When it comes to mixing everyone seems to have a different workflow. Not to mention that just about every mix calls for something different in order to realize its full potential. No two people or mixes are ever 100% the same. That’s what makes mixing so fun.
That being said, I find myself doing three things consistently every time I mix, without fail.
Via Marco Ghitti Flickr
1. Mix Buss Compression
Early on in every mix I’ll engage some light compression on the mix buss (a.k.a. the master fader). The purpose of compression on your mix buss is (in my opinion) to tame some of the bigger peaks and glue your tracks together. It always seems to breathe a tad bit of life into my tracks, before I ever have to do any surgical mixing.
The key with compressing your entire mix this way is to mix through the compressor from the very beginning. It affects your mixing decisions and you hear it from the very start. If you were to put it on towards the end, you won’t get quite the same effect and in fact your mix could unravel if you aren’t careful.
2. High Pass Filter
I still remember the first time I was made aware of what a high pass filter is and why I should use it. My mind was blown as I began high passing track after track, cleaning up the low end mud in my mix and getting much needed clarity and headroom back. Using a high pass filter effectively is literally the fastest way to clean up your mix.
Here’s how I do it. Since I’m likely going to use EQ on every track, I’ll put a multiple band EQ on, engage the high pass filter and trim that sucker all the way up on a track until it starts sounding thin. Then I dial it back a bit. This is carving out unusable low end while still preserving the full bodied tone of an instrument/voice. Simply do this on everything but the kick and bass guitar and you’ve immediately improved your mix.
3. Mix Sweetening
No matter how clear, punchy, or perfectly balanced the mix is, I never consider it done until it has been officially “sweetened.” What I mean is I take some time near the very end of the mix and listen closely through each section of the song as if I were a first time listener. I take note of transitions and the overall dynamics of the song as it progresses in time. Basically I’m listening to see if it’s interesting.
If all the verses sound exactly the same, we have a problem. I need each section of the song to build on the previous one and stay engaging, fresh, and exciting the whole way through. This can be achieved with simple panning automation, muting tracks here and there, doubling up parts as needed, or even quickly playing a key part or loop that wasn’t originally recorded. Whatever it takes, I want my mix to be interesting the whole way through, and so should you.
Are These Part Of Your Workflow?
Maybe you incorporate these three things into all of your mixes already. If not, why not try them? You have nothing to lose. In the end, every mix is different, but if you have a few consistent tools and techniques at your disposal you can confidently tackle whatever a mix throws at you knowing that you’re only improving the tracks and you’re getting closer to a final mix you can be proud of .