Yesterday was Thanksgiving Day in the US and it’s a day we gather together to focus on the many blessings in our lives and the things/people we are thankful for. As it relates to the world of audio mixing, there are many things I’m thankful for: affordable gear, great resources online to learn from, and of course wonderful people to collaborate with. But today I thought I’d share three specific mixing techniques that I couldn’t live without and am thankful for.
Via Katie Flickr
1. Mixing At Low Volumes
Until someone taught me that everything sounds good loud, I had no idea that I should be mixing at lower volumes. I would mix at a level that made my tracks feel good and so I thought I was churning out a great mix. Turns out, that’s the worst thing I could be doing for my mix.
By turning your monitor speakers down to a more comfortable listening volume (I like them low enough so that I can carry on a conversation with someone in the room without raising my voice) you are forced to make things pop and get the right volume and compression settings. If you can get things rocking at a low volume, they will only sound more rocking at a loud volume. Not the other way around. Simple, but effective.
2. Mixing In Mono
I talk about mixing mono a lot, and it’s a core part of my mixing workflow. For years I thought this was a waste of time. “Who listens to music in mono anymore?” I would say. Boy was I missing the point.
By putting your mix in mono for at least the EQ phase, you are forced to make your tracks have clarity and detail while hearing them overlapped. Which is super hard. But it forces you to make better EQ moves and not be fooled by the separation of panning. This one technique alone has given my mixes more clarity and translatability outside of my studio.
3. Referencing Other Mixes
The part of mixing I hate the most is bringing in a professional mix of some other song into my session and comparing it to my mix. But I would credit this one move to giving my mixes an edge that I was missing for years.
By simply comparing the tonal balance of my mix verses that of a pro mix (one that I know sounds good everywhere) I am able to eliminate many of the issues that could affect my mix, like my monitors, room acoustics, and converters. Instead I’m hearing both mixes in the exact same environment. Now I can make some slight adjustments to my mix if necessary to bring it a little bit more in balance with the reference.
Sometimes this final step is subtle but it takes my mix from pretty good to great.
What Techniques Are You Thankful For?
By now I’m sure you’ve come a long way in your mixing journey. What techniques have helped you the most? Which ones have taken your mixes farther than before? What is one “lightbulb” moment that changed the way you approach mixing?