Doesn’t it always seem that just when you reach the point of wrapping your mixes up, that’s when you lose perspective? These seven music mixing tips will help.
With its creative and technical demands, mixing audio tracks can take a lot out of you and leave you mentally and physically drained. It can be daunting, calling up dozens of raw tracks and slogging through long hours in the studio with only fast food and coffee as fuel, and losing sight of where or when the mix will end.
And doesn’t it always seem that just when you reach the point of having to wrap things up, that’s the moment you lose all perspective? When you can no longer hear subtle differences and you really could use a fresh set of ears, you’re more likely to make some questionable choices and decisions and potentially spoil the hard work and hours you’ve already put in.
Well, below are seven music mixing tips to help you maintain perspective, work methodically, plan breaks, and keep things moving forward so you can finish your audio mix with a final product you’ll feel proud of and keep your sanity – and hearing – intact!
Here are seven music mixing tips to help you maintain perspective:
1. Take frequent breaks while mixing
Your ears will fatigue from overuse, so take a 10-minute break every hour or follow the 90/20 rule and take a 20-minute break every 90 minutes. It’s important to spend time not listening to the mix as you work. When your ears are refreshed, start working again, and you’ll have better results.
2. Approach your mix methodically
A mix is a series of logic puzzles, so take a methodical approach. Very often, one action will affect something else in your mix, so carefully listen to subtle changes to understand how they influence other tracks. Try to shift between creative mixing and objective mixing, using both sides of your brain to solve the sonic puzzles in the mix.
3. Beware the solo button
When listening to a track soloed, you can’t understand its relationship to the other tracks in the mix. It’s one thing to solo an instrument to see if there’s an issue with the performance or how you’ve processed it, but you should always take it out of solo and listen again in the context of the full mix. Another option is to bring the fader for that particular track up while mixing music to hear if there are any issues. This won’t give you an ideal sense of context, but it’s often a better practice than making adjustments while listening to the isolated track. It’s imperative you follow this mixing tip since you’re supposed to be working on an entire song, not just one element.
4. Change up the source
Listen to your mix in different environments and on different speakers. If you have concerns about how a particular instrument is sitting in the mix, you’ll have more reliable information if you rule out the possibility that your speakers or room are tricking you. Also, recognize your client and your listeners will likely hear the final product in their cars or with ear buds, so it behooves you to listen to the mix-in-progress in as many environments as possible. All of those real-world listening environments are far removed from an acoustically perfect control room. A lot of great music mixers reference their tracks on a wide range of speakers including monophonic speakers to make sure that their stereo range isn’t cannibalized on low end speakers or on a club mono system.
5. Use mixing references
Have a set of songs you are familiar with to use as a reference while you are mixing music. Have CDs on hand or create a playlist of tracks you know intimately. Listen to how reverbs and delays work in context, note where the vocals sit in the mix, where the drums are in relation to the bass, what frequencies the guitars occupy, etc. Comparing your mix to familiar and well-recorded material gives you a point of reference for everything you do. In addition to your own favorite tracks, ask the client to suggest reference material they admire to help guide your decisions.
6. Don’t look… listen
At various points in the process, turn off your computer screen and just listen to the mix. You’ll be surprised what you hear when you remove the visual component from your mixing session. There’s information you can use on screen, but music is made to be heard, not viewed, so make time to just let your ears guide you.
7. Take the night off
When you wrap up your mix, put it away for a night or two and listen again the next time you’re in the studio. This gives you a fresh perspective and a psychological and physical break before you send the mix off to your client.
Use these mixing tips while doing your audio mix and you’ll come away excited about your work. When you feel good about what you’re accomplishing, rather than feeling beaten down by it, you’ll feel much more confident when you share that Dropbox folder of your mixes with the band.
A better mix will ultimately help in the mastering process.
And remember, Disc Makers is here to put your music out after your mastering process is complete!
iZotope makes innovative products that inspire and enable people to be creative. Based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, iZotope has spent over a decade developing award-winning products and audio technologies for professionals and hobbyists alike. Used by millions of people in over 50 countries, iZotope products are a core component of GRAMMY-winning music studios, Oscar and Emmy-winning film and TV post production studios, and prominent radio studios, as well as basement and bedroom studios across the globe. Through a robust licensing program, iZotope also powers products made by industry partners such as Adobe, Avid, Microsoft, and Sony. iZotope was recently honored with an Emmy® Award for Outstanding Achievement in Engineering Development for its flagship audio repair suite, RX®.
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11 thoughts on “Seven music mixing tips to help you maintain perspective”
Numbers 6 & 7 are great. Humans are made to have the visual side of the brain override everything else, so while people get annoyed when you say “use your ears” it is 100% correct and the less visual interference you have the better. That’s why things like analysers built into EQ’s cause people to go down the wrong road, or EQ curves “look” too extreme so people under EQ. Trust me, sometimes you’d need to turn a knob +15db on a mixing desk! As far as fresh ears…crucial. Nothing like having the mix nailed in the first 15 minutes the morning after 🙂
thanks for the information
I’ve heard of “speed mixing” where you set some almost impossible limit and get one in the can, no matter what – Then go back and tweak to your hearts desire – once in a while you’ll find that the quick-mix has an energy or life that the polished one lacks. (I was in painting class once, and we did a 1 minute drawing a 5 minute drawing and a 15 minute drawing – and the best ones were almost always the 1 minute or 5 minute ones)
Thanks for the tips. Small typo within tip #3: “This won’t give you give an ideal sense of context…..”
Thanks Jonah. I had to read it three more times even after you pointed it out to figure out what the typo was.
Good advice i am thr mix man /drummer for 2 up and coming bands my problem is this maybe you have advice .
And thank you in advance .
When i mix our songs it tends ti be with the group we do it several times together as well as me alone it seems that the song is never complete to satisfactions of the band in hole in this is after difrent locations are used as well as daily renders out to each member .is it simply just ti many ears in the pot to complete a finished mix.
Best to you and yours
Very good advice. I’ve been a recording engineer most of my life went to college for it also one thing I’ve learned always listen to others you can always learn something. BTW we’re redoing our website now
Lots of people don’t even think about Mastering. They think they are finished & in a way they are (LOL). YES TAKE A DAY OFF & COME BACK WITH FRESH EARS. Finish mixing but don’t think you’re done. Still have a long way to go. Peter Blast