The Problem With Your Mixes

2013 Apr 12, 2013

You know what the problem with your mixes is? You don’t spend enough time recording. I know, I know, we just spent a month pouring over simple, practical mixing tips to help you get the most out of your tracks. But the real secret to every great sounding pro mix out there, is plenty of time spent getting a great recording.


Via Gavin Schaefer Flickr

Your Recording To Mix Ratio

Recently on the Simply Recording Podcast we discussed the fact that all of us have a recording to mix ratio. That is, the time we spent in the recording phase versus time spent mixing those recordings. For many of us our ratio looks something like 20% Recording to 80% Mixing. Translation: we spend hardly anytime on the recording end, so we are slaves to mixing for ever and ever, trying to turn our subpar recordings into gold.
What if you flipped that ratio around? What if you actually spent 80% of your time carefully and creatively recording? This could be more time tuning your instrument, choosing a great recording location or spot in your room, trying different mics, moving the mics around, getting the artist more comfortable, committing sounds to “tape”, etc. It takes more time to do these things, but ironically you’d likely be so much closer to a great sounding mix that you could spend only 20% of your time actually mixing.

Mixing Is Overrated

As much as I love mixing, I know the importance of a good recording. I think in recent years mixing has become so over hyped that it seems way more glamorous than recording. We believe mixing is where the “magic” happens. We equally believe that recording is simply a process of capturing something. But it’s way more than that. I strongly feel that I personally need to recover and rekindle a passion for the recording process and elevate it even above the mixing process.

By way of analogy, good photographers know that a great photograph is made “in camera” not in the computer. In other words, they take the time and equipment needed to get the right subject, framed just the right way, with just the right lighting, and the appropriate lens, with just the right white balance and aperture settings in order to snap a great picture. Software like Photoshop and Lightroom are merely tools to balance things as needed and professionally present great photos to the world. They are NOT where the photograph is made.

Mixing Is Not Where Your Song Is Made

As the photography analogy applies to us, we need to emphasize getting a great song “in DAW” on the day of recording. We should use great musicians, playing great instruments (at least tuned!), use the right microphone(s) for the job, with intentional EQ and or compression on the way in, and be mindful of the natural acoustics in our environment. All to have a great sounding recording in our DAW.

If you view the recording phase as merely a means to a mixing end, then you are shooting yourself in the foot. I’ve done this for years; pretending that I’m Ok with a mediocre recording because “It will sound better when it’s mixed!” That should be a HUGE red flag if you catch yourself saying something similar. Your mix will only be as good as your recordings so take the time to get it right.

Learn To Love Recording Again

If all you get from this article is a renewed urgency to fall back in love with the art of recording, then you will do well. Great recordings come from great recordings, not great mixes. Not to make too little of mixing. Believe me I know it’s importance. But a mixer is a slave to the recording. So find the passion and determination to create amazing recordings and your mixer (or you) will have much more freedom to great work in the mixing phase.

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