The more you mix a song the more confused you’re likely to become. Your ears start getting compressed, you lose perspective on your EQ balance, and you can easily fool yourself into thinking your mix sounds better than it really does. What you don’t want is to deliver a mix to a client (or share your own music to the world) that actually sounds worse than you thought it did.
So how can you avoid this issue? With some simple reality checks. Today I want to share three that help me out tremendously.
Via JD Hancock Flickr
Listen On At Least One Other Speaker Setup
One of the smartest things you can do when mixing is to take breaks from your primary monitor setup and check the mix on something that sounds totally different. Every speaker and headphone has a different EQ response so you’ll get a different “color” of your mix on different systems. As will the rest of the world.
If you mix on a pair of studio monitors then do some quick reality checks on headphones. Take note of what sticks out immediately, good or bad. If you mix on good headphones primarily, then check your mix on some iPod earbuds. Those little bad boys give you no bass response and hardly any top end so you’ll get an interesting picture of what your midrange is doing. Either way, checking on a different speaker will wake up your ears and help you zero in on what needs tweaking and what sounds solid.
Listen To Other Good Mixes On Your Setup
Since no one’s mixing room is perfect (even the best rooms have issues) you’ll want to get a healthy dose of reality by listening to other pro mixes in your DAW. That way whatever coloration your converters, speakers, or room frequencies are doing to your mix you’ll hear that applied to a pro mix as well. What does this do? It let’s you know what a good mix is supposed to sound like on YOUR setup.
This sounds nice in theory, but many people (myself included) don’t like to do it. Why? Because it is a swift quick in the face to just how off we can get when mixing. But it’s a necessary pain if you want to churn out great mixes that translate well on all systems. For a good example of off I can even get when mixing or mastering without referencing, check this video out.
Listen To Your Mix In The Morning
The final piece of the mixing reality check puzzle is to simply turn everything, get some sleep, and come back in the morning. If the mix sounds great the next day then you know you’re right on track. If (like a lot of times for me) it sounds like poo, then you’ve got to back to the drawing board.
The truth is that our ears get so biased and our hearing isn’t reliable that it’s never wise to commit to your mix the same night you were working on it. Give it at least a good night’s sleep to come back and do a quick review. It never hurts and can only help confirm your work is on track.
Reality Is Better Than Ignorance
In the end, these three reality checks are a necessary pain. They hurt in the moment, but they only help you get a real clue as to the reality of your mix, not what you think it sounds like. Sure mixing ignorance feels better in the moment, but delivering actually solid mixes is far more rewarding in the long run.