I am a mixer/producer/engineer and mastering engineer with over 30 years of experience. I have recorded and mixed all types of music in all types of situations.
My preference is live music made with real musicians though I am happy to mix almost anything. I have a great deal of experience "helping" live drums to sound their best without the use of samples. I am quite familiar with guitar-laden, dense arrangements and can comfortably deal with high track counts. I have recorded and mixed orchestral tracks for rock and pop arrangements and love working with all types of acoustic instruments. I have mixed several live concerts and DVDs.
I am the author of the book "Recording Drums: The Complete Guide" and the creator of the YouTube video series "The Method to the Mix".
I prefer to spend time working on a great mix rather than worry about what gear I use to make the mix sound right. Contact me any time to discuss your project!
Send me a note through the contact button above.
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Interview with Mike Major
Q: Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
A: I mix records for bands, with mostly live instrumentation. I pride myself on getting the most out the tracks that I am sent, particularly drum tracks. I don't use samples to supplement my drum sounds because I always find a way to make what's there sound its best.
Q: What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
A: I love the work of Rich Costey, Tchad Blake, Bill Botrell and grew up idolizing Bob Clearmountain.
Q: What's your typical work process?
A: My work process usually consists of my listening to a rough mix from the band to see what they have been listening to. I then start with all faders down and then build my own rough mix to acquaint myself with the tracks and to make mental notes about what is working, what is not, and what is "the thing" about the song. Once I've determined where I want to go I bring everything down and build it from the drums up. I like to build a static mix that works well before I start automating (a throwback to my analog days). Mixes can take me anywhere from 5-6 hours up to 18-20 if the song is in bad shape or has a ton of tracks. I am done when I'm done!
Q: What do you bring to a song?
A: I bring an attention to detail and an addiction to power. I hate tracks that have no dynamic impact or excitement. When the track has been well recorded the mix becomes more of an exercise to maintain the power of the performance. When the track has not been well recorded then the mix is all about creating and heightening the excitement of the song and the track. I feel comfortable in both arenas.
Q: What's your strongest skill?
A: I really understand drums. I wrote a book about recording drums (Recording Drums: The Complete Guide) and have always taken the time to get the most out of them. I think a good drum sound can carry an otherwise mediocre recording, though the reverse is not true!
Q: What type of music do you usually work on?
A: I work on mostly heavier indie rock with a focus on GTRs and big drums and bass. I have mix/recorded all styles, however, including symphony/classical, Flamenco, Mariachi, Jazz, Country, R&B/Soul, Funk and even spoken word!
Q: Can you share one music production tip?
A: I think the value of a great performance has been lost in the latest technology. Everyone tends to overwork and edit and fix things whether they need to or not and that removes the uniqueness and emotion from an otherwise good performance. I think musicians need to be comfortable in their own skin and should feel good about a good performance; good enough to put it on a record without having to "fix" it.
Q: Which artist would you like to work with and why?
A: I would love to work with Sting because I have been a fan of his for so long. He hasn't recorded a great record in quite a while and I would love to sit in a room with him and his band and just bang out some great performances. There's nothing like working with top-flight players!
Q: How would you describe your style?
A: A mastering engineer friend of mine described my mixes as "big, clean and wide"…so I'll take that.
Q: What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
A: I can't stress how important it is to hire someone professional to record, mix and master your music. Since every band only gets one chance to make a first impression, it is imperative that you only release music that sounds its best. People tend to judge music based on its production value (whether they do it consciously or not) and subpar recordings don't show your band in the best light. A band should take pride in what they do and what they put out enough to make sure that it sounds good.
Q: What questions do you ask prospective clients?
A: I ask them how they feel about what they have recorded in the past or how the feel about the tracks that they have sent me to mix. It helps to understand a band's perspective about where they are and what they want before agreeing to work with them. If their expectations are in alignment with reality then you can both come away from the project feeling good about it.
Q: What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?
A: "Will it be as loud as everything else that listen to?" "Can you make the drums sound like (artist x)?" When I master a record I can make it as loud as anything else that's out there, but the artist has to know what they're willing to sacrifice for that amount of volume. It can't be loud and big sounding because as you make it louder, you thereby reduce the dynamic range, which eliminates "bigness", which relies on differences between loud and soft. I can make the drums sound their best and can mimic some of the ideas and balances from other drummers and recordings, but I can't make your drums sound appreciably different than they sounded when you recorded them…unless we use samples…and I don't like samples!
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: I still get excited about every mix and enjoy the struggle and hard work it takes to make it sound the way I hear it in my head. Every project is different and I learn something on every project.
Q: What's your 'promise' to your clients?
A: No one will work harder to make it sound great! I am obsessive about mixing and usually spend way more time than I bill for, but it has to be right, or I can't finish it.
Q: Analog or digital and why?
A: I am entirely in the box. I think people's expectations about their mixes these days with regards to the level of detail and the ability to recall and automate everything dictate an all digital workflow. While I love analog, I have figured out ways of using specific plugins and signal paths to give me a similar flavor and color that I used to get when working on a console.
Q: Is there anyone on SoundBetter you know and would recommend to your clients?
A: Not sure…would have to peruse!
Q: Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?
A: I mixed Coheed and Cambria's live DVD "Neverender" which was a live 4 disc set of every song they had ever recorded up until that point of their careers. It was 52 songs over 4 nights of performances and I was happy with how it turned out. I had a mixed a few live records before but never one of this magnitude. I tried my best to make it still sound live but used many of the same mixing techniques to make it loud and modern as well. It was a blast!
Q: What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
A: I started doing live sound and recording at about the same time, in 1987. I did both concurrently for almost 20 years though I moved on to mixing and mastering almost exclusively since 2006, and I miss tracking! I have been involved in pro audio for 30 years.
Q: What are you working on at the moment?
A: I am mixing a very heavy project for a band called IFTAKT (I Find Them And Kill Them), which is really cool. Lots of mastering jobs a few single mixes. I am also doing a fair amount of acoustic consulting as well...too many people are working in bad-sounding rooms and I'd like to fix that!
Q: Tell us about your studio setup.
A: My studio is currently based around a Pro Tools 11 setup with a ton of UAD and Plugin Alliance plugs, though I also have some offerings from Waves, SoundToys, and many others. I monitor on a pair of Dynaudio Acoustics BM15A's that are imbedded in a wall of tube traps. This gives me a very accurate and pleasant monitoring environment which I trust implicitly.
Q: If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?
A: 1. A working pair of Telefunken 251's, a two channel mic pre (Like a Millennia or a Massenberg); and a pair of speakers. That's five. I could listen back to what I put in front of the mics, which may be the sound of coconuts falling from the trees. But at least it would be a nice sounding recording of coconuts falling from the trees!
Q: What's the biggest misconception about what you do?
A: That anyone with the same setup/speakers/plugins can do what I do. I contend that experienced recording engineers bring more perspective and experience to a recording than any band is capable of doing on their own, regardless of how well they know what they want to achieve. There is no substitute for experience…and I have quite a bit of that!