At Cosmic Academy, we like to look at mixing as a giant machine, with hundreds or even thousands of moving parts.
Now when all of those 1,000+ parts are moving together in sync, they can produce the best possible version of that product (for us, it will be our song). However, if only half of those parts are working properly...the quality of the product is potentially cut in half!
Mixing is very similar. There are almost countless little things you can learn to make a mix sound better. The more "parts to the machine" that you've acquired, the better your mixes sound! These little aspects all accumulate add up to a significant difference in quality.
So what does this really come down to in the end? PRACTICE!
Mixing is mostly problem solving. You hear something that doesn't sound "right" and it's your job to fix it. If you don't mix often, you're not exposing yourself to new and different problems, or learning how to solve them. Those who are great at mixing often know how to solve these problems in more than one way. This is advantageous because they can try a few different techniques and see which sounds best for that specific mix.
You can see how experience plays such a large role in the quality of your mixes...youtube tutorials can only help so much!
Instead of avoiding the mixdown stage, dive in head first and be excited to struggle! Be excited to solve problems. Be excited to learn!
Each mix you get through will prepare you and better you for the next.
Below are 10 techniques to try during your mixdown sessions; maybe a few of these can help a few of those moving parts to work a little better!
1. Prioritize Volume Balance
Volume balance makes or breaks a mix. It should be your first priority before any other mixing tool like EQ or compression! Focus on balancing the volume of your most important sounds first, these will account for almost your entire mix.
2. Limit Use of Solo Mode
Don’t spend too much time processing your sounds in solo mode. No one will ever hear your sounds that way! They’ll hear the entire mix. So be sure to prioritize listening to the perspective of listening to the whole mix when you’re making processing decisions.
3. Take Your Time
Many issues can be solved from stronger songwriting, arrangement, and production. It’s worth spending the extra time on these to get them right! Sometimes an extra bit of effort can go a long way to the overall quality of your song. Just don’t get stuck in the trap of tweaking forever!
4. Use Reference Tracks
Could you drive from San Francisco to Boston with no GPS or roadmap? Maybe. But would it take longer and would you make many wrong turns in the process? Almost certainly.
Reference tracks are your roadmap when mixing. They prevent these “wrong turns” and will save you time and headaches because they provide a clear target to aim for!
5. Export a Version
Export a version before you start mixing. That way, you can compare your updates to see if your mix is actually improving (and make sure you’re not making it worse!)
6. Check in Mono
Check your mix in mono from time to time. Your entire mix doesn’t need to be in mono; however, the main elements of your track should translate in mono and sound present and clear!
7. Take Breaks
Understand that your ears do tire out from prolonged periods of listening! 10-minute breaks every hour are usually enough to give them a rest and reset them.
8. Use a Spectrum Analyzer
If you do not have a subwoofer in your studio, we suggest that you use a spectrum analyzer to check what’s happening down in your low end. This is such an important skill that we dedicate an entire class on it with our students during our Cosmic Academy bootcamp. Compare your final levels to a reference track; are they similar?
The skill of audio mixing takes time to develop. You need to practice, practice, practice. The more you mix (and the more different songs you mix), the quicker you will improve. So don’t avoid it, dive in there!
10. Secret Mixing Trick
This one is a hidden gem. Follow @CosmicAcademy on Instagram! We’re providing incredible tips every single day!
Hope these tips are useful and if there's anything else you'd like to add, you can drop it in the comments below! Happy mixing!