Think you’ve heard every mixing trick in the book? Shake up your routine with these little-known techniques!
1. Take Notes
Legendary mixer Bob Power once told me that every time he returned from a listening break, he would force himself to listen to his mix from beginning to end. Instead of stopping playback when he heard the first thing he didn’t like, Bob would keep listening and write down each problem he heard. Only after making a complete pass through his track would he start addressing each note.
Bob taught me an important lesson about valuing my objectivity. Whenever you are approaching your work with fresh ears, it’s an opportunity to hear your mix in a new way. Make the most of these moments. Be fully present and engaged during playback, and listen from beginning to end. By doing so, you’ll move more quickly through the mix process, and ultimately craft better mixes.
2. Take More Breaks
Every time you press play, you become more attached to the way your mix currently sounds. This is bad news, because it means that over time, things that need to be improved will start to sound acceptable.
While we all listen to music for pleasure, mixing is not the time to do so. It’s best to remain focused on finding flaws during a mix. If you notice your focus is starting to wane, take a short break. By making every minute of listening as productive as possible, you’ll remain more objective and make better decisions.
Critical listening requires you to maintain focus for extended periods of time. If you find that your attention frequently wanders while mixing, daily meditation can help train you to stay on track. For beginners, I highly recommend Headspace!
4. Use Fewer Plugins
Many mixers think the more plugins they add, the better their mixes will sound. However, it’s crucial to know when to leave a track alone.
Whenever you add a plugin to a track, ask yourself why you’re doing so. If you don’t have a clear answer, ditch the plugin. Learn to use less, and you’ll get more out of your mixes.
5. Listen At Quieter Volumes
While we all enjoy the visceral experience of cranking our speakers, mixing at lower volumes is much more effective. Turning things down will allow your ears to zero in on the crucial midrange frequencies (due to the Fletcher-Munson curves). This will help you craft balances that translate across different playback systems.