Just because you can do it all, doesn’t mean you should.
If you’re a producer, you can benefit tremendously from having someone else mix your tracks. With that being said, you might not have the money to hire a mixer. Or you might just prefer to do it yourself.
If you’re mixing your own productions, the following tips will help you craft better-sounding records.
1. Divide And Conquer
There’s a reason why production and mixing have traditionally been approached separately. Though the line between them continues to blur, they still require two vastly different mindsets.
When you’re producing, you’re focused primarily on performance, feel, and emotion. While the sonics are important, they’re secondary. In comparison, mixing is a more technical, left-brain process. While feel and emotion still play a large role, you’re equally focused on crafting a great-sounding record (striking the right musical and tonal balances, creating clarity and definition, etc.).
I get better results when I approach these processes independently. When I’m producing, I’m concerned with sonics, but I don’t focus on them. When I’m happy with the production, I print everything to audio and import the tracks into a new session. Then I put on my mixer hat and make the most with the tracks I have.
There are certain genres, like EDM, where production and mixing are often more intertwined. If you’re working in these genres, it may be more appropriate to approach these as one singular process. Or it may not. Try both!
2. Take Some Time Off
By the time you start mixing, you’re so attached to the way things sound that it’s nearly impossible to make the right decisions. A fresh perspective isn’t just helpful. It’s desperately needed.
So take some time off before you start mixing.
I’m not just talking about an hour or two either. Take a few days, a week, or even a couple weeks off. Don’t listen to your track at all during this time. Then come back and approach the mix with fresh ears. By doing so, you’ll be able to make better decisions that will ultimately lead to a better-sounding record.
3. Remain Flexible
When you mix your own work, it’s easy to feel attached to every track. After all, you lost a night of sleep crafting that lead synth melody. And your girlfriend is still upset that you skipped date night to shape the vocal chops in the third verse.
Ideally, none of this should inform your mixing decisions. But in reality, it often gets in the way.
Focus on the big picture. What are the most important elements? What needs to be heard, and what should remain in the background? Be ruthless with processing and carving out tracks if need be. Don’t be afraid to mute things. Remain flexible, and your tracks will benefit.
4. Make The Most Of Every Listen
When you mix, do you crank the speakers, kick back, and listen for pleasure? Or are you focused on finding flaws, problems, and areas to improve?
Remember – every time you hit play, you lose a bit of objectivity. You cease to hear your mix with fresh ears. And it becomes progressively harder to make the right decisions. If you’re mixing your own track, you’ve already heard it for weeks, months, or even years. So it’s even more important to make the most out of every second of playback.
When you’re mixing, focus on listening critically. If your focus begins to wane, take a 5 minute break. By doing so, you’ll stay more objective throughout the mixing process.
5. Get It Mastered By Someone Else
If you’ve recorded, produced, and mixed a record in the same room, any deficiencies in your monitoring chain will have likely been reinforced three times over. If you can swing it, it’s always worth sending your track out to be mastered by someone else.
Yes, a mastering engineer will help you craft better-sounding tracks. But they will also give you an invaluable reality check. Are your balances way off? Do your mixes have too much low end? If you’re the only one in the driver’s seat, it’s hard to know.