specific case where maybe layering another snare in, or doing some kind of EQ that does significantly alter the tone of the snare,” it would be appropriate.

But that’s like, that’s a second or third decision.

Samik: Right, yeah, mainly when I send you something, it’s pretty much the way I want it. I just need you to make it sound better.

Matt: But now, when other people send me records, maybe it’s the artist sends me a record, and they hired a producer external to their — yeah, so in that case, I might be getting something from a producer, who’s like Ill Mind, or one of those guys who they’re…

Samik: Very not experience. Little to no track record with anything.

Matt: Right. So somebody like Ill Mind, or Sunny, or something like that, where — somebody who has a lot of experience, and I know they’re good, sometimes I get something from someone who isn’t as experienced. They’ve maybe only been doing it for a couple of years or something like that. And so I have to —

Samik: Like Ill Mind.

Matt: Like Ill Mind, yes. [laughs] So I have to make a judgement call, like maybe this is someone who had a fantastic idea, but just doesn’t have quite the chops, and there’s nothing wrong with that, because actually, a lot of the times, I think the newer producers have the freshest ideas, it’s just really, they’re coming to me for the experience that you don’t get for nine or ten years.

In that case, I might take a few more liberties. I might reach a little bit further.

So when you’re producing, what do you consider the difference between mixing and sound design?

Samik: Okay, um… It’s hard for me to say specific, because we do — we do a lot of both when we’re working on my stuff, but for sound design, I would preferably — you know, I would do all of that stuff before hand. So that would be the stuff that I take care of in the actual — you know, so the synthesizers, if I want the synthesizers to sound more gritty, I’ll make it so it has some distortion on it, but these are all things that I know.

Like, I mean I’ve learned a lot of this stuff from watching Matt, so from watching you. So it’s a — it’s cool because the distortion that I print onto the synth is the stuff that I — you know, that I know you’re going to be able to be like, “Oh, that’s cool, I can do this to it.” You know what I’m saying? I know you can bring another layer to that sound design.

So I guess that would be the mixing aspect of the sound design that I would have previously done with the synth, if that makes sense.

Matt: It does. I think we had a conversation about five years ago. I don’t know if you remember this conversation, but I was working on one of your records, and you had three kicks that were layered on top of each other.

Samik: Right, back when I used to layer 19 kicks on top of each other.


Matt: Three kicks was not bad. Three kicks, I was like…

Samik: Yeah, we’re getting better this time, we’re doing better.

Matt: So I remember, I was doing some phase alignment on the kicks, so for those who don’t know, phase alignment is making sure the fundamental waveforms of the kick drums are working in a constructive way together, and I found that one of the kicks was out of phase, and I was fixing it, and you were there, and you asked me, “Is this something I should be doing while I’m producing?”

Do you remember this conversation?

Samik: I do absolutely 100% remember this conversation. This was at the Philadelphia apartment.

Matt: Yeah. So my response was, “No.” [laughs] Because, it’s a technical — that…

Samik: We were working on the R Kelly remix.

Matt: Was it the R Kelly — okay, so my response was…

Samik: Sorry, name drop.

Matt: Oh gosh, anyway…

Samik: Link’s right here.

Matt: Then it’s a link to your sound kit. That would be amazing. [laughs] It’ll be there. So I said, “No, you shouldn’t, because if you’re thinking about the record on that technical of a level, you’re not feeling it, and a lot of times when things aren’t perfectly in phase, they feel better. A lot of the times, when things are goofy and not necessarily technically correct, they feel better,” and so the producer should be thinking about that.

Any sonic choice you’re making, any EQ choice you’re making, any phase choice you’re making, it should all be just about the feel of the record, and let me deal with the technical stuff of like — you know, because you ain’t got time for that.

Samik: Yeah, ain’t nobody got time for that.

Matt: Ain’t nobody got time — Well, I’ve got time for that, that’s the point.

So I want to pull open an example actually, because now I’m producing — Oh god, and I’ve got…

Samik: It’s pretty good stuff, guys.

Matt: I’ve got this kick drum that I recorded yesterday.


So it’s this really roomy kick, and what I’m doing as part of the production is I’m modifying the sound of the kick to make it sound deeper, and a little bit more Hip-Hopy, because I know in the arrangement, it’s going to fill out all of the sub and a lot of the low end, and the bass part is probably going to be a brighter, higher bass.

So I’m doing some processing that I would normally think of as EQ processing.


So what I’m going to do is I’m going to commit these sounds. Meaning I’m going to reprint them as-is. I don’t think of this as a mixing choice. It’s a production choice, because it’s integral to how the arrangement is going to work, it’s integral to how the music is going to feel, and I think if you’re out there and you’re going to send your music out to a professional mixer or whatever, don’t be afraid to commit these choices as part of — don’t rely on me to do it, because when I get the record, I might interpret it seven different ways, and I’m not going to know…

You know, I could be like, “I could voice it this way, I could voice it that way, I could voice it this way.” I’m not going to necessarily know, but if you make these commitments, I’m going to hear it and I’m going to go, “I know exactly what you’re going for.”

Yeah, do you have any questions for me?

Samik: Um, okay, from the production to mixing aspect, I would say, do you — how do you prefer to get your sessions, I guess. You know, when you get a session from a producer or if you get stems from a producer, how do you want those things to be? Do you want those, like you said, do you just want some of those things committed, that would be cool, but in arrangement wise, what’s your preference to get the record so you can do your job to the best you’ve got?

Matt: That’s a really good question. So first speaking on the subject of commitment, so you know, there’s certain plugins and certain sound design things that you use a lot, and you know you’ve gotten that phone call millions of times, where it’s like, “I don’t have this plugin and it’s doing something that’s very unique.”

So if it’s part of the production, if you feel like this is a production effect, you know, an interesting delay, a flanger, a phaser, you know, something that redesigns the sound of the kick, like what I was just doing, definitely commit that, because that’s part of the sound. That’s part of —

Samik: All the Maserati stuff.

Matt: Yeah, like the Maserati thing. And I might not have all of those plugins. So definitely that. In terms of, you know, you don’t want my job to be difficult, you want me to do my job really well.

Samik: Right, exactly.

Matt: And you want — the main goal that I’m seeking out is to make the record sound the best that it can, so if you send me a record that’s a rough mix and it’s an amazing rough mix, I’m not going to go far from that. So ideally, everything is tracked out and labeled nicely, and also, if your rough mix is done in Pro Tools, then you know, you can send it with — like if you’re using the basic stock EQ or some plugins you know that I have like the Waves Q10, I know you do a lot of sculpting with the Waves Q10, you send it with those things on there, and then what I can do is I can listen to it, and I can go, “Okay, this sounds basically how it needs to sound. Let me take my technical chops and finesse it a little bit better, do what you did, but just do a better version of it.”

So if like, the last one you sent me, you sent me — the Q10 was on the kick drum, and there was like, four or five dB chopped out of 700Hz. So I pulled it up, because I liked the sound of the kick drum, I wanted to see what you were chopping out. I pulled it out, and there was this, “Boing” sound that you were getting rid of. I was like, “Oh, okay, that’s what he was doing when he did this.”

So I narrowed up the Q a little bit and pulled it out a little bit further, and what happened was the “boing” kind of tone, that diminished even further, but because I narrowed up the Q, the rest of the sound was a little fuller, so it basically was the same kick that you has made, but just a little bit less of a “boing” noise, and a little bit fuller of the kick itself.

So I — explaining all that, I’m going into that long winded explanation is to give people the understanding of how a good mixer is often times going to interpret a rough. So yeah. So I think that’s probably a good place to wrap.

Samik: I think so.

Matt: So yeah, check out that workshop series, check out — what’s the address for the —

Samik: Okay, so the address for the sample pack is I’m Operablem, but it’s

Matt: We’re just going to give you the link. That’s the easiest way to do it. Alright guys, until next time. Stop stealing my outro. God dammit!


Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss is the recordist and mixer for multi-platinum artist Akon, and boasts a Grammy nomination for Jazz & Spellemann Award for Best Rock album. Matthew has mixed for a host of star musicians including Akon, SisQo, Ozuna, Sonny Digital, Uri Caine, Dizzee Rascal, Arrested Development and 9th Wonder. Get in touch:

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