Your inbox is still stuffed with Black Friday deals…
The size of your plugin folder has doubled overnight…
And your bank account is empty (yet again).
Sounds like the end of another year.
But let me ask you an honest question.
This past year, did the quality of your mixes actually improve?
Did mixing get any easier?
…even a little bit?
If the answer is no, you’re certainly not alone.
If you’re still struggling to craft mixes that sound great, here are 11 ways to supercharge your progress. Make your way down this list in 2018, and your mixes will take a massive leap forward.
1. Listen To More Music
We often get so caught up in the process of making music that we forget to listen to it.
This is a surefire way to get stuck in your own bubble.
There are thousands of great mixes already out there. Instead of grasping at straws, trying to figure out what a good one should sound like, study the work of the pros.
Your mixing skills will improve almost magically, through osmosis.
2. Develop A Practice Schedule
Mixing is no different than any other skill. Practice it, and you’ll improve.
Set aside as much time as possible to hone your craft. If you run out of material to mix, here are 300 free multitracks to get you started.
Besides mixing full tracks, you can also practice different parts of the mixing process. Import a kick drum track into your DAW and practice the art of compression. Compare the sound of different EQs on a solo vocal. It’s like a basketball player practicing their dribble or 3-point shot.
Spend the most time focusing on your weaknesses. If you struggle with mixing acoustic drums, don’t mix programmed beats all day. It’s not as fun, but you’ll progress much faster.
3. Optimize Your Listening Environment
Are you mixing in a subpar listening environment?
If so, it’s likely the biggest thing holding you back from crafting mixes that sound great.
Level up your listening environment, and your mixes will instantly improve. Mixing will also become faster, easier, and more fun.
Start by finding the right spot in your studio for your speakers and listening position. After that, consider investing in acoustic treatment. Even a few bass traps can make a big difference. (You can even build your own.) Do the best you can, and upgrade over time.
Trust me, this stuff matters.
4. Streamline Your Workflow
As my friend Rob Mayzes’ from Home Studio Center likes to say…
“In order to mix like a pro, you need a system.”
Part of this system is your workflow. You should be constantly looking for ways to improve it.
Labeling, color-coding, and mix templates are all great places to start. They’ll make mixing faster and more efficient. And the faster you can mix, the better your mixes will be.
5. Connect With Other Mixers
I’ve learned a lot more from other mixers than from staring at a screen all day.
Seek out and engage with others who do what you do. Attend conferences like AES and NAMM. Join Facebook groups like Pensado’s Students. Connect — both on and offline. (That includes me! Send me an email and introduce yourself!)
Mixing is a lot less lonely when you feel like you’re part of a community.
6. Collaborate More
If you’re locked in your bedroom all day, you’re missing out.
Collaboration is one of the best ways to develop your mixing skills. You’ll be exposed to different genres, styles, ways of working, and ideas about what music should sound like. This will most certainly make you a better mixer.
But more importantly, it will make you a better human being.
7. Go On A Plugin Purge
It doesn’t matter which EQ you use.
What really matters is the settings you choose.
For this reason, it’s much better to have a small plugin library.
Because too many plugins create too many unnecessary choices.
And these choices will distract you from the decisions that really matter.
Get rid of plugins that you no longer use or need. Be aggressive — you don’t need 52 EQs. Focus instead on building a lean, versatile set of tools that sound great.
8. Join An Online Training Program
We’re in the golden age of audio education.
For those looking to master the craft of mixing, the resources are endless. Here are a few of my favorites:
Consider education an investment in your mixing success. It’s worth every penny.
9. Seek Feedback
If you never share your mixes with others, you’ll never know if you’re on the right path.
That’s why seeking feedback from people who know more than you is one of the best ways to improve your mixing skills.
Reach out to fellow mixers on audio forums or through email. A trusted mastering engineer can also be a great resource. Build a relationship first — don’t just spam people with your mixes. When the time is right, ask for honest feedback.
10. Read More
There are some incredible audio bloggers out there…
Their articles are goldmines of mixing knowledge, and there’s no excuse not to read them. Here are a few of my favorite sites:
11. Master Your DAW
When you’re driving, you don’t think about where the pedals are.
Using your DAW should feel the same way. If you’re not 100% confident navigating it, you’re missing a massive opportunity. Take the time to learn keyboard shortcuts, explore little-known features, and figure out faster ways to accomplish routine tasks.
Master your DAW, and you’ll be able to focus more on what really matters — the music!
Will 2018 be the year that you finally achieve your musical goals?
Research shows that if you write your goals down, you’re 50% more likely to achieve them…
So what are YOUR musical goals for 2018? Leave a comment below and let me know!