Mixing music is an art-form that shapes the sound and enhances the emotion of the song.
I'm a big "use your ears" guy. Instead of worrying over numbers and looking at analyzers, it's more important to me to close my eyes and make sure I can feel the music. My mix has to have emotion.
When it comes to vocals I tend not to create perfect pitch. If it's a good performance with slight pitch offsets, it can sound more human and natural. I like to only fix pitch if it sounds wrong. A lot of modern music tend to make everything perfect which makes it sound lifeless and computer generated.
I am a new-school mixer with an old-school mind. I use hardware controllers for my all software studio. Having those controls in my hands makes for faster mix decisions, and allows me to close my eyes, while making changes, to get it just right.
While I have many hardware emulation plugins, I will only use them if I think they will benefit the song. If for instance the tracking was done through all analog gear, there really isn't any need for analog emulations in the mixing phase and can actually muddy up the clarity. I would therefore use all clean, digital plugins to maintain the sound from the recording.
Competitive, Radio Ready Mix
What does it mean to achieve a competitive, radio ready record? If you've ever mixed your own demo, you might have noticed it just doesn't sound the same as tracks from big labels. There are a few reasons. The most obvious is loudness.
Ever since the loudness wars of the '90s, we've been slamming volume level as close to the limit as possible. Why? Because humans naturally think a louder song sounds better. And nobody wants their song quieter than others that play before or after in a playlist or on radio.
Our ears and brain change the level balance of different frequency ranges based on overall loudness. At low volumes we hear midrange louder, while playing a song loud brings up the lows and highs and the midrange lowers in relation.
Another element of mixing to get that "Pro" sound, is compression. This is where we bring up lower parts of a song and push down louder parts for a more even volume, by controlling the dynamic range of the track. Done right, this can create a more cohesive and punchy sound.