Hey, this is Jason from Behind The Speakers, and today, you’re going to discover five crucial things you must do in every mix.
Now while it’s great to know what you should do while mixing, it’s also good to know what to avoid. Along with this video, I put together a free PDF with five things you should never do while mixing, and if you wanna download this, you can click the link in the description below or up there in the video, and you’ll get instant access.
Tip number one is to work in concentric circles.
Now, what a lot of people do when they first start a mix is they’ll end up spending way too much time working on the first track they turn their attention to. So they’ll end up EQing a kick drum in solo for an hour before they have any idea how that kick drum fits in with the rest of the mix. Now if you’ve gone down this road, you know it’s a whole bunch of wasted time, you end up circling back over your previous decisions and changing everything later. It’s just not a very efficient way to move through the mixing process.
So a better approach is something called concentric circles. Now this is something that I was taught by my mentor Bob Power, a Grammy-winning mixer, and it’s really a great way to think about the mixing process. So the idea is that you can think of mixing and the process of mixing as a series of concentric circles. So when we first start a mix, we’re working in the broadest, outermost circles, and then as we move through the mixing process, we’re circling in and getting narrower and narrower.
So the idea is when we’re in the outer circles right at the beginning of the mixing process, we don’t want to spend too much time focused on any one track. So we move quickly and impulsively, and we’re bold and aggressive. So if we grab an EQ, we crank the knobs, rather than just tweaking things by a half a dB. If we grab the faders, we’re pushing things really aggressively. Because, again, we’re in those outermost circles. And as we move through the mixing process, we get narrower and narrower in our focus. So we start honing in on any, you know, on individual decisions, we make smaller and smaller tweaks. We spend more time on individual tracks. But that’s toward the end of the process. So in the beginning, we’re working broadly, and then we’re narrow our focus as we move through to those inner circles.
Now, if you can apply this concept to your mixing workflow, not only is it gonna save you a whole lot of time, but it’s just a much more efficient and effective way to move through the mix. So you’re going to be able to finish a lot faster. You’re going to be able to retain more objectivity when you work, which means your mixes are going to sound a lot better at the end of the day. It’s just a much more effective way to move through the process. So if you haven’t tried this, try it. I guarantee you, it’s going to make a big impact.
Tip number two is to adjust your volume knob.
Now a lot of people don’t realize that the volume which you listen to your mix at makes a profound impact on the decisions that you make. So back in the ’20’s, I think it was, these two guys Harvey Fletcher and Wilden Munson did all these tests and basically determined that our ears aren’t actually hearing the same things at different volumes. So when the speakers are turned up, we hear a lot more low end and high end, but when the speakers are turned down, we’re much more sensitive to the midrange, and we don’t hear as much of the extremities of the frequency spectrum.
So when you’re listening to your mix, you want to make sure you’re listening at a variety of different volumes. Because we don’t want to just make a mix that sounds good at one volume, we want to make a mix that sounds great at whatever level it’s listened to. So I recommend doing the majority of your mix at low levels, and there’s a couple reasons for this. Number one, you can zero in more on the midrange, which is the most important frequency band in your mix, where the heart of many instruments lie, and it’s something that’s the most consistent across different speaker systems. So by turning your speakers down, you’re kind of zeroing in on that area. And I recommend spending the majority of your attention there, but it’s great to listen at high levels, too, because that’s when you’re gonna hear what the low end is doing and the high end. And so I recommend varying your listening volume throughout the mixing process. And if you can do this, you’re gonna be certain that your mix sounds great at a variety of different levels. Obviously, that’s what we want for all of our mixes.
Tip number three is to check for phase problems.
Phase problems are one of those things that could easily tank a mix, but they’re so easy to avoid or even ignore. And if you don’t check for phase in your mix, there’s a good chance you’re leaving punch, impact, weight, clarity on the table. Checking for phase problems is one of the easiest things you can do to improve the sound of your mixes.
So if you’re wondering how to do this, I actually have an article on my website that covers the whole process in detail, and I’ve included it in the description below. So click the link down there and you can go check that out.
Tip number four is to focus on what matters most.
Now it’s important to realize that not every track in your mix is equal. And you need to spend more time focusing on the stuff that really counts. So in most mixes, this is gonna be the lead vocal, the drums, and the bass. And if you get this stuff working right, oftentimes you can pretty much put whatever you want around it, and your mix will still sound pretty good. So spend the majority of your time focusing on the stuff that really counts. If you focus more of your attention and your time here, your mixes are gonna sound a whole lot better because that’s the stuff that really makes an impact.
Tip number five is to take breaks.
There’s this idea in the mixing community that it should be a badge of honor if you’re working 16, 17, 18 hour sessions. But the truth is, this is crazy! Because after a certain amount of time, your ears are just totally burned out and you’ve lost objectivity. So you have no idea what good decisions are anymore. And if you’re mixing past this point, it’s one of the easiest ways to tank and destroy what you’ve created. So the best mixers know that it’s very important to take breaks, and they take regular breaks as a part of their mixing process. So know when you need to step away, whether that’s for a couple of minutes, or for an hour, or maybe even for a day. And if you feel like you’re just hitting a wall, and you’re not really sure what the right moves are to make, and things just feel like they’re not working, sometimes the best thing that you can do is just step away. Then when you come back, you’re able to approach things with fresh ears, new ideas, and normally you’re able to figure out the right direction very quickly.
So don’t be afraid to take breaks. There’s no badge of honor in working straight for 16 hours. Step away. And you’ll find that by doing this, your mixes are gonna come together a whole lot quicker.
So I hope you enjoyed these five things you should always do when you’re mixing. And if you wanna dive deeper, again I’ve put together that free PDF with five things you should never do while mixing. Along with this video, the PDF is gonna give you the clarity you need to approach the mixing process like a pro.
Now if you wanna download this, it’s completely free, just click the link in the description below or up there in the video, and you’ll get instant access.
Now before you go, leave a comment below this video, and let me know which of these five tips did you find the most helpful? I’d love to hear from you. I read every comment, and reply to as many as I can.
Thanks so much for watching. You can check out more mixing tips like these on my YouTube channel right here, or at my website, BehindTheSpeakers.com. Take care.