5 Useful Tips For A Great Mix
5 Useful Tips For A Great Mix
You’ve written your song, EP, Album, all your tracking is complete and you’re now ready for the mix. Congratulations! To record all the instrumentation so that you’re happy with each performance is not an easy task. Hard part done, what next? Our 5 tips here are by no means a comprehensive guide to mixing, but you’ll be surprised how much they’ll improve your work. Once you’ve been through this short list and you feel you need more help, check out some of our other posts, in particular you may be interested in our posts on noise reduction or volume normalisation and compression. There you will find tools that you’ll probably look to employ at some stage during your mix.
1. Mix on fresh ears
In my experience, having worked tracking the same song or album for weeks at a time, jumping straight into the mix can be overwhelmingly restrictive. There are endless stories that I’ve heard from bands struggling to find ‘their sound’, jumping and swapping engineers and producers, attempting the mix alone but never getting it quite right. To get clarity and an objective view, given your vision, you are best walking away from the music and giving it some space. I recall working on an album for 2 weeks both day and night and on the last day reviewing our work. Over the course of the 2 weeks I was very happy with sections of the music, but during the playback on the last day I immediately felt that it was a disaster! Nothing was as I’d originally hoped. It’s a heart sinking feeling after investing so much time and emotional energy. In my frustration I called up a fellow musician who had nothing to do with the project and they advised me to take a complete break and not listen to the music at all. That’s exactly what I did and I took a 2 week break from music. When I got back I had renewed enthusiasm and a fresh perspective. I was eager to get back to work to finish the project. Now when I listened back to the recordings everything was much clearer. I knew exactly what I needed and how to achieve it. When you’re so close to something you can lose your perspective and taking a step back gives you the bigger picture again. Giving yourself space away from music is very much an essential part of the process.
2. Mix in a ‘nice’ environment
We all know that our moods are greatly affected by our environment. As our mood will affect how we perceive sound, it makes sense that we should think about what sort of space we are going to do our final mix in. Most of you reading this post will have some sort of home studio set up. You’ve just finished a day recording. There are cables and microphones everywhere, your tax return half obscuring your mixing desk and an endless supply of half finished coffee cups. Let’s be honest, it’s a guaranteed scene after a day recording.
Have a good clean up! Take pride in your environment, allowing you space to move without fear of knocking something over. This will help keep you be relaxed and focused. When you’re so close to completion and you’re interrupted by one of those mugs falling over and spilling on your desk, you’ll not be in the best frame of mind for adding the finishing touches to your precious track. This may seem like a less significant point, but it’s exactly these small points that can separate the good from the great. Your physical space reflects your mental space, and your mental space will affect the music.
Sorting out your physical space also means you’ll feel more comfortable inviting others in to take a listen.
As well as your physical space, being organised in every area is essential, especially when it comes to organising your music. Make this standard practice. In some cases you may simply have a single guitar and vocal to mix together. On other occasions you could potentially be challenged with 24, 36 or even 120 tracks to get your head around. Grouping the tracks together by reordering, colouring and labelling them appropriately is your first step. For drums, horn sections, backing vocals and larger groups of tracks I’d advise to make use of a bus. By grouping instruments in this way you can make delicate changes within the group such as a louder bass drum, or use the bus to lower or raise the entire drum kit in the mix. Colour-coding your tracks and being organised means you’ll save time and time is precious. It’s worth it! You’ll spare yourself a big headache.
4. Use a second pair of ears
Yes, you may be the only one who really knows the sound you’re after. That said, having a trusted professional second opinion can work wonders. Following our mixing sessions here at Onlinesessions we always bring in a second pair of ears who are briefed on the clients desired sound, and who listen to our mix. More often than not, it is that vital icing on the cake. Perhaps a few dB off a specific frequency on an instrument, a section or the entire mix. Sometimes a little more spacial separation and limitation. On other occasions more complex and drastic changes with some sound design can catapult the track into improvement and possibly closer to your original vision. It goes back to the pervious point of distance as the new ears haven’t been immersed in this at all and so come with an 100% objective perspective. The hard part here really is to try to drop the natural defensive edges of our personality and allow a trusted and independent professional to get their first impressions. Remember, if this is the first time they have heard your music they’ll have an objective view of the music which is reflective of any new future potential audience.
5. Mix, don’t fix!
Mixing is a skilled process. Having the tools in front of you is a good start but it can be an overwhelming struggle if you simply don’t understand the subtleties of each process you’re faced with. You do however need to be aware that by mixing you should not be trying to cover up substandard performances. There is no mask for that in the long run. Instead the aim is to bring out, and blend high quality performances together. The final result will be pure excellence. If you subsequently find you are struggling with a particular track because of the performance, consider getting it re-recorded.
If you’d like us to review your mix, or re-record one of your instruments please feel free to get in touch here or start a chat below. Not only are we able to offer cost effective, high quality instrument tracking we have a number of great producers at hand who are always happy to receive great music to mix.Tags: colour-coding, fresh ears, mastering, mixing, mixing environment, mixing tips