Mixing is an art form, and as in all art forms, it requires a specific space. A frame of mind and for you to be in touch with the creative part of your brain, which means removing all the obstacles that prevent you from achieving those requirements. In a mixing project, those obstacles are usually things you need to do before mixing your next masterpiece. So I came up with these 6 mixing tips.
My intention with this article is to give you some of the steps I take prior to start my mixes. I call it pre-mixing, so you can put yourself in the right headspace.
1. Get your edits done.
The first step for me is to get all those vocals in tune. Those drums in time and all the nasty little things off your tracks. Noises, scratches, coughs, breaths…you get it, you’ve heard them…it’s a fight we all need to fight. So get it over with and forget about it. It takes time and energy and if you don’t want to start mixing after a couple of hours of editing, you will just not be listening for the right things.
2. Get your references right. Make a game PLAN for your mix!
I always ask the client for reference mixes. a song that is in the ballpark of what they have in mind for their sound so I can make a game plan for their mix. From snare sounds to vocal effects and guitar tone. It gives you a clear picture of what the band is expecting. so you can prepare your arsenal of tricks and plugins and work towards a specific goal, not depending solely on your taste, but taking on account your client’s expectations.
3. Get your routing done.
Ok, so now you have a plan, let’s start working towards it, shall we?
Doing your track routing works perfectly as a preparation stage since you start making creative decisions. Will I need a parallel compression bus for my drums? Will I need to process all these vocals together? Do I want to do “top-down” mixing? What are the most important elements in the song and how can I have more control over them? Do I use reverb on all my drums?
Therefore, using reverb as an insert on my drum bus or do I want a drum reverb bus so I can have different amounts of reverb on different parts of the drum kit? All these questions and lots more are vital for your mixing and in my experience are better answered before sitting down and mix.
4. Get some rest.
I am a morning person..yeah. I know I’m the weird one here, but I prefer to mix in the mornings. Because my ears are fresh and I can be calmer and put myself in the right place. You don’t need to mix in the mornings as I do, but you NEED to be able to be rested and focused. It’s one of the most important mixing tips, cause you can make the right decisions and have a good amount of energy to take your mix from good, to great.
The times of the day when you’re more tired can be spent editing, comping, answering emails, getting your references…in fact doing any of the steps I just told you about, but NOT mixing.
5. Get yourself comfortable.
I usually get myself a cup of coffee and light some incense in the studio. Those specific things give me comfort and tell me that I am in a safe place to be creative and express myself through my work. Find the things that help you feel that way, rituals are important for artists.
6. Turn off your phone!
You heard me right…burn me alive if you want to, but at least give it a try for the first hour or so of your mix, you will thank me later, or you will thank my ashes anyway.
These are habits I developed over the years. I remember diving right into a mix just after tracking only to find out that I was jumping from tuning a vocal to searching for a plugin, making an extra bus or deciding how to group the ten thousand guitar parts on the project.
It made me lose complete sense of the instrument balance and don’t even get me started on focusing on what the song was about. If you do your pre-mixing right you will be able to focus on the MUSIC and not on the technical aspect of it. Feeling, emotion, dynamics…those are the things to focus on. Get in the right headspace and I guarantee you your next mix will already be a better one.
For more mixing tips, check our other articles!