“The Systematic Mixing Guide” Book Review

Years and years ago I used to lurk on a forum on the website UltimateMetal.com.

There you’d find legions of metal musicians and producers exchanging recording and mixing tips.

In just about every UM forum thread there was an incredibly generous and knowledgeable guy called “Ermz” who would respond to user’s queries with some really great production advice.

ermz
When you saw this avatar, you anticipated the drop of the Knowledge Bomb!

“How do I get my hi-gain guitars wider?”

“What’s the best way to EQ a kick for metal?”

“How do I mix scream and guttural vocals?”

Well, this Ermz guy—whose proper name is Ermin Hamidovic—has written a book.

He’s not simply an enthusiast dwelling in the dungeons of a heavy metal forum, but a skyrocketing engineer, having worked on tracks by Periphery, Architects and Ola Englund in the last few months alone.

His Systematic Studios is seeing more and more heavyweight clients—and there’s no better selling point for one’s skills than that!

 

Target Audience

This book has its roots in the world of metal, and as such the content deals with mixing music consisting mostly of live instrumentation (guitar, bass, vocals, acoustic drums). However, the insight gained here can translate to many genres.

For example, the approach to dealing with phase cancellation in recorded drum kit components (snare, overheads, kick, toms) holds true for any production using live drums and also applies to the layering of drum samples.

Additionally, Hamidovic’s measures for tightening up the low end of a track are useful for achieving a polished, professional sound in any style of music.

The book does assume some pre-requisite knowledge of mixing, such as knowing how to use EQ and Compression, and generally finding your way around a DAW to set up a project for mixing.

This book isn’t about guiding a total beginner into the elite ranks of mixing, but rather a booster shot of potent know-how for the intermediate or even experienced producer looking to sculpt legit, hard-hitting rock and metal mixes.

Scope

The Systematic Mixing Guide covers all of the essential elements of a full rock or metal band production—drums, vocals, distorted guitars, clean guitars, and bass.

Each instrument is dissected as Hamidovic shares his approach to balancing, shaping, controlling dynamics, correcting pitch, time editing, and other types of processing to reveal the best character and tonality.

The guide makes no promises to declassify secret mix recipes or plug-in settings that will transfigure your productions into award-winning tracks, because no such information exists.

What this book offers is a concise reference for tackling common obstacles in metal/rock music production. It spells out tried-and-true starting points for approaching an epic sounding mix. It illuminates lots of typical pitfalls encountered in the mixing process,

One of the things I personally struggled with for years is dealing with what Hamidovic considers the mix engineer’s arch-nemesis—distorted guitars. The Systematic Mixing Guide gives you the right mindset for taming these roaring behemoths and working them into a cohesive, intelligible and powerful track.

While a huge percentage of people interested in this book are probably going to jump right ahead to the section devoted to distorted guitars, be advised that the mixing of drums is absolutely vital to a slamming metal or rock mix. Ermz leaves nothing out in mixing the skins, breaking down his usual plan of attack for each piece of the drum kit from overheads to snares to room ambiance.

Of special note is the chapter exploring bass and low end mixing. As Hamidovic mentions himself, this aspect of production is often overlooked and obscured by the focus on gnarly guitar tone and massive drums, but the bass tracks can easily make or break a mix. I’ve found it to hold true over years of my own failings and small victories that a floppy, boomy, thin or muffled bass tone can ruin a track and negate the effort distilled into mixing the other instruments.

Value

The book is purchased through the independent printing company Lulu.com at a price-tag of $20 USD. The book is soft-bound and the print quality is on par with any mass-produced paper-back. An e-book version can be purchased slightly cheaper, but I really like having pulp ‘n’ ink reading material at hand when I’m working in my project studio.

If many other audio production books are big, milky mugs of latte, The Systematic Mixing Guide is a shot of ultra-condensed espresso.

What you have here is a handbook, a quick reference, chock full of no-bullshit, down-to-Earth explanations from the mind and experience of a talented engineer who has already fought all of the types of battles you’ll face when producing rock and metal music.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this blog, rock and metal are (in my opinion) the hardest genres of music to produce right. With Hamidovic’s book in your arsenal, you’ll have some heavy artillery and high-level reconnaissance for winning the battle.

Purchase your copy of the Systematic Mixing Guide HERE.


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