Category Archives: Mixing Advice

Practise Makes Perfect when Mixing Music

MULTITRACKS

If there is one thing I learned on this home studio journey is that mixing the music is probably the hardest part. It really isn’t as easy as I thought it would be say 2-3 years ago when I had no experience.

You can go online an get all the best mixing tips you want but at the end of the day, practice is really what’s going to make you great.

Any time you can get your hands on some sessions files to get your mixing chops up than that is what I recommend.

So what if you don’t have a lot of files to practice on?

Start From What You Know

The cheapest and best alternative is to work on your own music. If you can sing and play an instrument than just record yourself and you can practice on your own songs.

If you don’t know how to produce music than it’s probably a good idea that you start to learn how. The more tricks up your sleeve that you have, than the better off you are in the long run. You are effectively more valuable as an engineer as well.

Another benefit to recording and mixing your own music is that you can literally make it whenever you want, you have the ability to only work on music that you like, plus you have complete control over the quality. No one is going to bug you and tell you what you are doing is wrong.

Make Some Friends and Ask Around

Well for starters, try and ask around. You’d be surprised at just how many artists and bands are looking for legitimate engineers (find out how to find them) to make their stuff sound great. A cool way to do this, to preserve your value as an engineer, is to tell them that you will do their first mix at no charge. So there is no risk or obligation to them. If they like your work then you can work out a deal to work on some more music.

Another bonus is that even if the band or artist doesn’t want you to work on future projects, at least you have something now that you can put on your resume.

The goal really is to keep building a resume so that we engineers can have something to use as a way to demonstrate value and justify charging a certain fee. The more tracks you mix than the bigger your resume.

Get Multitrack Session Files With a Push of a Button

Another alternative is to download multitrack session files so you don’t have to pimp out your services for free. Does it suck that you have to spend the money on the files to get practice? Yes, but it’s not as expensive as you might think and it’s all relative. You could easily spend $100 or less and have a VERY high quality demo reel to show new clients. If you only get one client, you just made your money back and made some profits too.

Firstly, you should check out ModernMixing.com and browse through their multitrack library. The fees for the sessions files are VERY reasonable; we’re talking like $20 per session or something like that.  You get a full professional production and recording for only $20. DAMN!!! So you could either spend hours recording your own music, weeks looking for someone to mix for OR…. you could just buy them from that site and be done with it. I don’t know about you but my time is valuable to me, I would rather just buy the files.  That being said, if you enjoy recording I would encourage you yo go ahead and do that.

Think of it this way, you can spend maybe 2-4 weeks looking for some average songs (at best) from 5 different artists/bands or you could spend $100 and get 5 really good songs from 5 unique artists. You could mix those songs and then have something to show potential paying clients, almost immediately. To me it’s a no brainer but I will let you decide.

Remember you are probably spending thousands of dollars on your gear but if you don’t have great songs to show clients than what’s the point? The cost of the multitracks pales in comparison to what you would spend on the gear.

Go Forth And Practice

So you already know my stance, the practice if ultimately going to be the number one thing that helps you increase your skills.

Watch the tutorials, and read the blogs because you can really get a hold of some actionable information but do yourself a favour and get some high quality records so you can get the experience.

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How to Know When Your Mix is Finished?

When Mixing a Song is Finished

One Question that can be pretty obscure is: How do I really know when my mix is finished?

If mixing were as technical as many others make it out to be then it would make sense that there would be some point where you knew it was done.   You’d simply just stop when it was “technically finished”

Like Art, Mixing is Subjective

The truth is that thinking about mixing in that kind of way is a bit obscene. Mixing really is an art form and just like any other type of art, it’s very subjective. You may like something that I absolutely detest, but that’s what makes art great. But this also makes finishing a mix fairly difficult because there is no objective end point.

Now for most people this porbably would leave you very frustrated not knowing where to finish. There are however some helpful strategies that you can lean on to help you know when your mix is finished. I’m going to share them with you now.

The Improvement Technique

This is a little technique that I developed though I’m pretty sure that there are other engineers out there doing something similar. You basically just listen to your mix until it gets to a point where it is boring or uninspiring. Whenever you feel like your kind of getting out of the music, then you know it’s time to do something.

It could be something as simple as adding some reverb or a little delay trickery to keep the mix fresh and interesting. It doesn’t really matter what you do, as long as it fits the song and that the listener remains engaged. I will never finish one of my mixes if I feel like it doesn’t pass this test. It might only need a few more minutes of work but if it’s not compelling from start to finish than I don’t think I’m done.

Become the Average Listener

I try to do this atleast once during the mix, before or after the last technique I mentiones, it doesn’t really matter. But what’s important to note is that I won’t touch the faders, plugins, or pan pots. I’m just listening. I’m trying to find anything that’s distracting.

If something takes me out of the average listener mode and I get back into engineer mode, than I know I’m not finished. It could be something like a harsh vocal that pops out every so often or maybe a drum kick that’s a bit too loud. It doesn’t really matter, because whatever it is, I’ll make a note of it and then fix it right away. Nothing about the mix should distract the listener from the song.

Know Your Time Limit

It’s good to build up an idea of just how long it takes you to mix a song. I know for me it takes about 8-10 hours, give or take so I make note of that. If I’m working on a song and it goes beyond my average mix time, I’m probably hitting a point of diminishing returns, so I would probably stop focusing on the non essential parts of the song to get back to the fundamentals of what makes the music good.

But don’t some songs just take a lot longer to mix than others?!

Yes, this is true and of course rules are always made to be broken but I find that the timer really does give me a good gauge to let me know if I’m on track or not. The timer doesn’t lie – It knows when you should be putting the finishing touches on. Everyone has their own time limit and for some its 3 hours and others 10 hours. But whatever your time limit is, try and set up a timer and then trust it.

But Seriously, Are We Ever Really Finished?

Those thre tips I laid out help me gauge when I sould be stopping my mix. Noticed that I never when my mix is finished. The truth of the matter is that a mix is never really finished, we could be mixing the same song for the next 5 years if we could. There’s always going to be something more that you could do. I really just try to do as best as I can and then move on. I think of it like a time capsule. That was the way I approached mixing in a period of time. Try it Yourself!!

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