We are here today with Michelle Pettinato and we are going to talk about Mixing and EQ. Michelle has been a professional sound engineer for 30 years. A few of the artists she’s worked for are Gwen Stefani, Goo Goo Dolls, Melissa Etheridge, Jewel, Indigo Girls and Elvis Costelo. She started working in live sound in the late 1980’s when there were very few women in the field. Her first tour was with Spin Doctors in 1992. She was eventually hired as a concert sound engineer and spent 250-280 days a year touring. In 2012, she co-founded soundgirls.org which was to inspire and empower the next generation of women in audio. She has been looking for a way to show young women that you do not need to be a guy to be a sound engineer or work in music production. In that same year, she was in a panel with 4 other female sound engineers, including Karrie Keyes. They all had more than 20 years experience and were in the top of their field and they were surprised that none of them knew each other. Shortly afterwards, Karrie Keyes reached out and thought about how having a support group could have helped them through their careers. That is when they created SoundGirls.

SoundGirls now helps 6000 women worldwide. They have expanded from just doing live sound to mastering, recording engineering, musician and songwriters. They also offer scholarships among other services. Every month, they feature an in depth profile about other women in music production. Each woman has to find their own path and with these features, they can share the biggest hurdles they faced and the lessons they learned to the young women. This is great in a way for the girls to see that this is something they can also do. SoundGirls also has a great community within their Facebook group. It is such an incredible resource and it’s free.

Over the years, Michelle has done a lot of mentoring and speaking to students at universities and conferences. Then through SoundGirls, from meetings aspiring musicians, sound engineers and producers, she started to hear a lot of the same questions and the same problems, with regard to how they can start and lack of basic principles to create great-sounding mixes. That is what led her to creating mixingmusiclive.com in the summer of 2019. That is where Michelle can pass on the knowledge and experiences which she gained for 30 years. Nowadays, it is easy to search for free information on the internet but if someone is not careful with choosing who you learn things from, that may not help you at all. It’s been a great experience for her seeing how the students progress.

When Covid happened in March, she decided to release her second course which teaches musicians how to create great sounding mixes with nothing more than simple EQ techniques. A lot of people think they need a lot of expensive gear but in reality all they need is EQ. This will also eliminate having to find an engineer to help you with your recording but not getting a result that’s up to standards. When she started doing audio, it also took some time and a lot of trial and error for her to learn the right techniques to use EQ. The hard part for is knowing how things should actually sound like and knowing the frequencies and that’s where most people struggle. She came up with a simple process that breaks it down into 3 simple steps (Hear, Identify and Tweak). You first learn how an engineer hears. Then you learn how to identify frequencies. Finally you learn how to tweak those frequencies with EQ to get the results you want.

Mixing starts with the right mic choice, placement and signal level. After that, you want to EQ and balance with your other elements. Technically that’s all you really need. Compression should really be an icing on the cake. You can actually just do the compression during mastering and no compression during mixing.

EQ works the same during live and when recording. During mixing, you want to EQ your individual inputs first then you want to EQ your entire mix. In live sound, you also follow that except you work the EQ of the room first. That is done by inserting EQ over the sound systems that you can use to ring out the PA. Basically, it’s like needing to start with a beautiful clean canvass before you start painting a picture.

It’s important to have a really good mix which includes correct EQ. There is so much competition out there. The people getting your demos or for sync placement are getting thousands a day. It needs to sound great in the first couple of seconds. Even when your general audience is streaming music on the internet, they need to have a good listening experience. Having great quality recordings and giving a good first impressions for your music is so important.

Even if you don’t want to mix your own sound, knowing frequencies and EQs is so important even for good communication with your producer. Sometimes, you may also have a performance where you will need to handle your own mixing and not knowing how to do mixes and getting feedback would be embarrassing. Also it would feel really great when you can keep everything in house and know how to make what you really want from a track. It saves you tons of time and money.

Find out more about Michelle Pettinato at mixingmusiclive.com. She has a free guide about 5 Biggest Mistakes You Can Make with EQ. Don’t forget to also check soundgirls.org.

Links mentioned in this episode: mixingmusiclive.com and soundgirls.org