Audio: Posts

A Q&A session with Wessel Oltheten

We are pleased to present our Q&A session with Wessel Oltheten, author of the recently published title Mixing with Impact: Learning to Make Musical Choices. Wessel has been recording and mixing music since his teens, which has led to a successful studio business with a very diverse clientele. To hear some of his work you can visit For extra articles and a video course accompanying this book, visit

1. Congratulations on the publication of your book Mixing with Impact: Learning to Make Musical Choices. What do you want your audience to take away from the book?

I hope that they feel inspired to try new things while mixing. I didn’t intend to write a ‘mixing bible’ that tells you what to do. I want to present a way of looking at the relationship between music and the techniques you can use to shape it.

2. What inspired you to write this book?

I never set out to write a book beforehand, but it came as a consequence of me thinking more clearly when I write things down. I started writing articles and essays because I needed to get a better grip on my process in the studio, so I could improve my mixes. I noticed that other people (such as my students) found the articles helpful, and that led me to mould my writings into a bigger structure.

3a. Why is your book relevant to present day audio engineering studies?

I feel that in audio engineering the mere ability to operate technology is becoming less and less important. Technology is getting smarter and more autonomous in its own right, and to me engineering should be about what you want to accomplish as a designer of a musical experience, using technology as a readily available means.

3b. How do you think this field of study is evolving today?

I think many people getting into engineering nowadays start from a position of having every tool they would ever need to shape a sound in their laptop. This is great, in the sense that you can do everything you would ever dream of doing. But it also means that there’s more competition than ever, which makes it vital for an audio professional to have a creative vision and an artistic identity.

4. What audience did you have in mind whilst writing your book?

I like to think of the book as being equally suitable for engineers and musicians. I’m trying to bridge the gap between the two disciplines, while writing mainly from an engineer’s / producer’s perspective.

5. What makes your book stand out from its competitors?

I think my book allows readers to come up with their own interpretations of the concepts I write about. I don’t believe in giving formulas for creative decisions, like naming frequencies you should always EQ in a particular way. I do believe you can make better decisions if you’re able to base them on a thorough understanding of what it is that you are trying to accomplish musically.

6.What did you enjoy about writing the book?

Apparently, writing a book is just like mixing. After piling up many ideas the challenge is to re-frame everything so it starts to make sense as a story. Apart from the fact that I enjoy this kind of puzzle, I also found out that the process of writing down insights automatically leads to the development of new ideas to try as a mixer. In a way, writing the book stimulated my own creativity in the studio.

1.What is your academic background?

I’ve got a BA and MA in Audio Design, and five years after graduating I started teaching audio engineering at the University of the Arts Utrecht, which I’ve been doing for seven years now. I’m only teaching one day a week, since the studio takes up most of my time (as it should, in my opinion).

2.What first attracted you to this topic as an area of study?

I’ve been making and recording music since I was a kid. Taping microphones to acoustic guitars using scrapped hifi systems as amps, mixing band demos live to 2-track cassette, experimenting with electronic sounds, building stuff, it was just all very appealing to me. I couldn’t believe it when I found out that there were actual educational programs where you could learn about these things.

3.Do you have plans for future books? What’s next in the pipeline for you?

I’m currently writing new material that will soon appear in Sound on Sound Magazine, on, and yes, perhaps also in a future book. Visit to keep up with the progress.

4.What is the last book you read (non-academic)?

A truly remarkable and inspiring classic by Rudolf Arnheim: Art and Visual Perception. You wouldn’t believe how many parallels you can draw between the visual arts and music production; this book gave me many new ideas.

5.Who was/is your role model who inspired you to pursue a career in audio engineering?

For me the music comes first. It’s because I became intrigued with how music (and the way it sounds) could affect me emotionally that I wanted to play, record and mix music. It wasn’t until college that I became aware of the audio engineering world that existed outside my parent’s barn. I learned to judge the musical impact of technical decisions by sitting next to a mastering engineer (Hay Zeelen) for over a year, just by watching his every move and asking questions when the customers left. That experience has shaped me profoundly as an engineer.

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