When Is Your Mix Done?

2012 Mar 12, 2012

Have you ever mixed a song for too long? You start out trying to make a few tweaks and changes to improve upon your first mix, but then something happens. You go past the point of no return and things start sounding worse. Or maybe things keep sounding better but you are afraid of letting go, in the hopes that you can perfect it. In either case, how do you know when is your mix done?


Via IQRemix Flickr

Set Some Boundaries

If you’ve read my ebook then you know what I think of limitations. They are your most useful tool for actually being productive. You must establish some limitations in the form of boundaries when mixing if you ever hope to finish a mix confidently. What are some of those boundaries you ask? The biggest one in my mind is how much time you allow for mixing.

Block Out A Set Amount Of Mixing Time

Everybody mixes at different speeds. And everyone is mixing different genres with varying levels of complexity and track counts. This is all to say that there is no magic amount of time that it should take you to mix a song. I’ve suggested before that you try the 3 hour mix on for size. It might be the best thing you ever do.

The big idea is that you are being intentional with your time and using that time “limit” as an indicator of when you should be wrapping things up. If there is no time limit (which is rare if working with a paying client, but common in the home studio) then you’ll never know when you are done. It’s almost impossible to stop.

Have A Set Number Of Mix Revisions

One of the best things I did early on as a freelance mixer was to be upfront with my clients that there would be a max number of mix revisions I would do. For me that number is two. How this looks practically is I mix by myself in my studio with no initial help from the band. I then send out a MIX 1 of the song for them to hear. 100% of the time this is never the final mix. Ever. Even if the band has no feedback, I always have changes I want to make after walking away from the mix.

I then tell the band that I will make up to two revisions of that first mix for each song. Every song ends up getting a MIX 2 (even if it had one minor change) which usually makes everyone happy. Maybe a couple of songs move on to a MIX 3, but that is it. No more revisions. If we aren’t happy with the mix after two full revisions of the initial mix, then there is no hope really. This is as good as these songs are going to get. Time to finish and move on.

Man Up And End This Thing

For all you ladies out there reading my blog (and I know there are some!) I apologize for the terminlogy. But the honest truth is your mixes are never done by themselves. You could tweak away for years and still find things to “improve” or try. The only way to be done with a mix is to “man” up and end the darn thing. Commit to what you have and don’t be so scared to move on.

You only get better at mixing if you actually complete some mixes and move on to other ones, so do the right thing put your foot down on the mix. You’ll get better on your next one. I promise.

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