Avoid These 5 Mistakes When Mixing Your Own Music

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Are you mixing music you’ve written, recorded, or produced? If so, make sure you avoid the five mistakes in this video.

Hey, this is Jason from Behind The Speakers. And for more mixing mistakes to avoid, make sure you grab my free e-book, “35 Mixing Mistakes You Don’t Know You’re Making.” Click the link above or in the description below to download this free e-book now.

The first thing you want to avoid is mixing your track in the same session that you produce it in. A lot of people do this where they’ll build a whole track, they’ll finish the production. They’ll add lots of recording, virtual instruments, whatever, and then they’ll just do the mix in the same exact session that they produce in. One of the big challenges with this is that oftentimes a lot of the junk that accumulates during the production process, lots of different tracks, and virtual instruments, and MIDI, and all that stuff ends up just getting to a point where it’s really difficult to manage.

And so rather than just moving into the mixing process and starting off where you have this session that’s just a complete mess, a better approach is actually bouncing your tracks down and bringing them into a new session, and approaching the mixing process with a bit of a clean slate. So that way you don’t have to worry about all these extra tracks in your session. You don’t have to worry about the MIDI for virtual instruments. Everything’s bounced down. You’re going to use a lot less CPU. Your sessions are going to be easier to manage. And philosophically, one of the other things I like about this is it forces you to commit.

So a lot of the times if you just mix in the same session that you produce in, because you still have all of the original MIDI there you can always go back and change things. And you end up never really committing to the tracks that you’ve actually created in the production process. You change things, you add things. Whereas if you actually bring everything into a new session, it forces you to say okay, I’m stepping out of the production process and moving into the mix. Exercising that muscle of making firm commitments as a music maker is one of those key aspects of the music making process that separates good music makers from great ones.

So if you can become better at this even though it’s hard – I know it’s scary to not turn back, to bounce your tracks down even if you, you know, have some resistance to this – if you can start to do this in your music making process, I promise you you will become a better music maker. You’ll get to the finish line faster. Things will be a lot easier to manage, and your music will sound better as a result.

The second thing you should avoid when mixing your own music is starting the mix right after you finish the production. A lot of people when they finish producing, rather than take a break, take some time off, they just move right into the mixing process. And one of the main challenges with this is that once you’ve produced a track, you’ve been listening to it for days or weeks or months on end.

And whether you realize it or not, your ears and your brain have already become acclimated to whatever that track sounds like. The mistakes and the flaws that may be there actually become very difficult to hear, because over time everyone loses objectivity. We just become used to whatever the track actually sounds like. This is the worst place to be when you’re about to start a mix, because when you’re starting the mixing process you need to be objective. You need to be able to approach the mix with fresh ears. That’s the only way that you can make good mixing decisions.

And so rather than moving right into the mixing process after you finish the production, I encourage you to take a couple days off. Take a break, and come back to the session with a fresh set of ears, fresh perspective. And I promise if you can do this – even if it’s hard, because I know we all want to move into the mixing process, we’re excited about the track that we’ve created – but if you can do this, if you can discipline yourself and actually step back for a little bit, you’re going to be able to approach the mixing process with a fresher perspective. You’re going to make better mix decisions, and your track’s going to sound a whole lot better as a result.

And the third thing you want to avoid is not prepping your session before you start mixing. Now this is something I would say to every mixer, but it’s more important when you’re mixing your own music. Because oftentimes during the production process, we are moving quickly. We’re working on a flow, and so we don’t want to slow down and label tracks or delete stuff that doesn’t need to be there. And so oftentimes once we get to the mixing process, the session that we’re working in is a complete mess. We have all sorts of stuff that doesn’t need to be there.

Now if you try to mix a session like this, you’re going to spend so much time just trying to hunt for tracks and find things, and move your way around the session. It’s a waste of time, and you’re not moving efficiently. And again, going back to this idea that because we’re mixing our own music, we’ve already heard it so much that we’ve already kind of lost that objectivity somewhat.

This becomes even more important when we’re talking about mixing our own music. Because if we can get the session cleaned up moving into the mixing process, we’re going to be able to move through the mix as quickly and efficiently as possible. Which means we can make the most of that limited window of objectivity that we have before we really can’t hear the mix with fresh ears. And then it’s useless really to move forward past that point.

So when it comes to prepping your session, I recommend again that you bounce your tracks out before you start mixing. And then take some time to label things, color-code things, get rid of the stuff that doesn’t need to be there, commit to vocal tuning, and things like that before you start mixing. And that way, within the mixing process you’re going to be able to move much more quickly and efficiently, and make the most of that limited objectivity that you have moving into the mixing process.

The fourth thing you want to avoid when mixing your own music is mastering it too. Now I know that not everybody has the budget for a professional mastering engineer. Maybe you just want to master your own tracks for fun. And that’s totally fine. But if you want the best results out of your music, you want the best-sounding music, then I highly recommend that you find a professional mastering engineer who can work on your track after you’ve finished mixing it.

Now this is even more important when you’re mixing music that you’ve written or produced or recorded, because again, you’ve already lost a bit of objectivity moving into the mixing process. So by the time you get to the end of the mixing process, you really can’t hear your track with fresh ears anymore. It’s just impossible to know what you really need to do in the mastering process to give it that final polish.

So rather than just kind of crossing your fingers and hoping you make the right decisions, it’s better to send it off to somebody who is not familiar with the music, who can listen to it and give it that objective perspective that it needs right at the end of the line. So I highly recommend that if you’re mixing your own music, you find a great mastering engineer who you can work with. They’re not super expensive. You can get a really decent mastered track for 60-70 bucks, so you don’t have to spend a ton of money. But I recommend again if you’re mixing your own music, you find someone who you can work with who can help you in this process. It will really make a difference, especially if you’re working on your own tracks.

And the fifth mistake you want to avoid when mixing your own music is being too precious with your tracks. This is one of the big challenges with mixing your own music. Because you were involved in the production process and the recording or the song writing, you created the tracks that you’re mixing. And so you have a personal attachment to the tracks that you created. You know that it took an hour and a half to get that guitar take right. And so if it’s not working, there’s this tendency to rather than just mute the track or get rid of it or try something different, there’s a tendency to want to stick it in there and keep it there because you have what’s called a sunken cost bias.

This is an idea that basically says the more time that we commit to something, the less likely we are to step away from it. So when you’re attached to the tracks that you’ve created, it becomes much harder to make those tough decisions, which sometimes in the mixing process means gutting things, just muting them, or getting rid of stuff that isn’t working.

So I encourage you if you’re mixing your own music to not get too precious in the mixing process. If you find that down the line something’s not working, rather than thinking man, I spent two hours recording this, I’m going to leave it in there because why would I have wasted my time? You need to remain objective, and make the decision that’s the right move for the record. So I encourage you not to get precious there. And if something’s not working, just get rid of it.

Now for more mixing mistakes to avoid, make sure you grab my free e-book, “35 Mixing Mistakes You Don’t Know You’re Making.” Click the link above or in the description below to download this free e-book now.

And before you go, leave a comment below this video and let me know – which of these five mistakes are you going to stop making right now? I’d love to hear your reply, so leave your answer in the comments section below.

Thanks so much for watching. And you can check out more mixing tips like these right here on my YouTube channel, or at BehindTheSpeakers.com.

Jason Moss

Jason is an LA-based mixer and the founder of Behind The Speakers. He's a graduate of New York University's Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music. His how-to articles have been featured in leading industry publications by Berklee, TuneCore, SonicScoop, The Pro Audio Files, and Disc Makers.