It’s inevitable: if you care about making great music in your studio, you will have moments of self doubt. One moment you’ll feel like you’re creating award winning tracks, the next moment you want to delete it all. It can almost be a Jekyll and Hyde experience of extremes, like you have two very different people inside of you. In fact, that’s not too far from the truth.


TRR210 The Cycle Of Self Doubt In Mixing

Via Luke Lawreszuk Flickr

The Two Mixers Inside Of You

It seems almost “romantic” to think of your progress as an audio mixer or producer as a straight line from newbie to confident professional. But in reality the trajectory looks all over the map. Why is that? Well, part of you: the “real” you is always making progress. You’re learning, growing, and trying things. It may not always be pretty, but you’re getting better. The “fake” you is always there, however, whispering doubts in your ear and pulling you off track. 

In reality, mixing is a war between these two versions of you: the confident and creative you (the “real” you) and the cynical, fearful, and timid you (the “fake” you). The confident you can open up a mix, get a great balance going, begin the EQ and compression phase, and really feel like thing are moving on well. But then the fearful and timid you shows up. He starts to say things like: Is this mix really all that good? What will people think if they hear this? Am I actually getting any better? This version of you is a punk. He offers nothing of value, just doubt.

Don’t Listen To The “Fake” You

The problems arise when we listen to and heed the words of the “fake” you. Don’t listen to him. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. His opinion doesn’t count, because it does not reflect reality. The “real” you is as good as you think you are, and he (or she) is getting better with each and every mix he does.

But you know what? It’s really hard in practice to ignore that doubting version of yourself.

In fact, even the best of the best in our craft have this same self doubt. Take Dave Pensado for example. This guy has every external reason to be confident about his mixes: awards, top clients, a steady career, and overall respect in the industry. And yet, in his own words on a recent Pensado’s Place episode he expressed major self doubts in what Herb referred to as the “Pensadian Cycle” of mixing. Check it out…

Learn To Break The Cycle

Let’s get pragmatic for a moment. When you sit down to mix, do it in manageable chunks. Learn when your breaking point is: that moment when the “fake” you, the doubting and fearful you, starts to show up.

It’s at this point you need to save your work and walk away. Otherwise you risk working in a danger zone of confusion and conflicting emotions. You could easily end up undoing all your good work and replacing it with worse work.

This breaking point will be different for all of us. For me it’s typically two hours in. Sometimes sooner than that. I literally have to stop after two hours or I will only make things worse. Not because I’m necessarily done in two hours (although that’s always my goal), but because I need to break this cycle before the doubt creeps in. I need to restart the cycle when the “real” me is around and present minded.

Learn your breaking point, be disciplined and mature enough to walk away for a time, and fight hard to trust the “real” you, not your evil worthless twin, “fake” you. Your mixes will be better for it.