So I was reading a thread on gearslutz.com one evening on break and low and behold this question came to mind. I started pondering when was my great moment I realized I was finally (sound the horns) a good, competent engineer (recording, mixing and mastering)? To be honest I really don't know the exact moment but I do know there were more then one. How so you ask? Mainly because as I grasped the many concepts that make a good engineer good and applied them correctly my engineering achievement score rose higher (all my xbox people understand me lol).
When I first started I didn't know anything really relevant until I started reading threads and absorbing knowledge at the rate the sun could rise and fall (literally). I asked every engineer I knew everything in the beginning about everything (but that really didn't work). It wasn't until recent years (the last 3) that my mixes really started to shine the way I wanted them to. Why you may ask (I'm getting there)?. Mainly because in those years worth of time I started using the techniques I was watching, reading and learning about and stopped trying to add my own twist on things (until I felt I had a firm gasp anyway).
I once again (and am forever like most ME's) became a student of the game (mixing game) and applied my knowledge every chance I got. Recording and understanding the difference between Dbs and Dbfs on my Pro Tools setup (record low like -18 dbfs and compensate volume by turning the headphones or monitors up, not the preamp volume!). Mixing and learning about the importance of gain staging throughout the whole recording and mixing process (keeping that -18 dbfs and building around it). Setting my mix buss compression to work for the way I mix while hearing the effects it has on my mix (getting to -2 db while I mix is better then setting the threshold to that before I start mixing). Scrapping my Aux effects I had and starting from scratch with tried and true methods and then adding my own to create a proper effects arsenal (harmonizer with the center plugin by waves center channel all the way down).
These were (and still are) techniques I study and listen out for as I listen, record, mix and master music everyday. I realized that I started hearing the difference between console saturation and tape saturation (Neve consoles and reel to reel lol). I tried new techniques and added them thus making my mixing more proficient and robust with every mix I did (URS and AC 2). My mix buss jumped with life even though its got about 5 plugins on it (but you could never hear and tell there were). I was achieving the deep bass I always felt was out of reach for me while maintaining my mixes integrity and clarity giving me an edge overall in sound sculpting as well as production.
So when did I realize I was becoming a good engineer?
1. When people told me I was one of the best (ego boost)
2. When I listened to mixes in the car and they sounded "good" to "me".
3. When after learning and applying something new it worked for my mixes benefit!
4. When I started reading gearslutz.com threads and was able to chime in with my own 2 cents and everyone was agreeing (always a good feeling)
5. When other engineers started asking me about my techniques (ego boost x2)
6. The techniques I learned and applied could be heard without question along with every element I was bringing out in a mix.
7. I knew how to use the tools at my disposal.
That's when I knew I was good. the difference between a rookie ME (mixing engineer) and an experienced ME is in the sessions they are delivered. A bad session can go to both and the rookie will try but ultimately fail in making the mix what it could be (even given the circumstances). The experienced engineer will listen and grab the right tools to fix the problem session and then go to work making the session its best (especially given the circumstances).
Here's a little book which I always reference back to at least twice a year. Simply filled with invaluable lessons and tried and true techniques that will last you a life time. It really is priceless