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on 20 January 2011
This is not your usual textbook-style, technique and theory book. Whereas most mixing books focus on the analytical, left-side of the brain, Zen and the Art of Mixing focuses on the "big picture".

Quick foreword:

I received this book the first day of release(pre-ordered) and I just finished it. Why did it take so long you wonder? Well, this is one of those rare books where every page is oozing with insights and wisdom! I wanted to take my time so I wouldn't miss anything. That's not to say his writing is archaic or requires you to solve puzzles to understand. In fact, it's quite the opposite! Mixerman's writing style is just as personable and enjoyable as his first book, The Daily Adventures of Mixerman. And just like the first book, Zen and the Art of Mixing continues to impart the elevating experience of making you feel as if you're actually IN it.

Background:

I started recording and mixing in 1999. My first gig, like many others, was recording my band's first album. I was the most technically savvy person in our group so I asserted myself into the position of engineer. I was immediately hooked! The group has dissolved since then, and many other groups along the way, but engineering has only grown and matured. Before I knew it, I was on the forums regularly, trying to find guidance on this elusive and all-encompassing musical path. I've read plenty of books, threads - watched countless tutorials - carefully invested in quality gear - and spent endless hours in front of my DAW.

There have been many milestones in my journey... those "ah-HA!" moments where you find yourself propelled into a higher plane of engineering art--when a concept or principle suddenly "clicks" and you're forever changed from that point forward. Zen and the Art of Mixing will set a new milestone in your craft. I whole-heartedly recommend this book to not only engineers, but also artists, producers, and the less common music listener who is interested in what lies behind the curtain of a musical production.

Review:

So much is covered in this relatively small book, it's quite astounding actually. From a Utilitarian point-of-view, it is very effective and efficient. I can easily take this book with me wherever I go. And I do.

I won't discuss every topic in the book, but I will mention one particular area of confusion that has been clarified for me.(of many)

Workflow.

Mixerman carefully lays out his workflow in mixing for all to see in Chapter 3 - The Mechanics. This is uncut, uncensored, and VERY eye-opening. At least it was for me as I'm very compulsive and tend to work more effectively when I have a lay of the land. Mixerman goes from the beginning of a mix, to the end, in order. Oh, and how lovely it feels to find some order in this madness we call mixing. A lot of the workflow, I'm already quite familiar with, but as fragmented pieces. After reading The Mechanics, I am no longer fragmented and there is a sense of clarity and calm in my approach to mixing. Zen indeed.

For example, the first part of a new mix, Discovery and Framing. Discovery is the initial step of purely gathering information. Framing is the following step of constructing a rough mix, keeping in mind, the fine-tuning will come later. In other words, the logic is that, in order to make detailed/specific mixing decisions, one has to at least have an foundational rough mix. How many times in our youthful engineering days have we opened up a brand new mix, and prematurely dove into nitty gritty minutia of things, only to find ourselves revisiting those fine-level mixing decisions over and over again? A great recipe for exaggerating the already deterring effect of chasing one's tail. Oh how I wish someone would have pointed out this obvious step as plainly as MM does, because it IS a step... but for some reason, I hadn't given it much thought. What I mean is, I was already doing my own discovery and framing in my workflow, but I didn't consciously recognize it. In other words, knowing the step explicitly has given me the ability to consciously maximize my own initial discovery and framing phase. Less tail chasing!

Below are the sections in The Mechanics--you can get an idea of the workflow order.

Discovery and Framing
Phase Coherency
Drums
Bass
Monitoring Levels
Bring in the Parts!
Underdubbing
Parts
Electric Guitar
Acoustic Guitar
Piano and Keyboards
Percussion
Science Experiments
Referencing Other Mixes
Rough Mixes
Makethe Mix Sing,Pop,and Gel
Automation
The Vocal
Compression
Finding Compromise
The Payoff
Refining and Enhancing
Finishing Your Mix
Mix Notes
Printing the Mix
Saying Goodbye Is Hard to Do

Conclusion:

Zen and the Art of Mixing has set a new standard for mixing books. I will proudly say, it has unlocked, organized, and affirmed my mixing potential. What I hope to communicate in this review is... there really is NO book on mixing quite like this one. I'm not referring solely to the "big picture" perspective MM takes, but more importantly, his genuine and unabashed writing style that captures his 20+ years of mixing professionally AND his "take no prisoners" attitude in regards to his mixing beliefs. In other words, where other authors may tip-toe around, dryly/technically explain, or even entirely omit certain topics, Mixerman fiercely discusses every taboo or controversial topic and actually picks a side, explains his reasons, and even invites you to join him. For example, MM discusses the benefits to summing analog(OTB), and how digital summing is essentially "broken". I fully agree with him on this from my recent experiences mixing with a summing box. I have to say, it is so refreshing to read something so "real" and "unadulterated", especially in a field that is dominated by scientific measurements/specs/numbers/data.

Finally, I have yet to disagree outright with anything Mixerman discusses and that may or may not change down the road(as MM even said for himself) as I grow in my craft, but right now, I'm enjoying the next level of mixing that has been ignited by MM's writings. And MM encourages his readers who do disagree to engage him in the forums for some healthy debates. :)

Zen and the Art of Mixing should have a spot on every mixing engineer's bookshelf. In practical terms, no other purchase will come close to improving your mixes for under $20, so buy it NOW.
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on 31 July 2016
Hi folks,

I purchased this book to run alongside a more technical book I am working though relating to RECORDING etc. It was also recommended (as was the latter-mentioned) by an instructor on a You-Tube tutorial (who is actually very good!).

Anyway, I bought it last week and am nearly 100 x pages into it now. So far, I have learned nothing and the author seems to keep saying the same things round and round, over again. Just seems like padding and a complete waste of pages to me.

To be honest, I can't wait to finish it and get back to the other book again. It is definitely not worth 15GBP and I won't be keeping it (I will try and regain a couple of quid selling it back on eBay).

The author has another book out called "The Diaries Of . . ." which I checked out on You-Tube today. It sounds equally dreadful with the author frequently using four letter swear words once again. There really is no call for this in my opinion (especially in an INSTRUCTIONAL book!).

Regarding the 'ZEN' aspect, you would be much better off purchasing "The Inner Game Of Music" for half the price. A great read, no swearing and not a word wasted!

Best,

Paul David Seaman (UK)
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on 28 October 2012
Zen and the Art of Mixing is not your typical how-to-mix book. It focuses on the philosophy and concepts behind mixing & production, and avoids technical details most of the time. The main premise being that getting good sound for the sake of good sound is overrated - we all know the very many sites and forums online where people endlessly debate whether to use this EQ or that Compressor, in this ratio, on that Daw, and so on. In his book, Mixerman opens up for us, a world of insight, where emotional response is the king, and everything else exists to maximise it. For the first time, a book about mixing tells us this: It's not enough to have a good pair of ears, in the process of music creation, you got to be able to use your heart.
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on 18 May 2014
It appears Zen is whatever you want it to be. I expected more insight into mixing than this.

It's got filler you can get for free using the net, a few ideas anyone musical would've sussed out themselves and, against the grain of the first 9/10 of the book, a didactic ad for his fave A/D converters.

There's also a mean spirited tone to the book that you can also find on his forum.

Recommended for beginners, quite useless for intermediate and advanced practitioners.
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on 25 July 2011
My experience and budget is limited therefore I mix exclusively in my DAW in my bedroom. However, my main goal is to make passable demos for my band so that's not surprising. However, I was intrigued by the creative/musical rather than technical approach of the book (having read a favourable review in Tape Op Magazine) and, despite my humble means and experience, I want to at least avoid basic mixing errors and for my demos to sound as great as possible. One day, when I can no longer face carrying a valve amp up 3 flights of stairs to rehearsal, I might consider exploring mixing as a career, something I must give due credit to this book for inspiring me to do. To anyone who hasn't tried this yet - hard panning guitars works a treat. I can't believe I never tried this before!

I should point out that those seeking specifics or technical information should look elsewhere before picking this book up. However, in my opinion, that's pointless - once you have the skill set that this book attempts to foster, the gear will select itself as you'll appreciate that equipment is only useful when applied in certain ways - there are no universals in a creative medium such as music.
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on 20 January 2011
I bought this book as I'm a semi-pro who records and mixes a dozen or so projects a year for musicians who can be thought of as serious hobbyists. So anything I can get my hands on to improve in this field without shelling out a ton of cash is of interest to me.

First off, let me say this. Zen and the Art of Mixing isn't really a Technical Reference. It's a philosophy book. And it's a good one.

This book isn't going to teach you the technical details of mixing a record. It will however help you to cultivate a mindset and approach to the craft of mixing.

What you'll notice immediately in this book is that the author isn't wishy washy at all. Mixerman has been in the business for some time. And just like a soldier who has made it back from war; Mixerman isn't afraid to tell you what you need to know to stay alive.

If you're looking for yet another tutorial on how to use parallel compression; you might want to skip this book. If however, you want to go deeper into the madness of successful mixing from a guy that has several "big time" mixes under his belt, then Zen and the Art of Mixing is a "Must Read".
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on 26 November 2012
into the world of the professional mixer.

He has an easy to read style and conveys his points clearly and entertainingly. Perhaps not for professionals but for anyone with aspirations to mix professionally or simply an amateur struggling to make sense of a mix or how to approach it then the book is very useful.

He manages to keep it relatively straightforward and avoids too much technical detail.

I've recommended it to other musician friends.
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on 12 February 2017
Definitely a mandatory book for anyone thinking about mixing at a better-than-average or even pro level.
Mixerman's has a good sense of humor and a complete lack of fear of hurting anyone's feelings, which makes the book fun to read. The book reflects the author's extremely educated, but also very personal view of mixing.
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on 30 November 2011
a quality little book with plenty of illuminating concepts and well explained processes. some say this book is ok for beginners, I think its a complement and delight to any musician into mixing. Showing an alternative approach, mixermans contribution is refreshing in this modern and well priced book.
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on 7 November 2010
I saw this on the 'Gearslutz' internet forum by chance (I dont go there often) and thought I'd try it because the title sounded like the approach I wanted, IE no confusing technical information and fancy words.
It is extremely clear and well written in a personable style by someone who clearly has the experience. I'm a home based, not very good mixer and I read it in a couple of days and was rarely confused by anything. This was perfect for me as it centres on the approach to mixing, as opposed to 'which are the best plugins?' etc.
I was quite disheartened to learn that getting a great mix usually involves you having money to spend on things like room acoustics and expensive monitors but it's an important lesson I think. The important thing is to use what you have to get the best result possible and this book will point you in that direction.
Its also great for people who want to mix professionally and includes some good tips on how to deal with clients amongst others.
In short if you have no idea about mixing, buy it. If you know about mixing but need a shake up or just a good read, buy it.
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