Recently, Eyal Levi promised to let me borrow his Audi for a while if I learned about music production and other stuff I have no clue about and wrote about it here. Eyal and his super-producer friends Joey Sturgis and Joel Wanasek have created Nail The Mix, an inside look at how the music you love is produced.
Nail The Mix lets prospective producers download the raw files from their favorite band’s actual recording session and try their hand at mixing it themselves. On top of that, you can watch the actual producer of the song put it all together himself — just like they did when they first created it.
Nail The Mix is a groundbreaking platform for those who want to learn how to become pros in the audio world. Can you explain what it is for those who don’t know?
Eyal: It’s an online mixing school for rock and metal producers – you get access to a new session every month along with an exclusive mixing class from the producer who did the album. It’s top level material taught by top level guys, however, it’s not just for aspiring pros – many of our students just want to make pro-level recordings of their own music. If what you want is to get better at mixing, we are the best and fastest way out there to do it. It’s true that there are no shortcuts, but we will save you years wasted on bad habits and dead ends.
Joey: It’s really our way of creating what we believe to be the best way to learn how to mix. Teaching someone how to mix is a really hard task when you think about it. What we do as mixers is actually so complex, there’s really no step by step process to it a lot of the time. You really have to learn “how to learn” to learn how to mix, haha. To be more specific, it’s a subscription based service where we deliver a new song to you every month in which you download and mess around with. During that month, we have a series of events related to the song that help you out, including our community, livestreaming QnAs, etc. Then at the end of the month, we broadcast live in the recording studio all day long with the original mixer and mix the song from beginning to end. Our audience is like a virtual fly on the wall during the whole process, and they get to participate in the show by asking questions during the show. The audience can see every single move the mixer makes and can interact and engage in our discussion during the session. If there are any special techniques involved in mixing that particular song, we teach them to you right on the spot. Last month, Andrew Wade showed how to create a new tone for an mic’d amp track if you don’t have the DI files, and it blew our minds.
Eyal: Also, I need to add that we pride ourselves on pulling from different genres – this is important because you can learn something from literally anyone – and our audience has been super receptive. They are open minded and that’s really cool to see.
Joel: I believe that the ability for a student to be able to interface with so many professionals at the top of their game is absolutely invaluable. How often can you get a chance to watch you favorite mixer walk through how their brain works and get to interact with them? I wish something like this existed when I started my career. It would have saved me probably 5 years of my life.
Meshuggah is up this month. It seems that you guys are getting bigger and bigger artists on an almost monthly basis. How does that feel?
Eyal: In order to properly educate people you have to get their attention first, and there’s no better way to get a mixer’s attention than to give them a band they love to work on. The second step is to help them get super passionate about the process and again, what better way to do it than with artists they already know and love? On the flipside, what if someone isn’t a fan of a band we have on Nail The Mix? Well, the fact that they’re typically a super established artist is motivation enough for our students to want to dig in.
Joey: It’s pretty cool, but it’s not about the fame or the popularity for us. We want to provide a way learn in a way that hasn’t been possible before, because we feel that ultimately – through this method of learning – we will create the next generation of audio professionals. And that’s important to us, we want to be responsible for that. It’s a mega task that we don’t take lightly.
Joel:It has been an insane amount of hard work on our behalf so it is humbling to see it being embraced so enthusiastically. It is also pretty exciting to see so many amazing artists and mixers hopping on board with NailTheMix. From the artist’s side, they are realizing that it is a fantastic way to connect with their fans as well as show the world that some of these bands are incredibly gifted. Especially in a day and age where a band can be essentially created by a computer. On the producer’s side, the recording industry has had a long standing stigma of not sharing any of the “secret sauce.” I believe a lot of artists and producers are realizing that sharing their talents is what is going to propel our industry forward, not hording them. By embracing technology and change, artists and producers are both finding new audiences of fans. This is a really exciting time for the music industry!
What can users expect out of this month’s session?
Joey: If you actually put in the work, you’ll learn what it takes to make a song like this sound the way it does. Use the session to compare your work to theirs, take a look at what type of sounding tracks they used to build the sonic landscape of the song. Ultimately, you’re going to also learn that Meshuggah are some amazing musicians and more than 50% of their sound comes from their performance. Producers and Engineers can learn a lot from that, never discount the artist.
Eyal: Everything Joey just said, but more specifically you’re going to get an insane amount of layers to work with. There’s something like 20+ layers of rhythm guitars alone! Even re-amped drums! You’re going to see and hear an example of what world-class performances really do look and sound like. That’s one of the things that up and comers have the hardest time with. If they only record local level talent, and haven’t been exposed to what world class is, how can they be expected to set their standards as high as needed for world class results? It’s not a student’s fault if they haven’t been around world-class artists. Nail The Mix takes that excuse away because you get to see where the bar really is, every single month. Also, and this should go without saying, but they will get to watch how Tue Madsen takes all those layers and molds them into something really clean and tight without losing the organic feel of the session. It’s not everyday you get to watch a master work, and ask him questions in real time.
Joel:I believe the user will be blown away when they see how insanely awesome Mesuggah is as a band and not only that, but how incredibly well Tue engineered their album. Getting better at mixing is about challenging yourself. This month has some really unique challenges which will probably put a lot of mixers outside their comfort zone. For example, the shear amount of guitar tracks is overwhelming. Sitting down and trying to solve these problems and experiment with them is how we progress.
Subscribers actually get the raw files from a Meshuggah song to mix on their own. How the hell do they do that?
Eyal: Drop the WAVs in their DAW and get to work! We realize that can be intimidating so we have a fb group where students can compare notes, talk about their challenges, etc. Let me just add that our FB community is 100% troll free. It’s like an audio oasis online. You have everything from total noobs to platinum level producers in there and they all help each other. It’s fantastic. Also, we have a mix crit podcast midway through the month where we will go through student mixes and give constructive feedback. So you are getting much more than just the session – you’re getting the session AND a really comprehensive set of tutorials on how to work with it AND a community dedicated to helping you succeed.
And let me just add, the goal isn’t always to duplicate the mix on the album. Some of our students take it in a really different direction and we love that. The point is just to give you some great raw materials (the session + education) and turn you loose to do what you want with it. That’s how you’ll develop your own sound. Lastly, you don’t need all the same gear we have. That’s not important at all. There are cheap or even free DAWs that are more than capable of pro-level mixes. So really, all the tools are right there in front of people if they want to make it happen.
Joey: What’s the best way to teach a dog how to swim? Well, it starts by putting them in some water. That’s no different here. You can read about stuff, buy tons of gear, and study the process but none of that will matter if you don’t try it. Jumping into the deep end of a session like this will teach you a lot of things you could never learn any other way.
Joel:Import and make it happen. #nosmalltime
How did you guys come up with Nail The Mix?
Eyal: Years ago I started teaching online audio courses for a company called CreativeLIVE. It was an amazing experience because surprisingly, I loved doing it and even more surprisingly, the audience couldn’t get enough. I realized that there was a need and strong desire for audio education. And that made sense because for the most part, there was ZERO credible audio education online. So I started a venture called Unstoppable Recording Machine, otherwise known as URM, where at first I would do in person bootcamp versions of what I taught on CreativeLIVE but the idea was to always expand it into an online school. Around the time that I was starting URM I met Joey Sturgis and we realized that we had some similar goals. I introduced him to my good friend Finn Mckenty at CreativeLIVE so that Joey could see for himself if he enjoyed educating others and helping them level up. Thankfully for everyone, he shared the same passion for helping people improve their audio lives. From that point on we decided that we were going to try and do this education thing together. He introduced me to our third partner, the incredible Joel Wanasek, and it was just clear as day that we were going to make this happen.
We started as a podcast, primarily just to test the waters and to get feedback from the community. We quickly realized that the missing ingredient was access to pro raw material, because many mixers are held back by the quality of their source material. It’s impossible to be a great mixer when you are working with poopy source tracks. Hence URM’s first product, Nail The Mix. Originally NTM was taught by just ourselves, but eventually we started bringing in our friends to teach because we want students to have as many diverse perspectives as possible to draw from.
Joey: We wanted to figure out a way to teach people how to mix, but we quickly realized there is no amount of hours, song, or setting that could do it. The only way to do it would be to create a living, breathing, service that changes all the time. That’s what Nail the Mix is. Each month is a new song, a new mixer, a new set of techniques, a new approach, a new bag of tips and tricks. Music is constantly evolving, and thus in order to learn how to be a master at mixing, you must learn how to evolve, you must learn how to become an expert decision maker, and you must learn how your tools can aid you, because the tools don’t do the work, your ears do.
Joel: We’ve all had very good careers producing and mixing bands and are incredibly grateful for it. Because this industry has been very good to us, we feel like we owe it something. This is our way of giving back. It is about empowering the next generation of great producers. Trying to help them get on the fast track to get the real world skills they need to be successful in the real world. At the end of the day, we are just 3 people who are very passionate about music and we want to help share our love and inspiration with others. Inside everyone of us is a kid, who listened to a song one day and got so inspired that he said “this is what I want to do with my life.” It is about empowering the kid. When we started this, we sat down and we just asked ourselves, how can we best accomplish that goal? How can we do this more effectively? How can we help change the game for someone who wants to getter better at this art? Once we figured it out, we sat down and started grinding away and haven’t looked back.
How can we sign up?!
Joey: Visit Nail The Mix.