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Mix tip – don’t paint yourself into a corner when mixing

July 12, 2014

I’ve been recording for seven years now, but it’s only been from the past two years that I began to find my feet when recording and mixing. I want to write a post about not painting yourself into a corner when mixing. One thing I’ve recently learnt is that you should only start mixing an artist’s tracks when EVERYTHING has been recorded. Don’t give into the temptation of mixing early, as you’ll paint yourself into a corner and will have wasted HOURS if not DAYS mixing… trust me, it’s not fun to do that.

I have made this mistake countless times; it’s so tempting to get those drums really smacking, or to EQ those nasally guitars, but without all the tracks in your recording project, this is pointless, as we don’t know how these tracks will sit with the other instruments.

By having all the tracks in your project, you’re able to balance out the levels and see what you’re working with. Before adding any EQ, see what you can do just by moving the faders, this forces you to balance out the tracks the best you can without the aid of EQ or compression. Another great tip to start practicing, if you’re not already, is to mix in mono. It’s so easy to gain separation in a mix with panning, but by restricting yourself and mixing in mono, you’re forced to make all the tracks balanced in a one-dimensional setting. Then once you pan everything out wide, everything pops out of the speakers and you get a great sounding mix.

Mixing in mono is a great tip, but another tip is to make sure the level coming out of your speakers is REALLY quiet. Mixing at low volumes is key to getting a great sounding mix. By mixing at low volumes, you have to make your mix sound punchy and full without the aid of volume; volume will excite the low and high end, which deceives you into thinking your mix sounds full when it really isn’t. By mixing at low volumes, when you eventually crank the volume knob, your mix will come together.

Another great tip when mixing is not to mix ANYTHING when soloed. The listener will never be listening to just the keyboard part or the drums on their own, they’ll be listening to the whole song as a stereo file. This is great for us engineers as we’re again forced to make sure things cut through a dense mix and finding creative ways to do this. You may find that when you solo what you’ve been mixing, the EQ sounds really bad on its own, but in the context of the whole mix, you don’t notice that bad EQ sound.

So to recap, do this on your next mixing project:

– Only start mixing when everything has been recorded

– Before adding EQ or compression, use volume faders to balance out tracks

– Mix in mono

– Mix at low volumes

– Never mix in solo

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