There are a lot of ways to become better at mixing. Getting to know your tools, learn all about audio theory… But there are a couple of habits that can instantly get your mixes into a different league. In this episode of the Sound Tweakers Podcast I’ll discuss 10 of them.
Habit 1: Use a reference
It’s absolutely essential to use a reference while mixing to eliminate guess work. Ask your client for ONE reference that represents the general direction he wants you to take with your mix.
Habit 2: Mix at two different volume levels
Because the sensitivity of our ears towards low and high frequencies increases with volume, mixes sound different at different volumes. You must strike a balance between something that sounds good at low and at high volumes.
Habit 3: Mix with faders only in the beginning
Faders are your most important tool. The first step towards a successful mix is getting a rough balance with nothing but volume control. No automation, no EQ, no compression.
Habit 4: Don’t solo too much
Avoid the solo button as much as you can. Like this you don’t fall into the trap of optimizing individual sounds rather than the whole mix. If you need to solo, always cross-check your processing in the context of the mix.
Habit 5: Start your mix in mono
… or else your biggest enemy – phase – might come for you. Mixes must sound good in mono and instead of checking mono compatibility every 10 minutes, why not leaving panning for last?
Habit 6: Focus on the most important processes first
The three most important ones are (1) volume, (2) EQ and (3) compression. Get those right first, then use other processing or automation.
Habit 7: Mix the fullest part of the song first
If you start mixing from the top you might find yourself mixing a quieter part of the song initially. The settings that you use for this might not translate well to the more complex parts – so start with those instead.
Habit 8: Define a mixing routine and stick to it
This is all about optimizing your time and being more efficient. Don’t loose time and energy thinking about what to do next. Have a fixed sequence of when to apply which processors. Like this you’ll be able to focus more on the artistic process.
Habit 9: Less is more
If you’re in doubt, always use less processing. This maxim never ever made my mixes worse 🙂
Habit 10: Set yourself deadlines
Without deadlines it’s common to procrastinate and dump another mix into the ‘almost done’ folder. Set yourself a deadline. When it arrives be bold, finish the mix and put it out there. The world deserves to hear your work!
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