Hey, this is Jason from BehindTheSpeakers.com and today you’re gonna discover five things you should never do while mixing. Avoid these missteps, and you’ll be well on your way to crafting mixes that compete with the pros.
Now before we dive in, I also put together a PDF with five things you should always do while you’re mixing. You can just click the link in the description below or up there in the video, and you’ll get free instant access.
The first thing you should never do while mixing is mix mindlessly. A lot of the time when I see people mixing, they’re multitasking. They’re browsing the internet at the same time or texting. They’re not focused on the mix. And the problem with this is that every time you listen to your mix, you lose a little bit of objectivity. So you stop hearing the mix as if you are listening to it for the first time, and start becoming used to whatever the mix sounds like.
If you’re constantly wasting your listening time by multitasking or being on your phone while you’re mixing or talking to friends, you’re not making the most of your limited objectivity. And so what happens is you get to a place where you have no idea what good decisions are anymore, and you end up totally taking your mix in the wrong direction.
Whenever you’re listening, you should be 100% focused on listening critically—identifying problems, areas to improve, things that you need to change. You can text later, browse internet later, but when you’re mixing, don’t mix mindlessly, mix actively.
The second thing you should never do is avoid taking breaks. In our society, we have this idea that the longer you work without stopping, the kind of more badass you are, right? If you put in like a 15-hour day in the studio, you’re like a hero.
The truth is, if you’ve been mixing for eight hours or nine hours without taking a listening break, there’s a good chance not only are your ears fatigued, so you’re not hearing correctly what’s really going on in the track, but your objectivity is completely gone, so you have no idea what good decisions are anymore. And if you’re mixing past this point, there’s a good chance you’re screwing up what you’ve created, right? You’re actually gonna take your mix in the wrong direction.
So part of the art of mixing is knowing when to step away, recognizing that more time just grinding through a mix isn’t always a good thing, and realizing when you’ve had enough, and when you need to take a short break or maybe just throw in the towel for the day and come back to it the next day with a fresh set of ears.
So don’t be afraid to take breaks. The best mixers out there take frequent breaks. And if you take more breaks within the mixing process, often times that’s gonna allow you to come back to the mix with more objectivity, with a fresher perspective, so you can make better mixing decisions.
The third thing you should never do while mixing is crank your speakers for too long. Now we all love to listen to music loud. It’s exciting and fun. But again, mixing is a critical process. We’re not listening for pleasure. And that’s a really important distinction, because a lot of the times when you crank the speakers, you’re just listening for fun. You’re kicking your chair back and just enjoying what you’ve created. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but within the mixing process, we need to be focused on listening critically.
Now not only that, but when you crank your speakers, your ears become fatigued a lot more quickly, and once you get to that place, again you’re not hearing things clearly, so you have no idea what good mixing decisions are, and you end up taking your mix down the wrong path.
So I like to do the majority of my mixing at very low levels. I turn it up sometimes, specifically at the beginning of the mix, but for the most part I’m listening very quietly. And you’ll find that if you do the majority of your mix at lower levels, you’re gonna have to work a lot harder, but at the end of the day your mix is gonna sound a lot better.
The fourth thing you should never do while mixing is ignore context. There are two ways in which people typically ignore context while mixing. The first is micro context. I’m talking within the track itself.
So a lot of the times, people think that if they solo a track and start tweaking the EQ or the compression on that track, they’re gonna be able to make better decisions. But effectively, what you’ve done is you’ve taken this track out of context with the rest of the mix. So you have no idea how that track relates anymore to the rest of the tracks in your mix.
Now remember, mixing is not about making individual tracks in your mix sound good. It’s about making the mix sound good as a whole. So don’t ignore the context of the rest of your mix when you’re mixing. You need to be focused on how the tracks are relating to each other.
So in practice, I recommend avoiding the solo button for the majority of the mix process. You’re just gonna be able to make better mixing decisions and your tracks are gonna sound a whole lot better.
The second way that people typically avoid context while mixing is what I call avoiding macro context—avoiding the way your track actually fits into the context of recorded music as a whole.
When we’re mixing, we’re really trying to fulfill listener expectations, right? Over the history of recorded music, we’ve come to expect a record to sound a certain way. We want the vocals to be kind of above everything else, and the drums to be kind of sounding in a certain way. This context is incredibly important, and a lot of the times when we’re mixing, we completely ignore it. We don’t listen to any other music while we’re mixing. We just zero in on the track that we’re working on, and kind of put on blinders for the entire mixing process. And this is incredibly dangerous.
Mixing is not about creating something in a vacuum. It’s about paying attention to the context of what’s out there, and trying to create something that feels like it kinda fits in that mold. It doesn’t feel so far off that it’s just kind of completely unexpected when people listen to it.
So the way that we do this, or the best way that I’ve found is to listen to references. So other commercial tracks that are recorded by other artists, stuff that you haven’t worked on personally. Comparing your mix with those tracks while working will help you pay attention to this macro context. And by doing that, you’re gonna make better mixing decisions and your tracks are gonna sound like they fit with the kind of context of recorded music as a whole. And when this happens, when everything kinda lines up, that’s when listeners go, “Wow, that sounds really good.”
So pay attention to your references while you’re mixing. Don’t ignore context, both on a micro level and a macro level. And I promise you if you can do this, the sound of your mixes will definitely improve.
The fifth thing you should never do while mixing is be a perfectionist. We all want to achieve great-sounding music, but the truth is there’s a fine line between striving for that greatness and just endlessly tweaking and getting to a place where you’re not actually moving forward, you’re just kinda changing things. It’s incredibly important that you know when to commit to the work that you’ve created and move on. Nothing is ever gonna be perfect. Any mix that you do, you’re gonna listen to a year or two later and you’re gonna hear things that you don’t like. But you have much more to gain from moving forward, from picking up a new project that’s gonna have unique challenges and different challenges than the track that you’re working on right now.
Don’t become a perfectionist to the point where it limits your progress, where you’re spending weeks and weeks and weeks mixing a track and just not moving on for fear of committing. Practice the art of letting go. Commit to what you’ve created and move forward. And I promise you if you can do this, not only are you gonna create a lot more music, but over time, the sound of your music is gonna improve exponentially.
So now that you know what not to do while mixing, I also put together a free PDF with five things you should always do during the mixing process. This PDF is gonna give you even more clarity, so you can craft mixes that compete with the pros. If you wanna download this, it’s completely free. You can just click the link in the description below or in the video, and you’ll get instant access right now.
Thanks again for watching, and for more mixing tips like these, you can check out my website, BehindTheSpeakers.com. Take care.
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