Today I want to address all of you late night mixers. You know who you are. You work or go to school all day. You have family and friends to take care of. And the only time you can carve out to actually mix your music is late at night. You crawl into your home studio dungeon and you try your best to make it work without waking up everyone else.
I think for all you late night mixers, there are just a handful of simple but practical things you can do to get great results in your not ideal situation. And truth be told, your “limitation” is actually a blessing in disguise.
Via Bernard DUPONT Flickr
Step 1 – Work In One Or Two Hour Chunks
If you have to wait until late at night to start mixing you’re already at a disadvantage: your ears and brain are tired. You’re not fresh, no matter how much coffee or Red Bull you drink. The solution, however is simple: cut yourself off each night after one or two hours.
That’s right, don’t mix any longer than that. The reasoning is simple: best case you won’t make much progress after two hours of late night mixing so you’re wasting your time. Worst case, you’ll actually do more harm than good on your mix and therefore cancel out your first couple of hours of work.
You’ll need a couple of tools to really maximize your time here: pen/paper and a timer. Cost effective and powerful. The pen and paper are there for you to take notes during your initial listen through. Your first impressions (good and bad) of a mix are a glaring treasure map to success. Write them down and refer to them often.
Secondly, you’ll want to time yourself for the entire process. Whether it’s your initial 10 minute mix, or simply a looming deadline for the night, timers help you do better work because they gently push you into focus mode, not mess around with plugins mode.
So when looking at your calendar this week, block off which nights you’ll be mixing and whether those will be one hour or two hour sessions. Write down which song(s) you’ll be working on while you’re at it. That way you’ll be prepared the moment you set foot into your studio.
Step 2 – Mix At Low Volumes
The biggest complaint I hear about having to mix late at night is that you can’t be loud. I find this fascinating because that shouldn’t be a problem. Mixing at loud volumes is a bad idea anyway.
The truth is, you late night mixers should be getting better mixes than the rest of us because you’re forced to mix at low volumes, which is one of my favorite mixing hacks of all times. By simply turning down the speakers you increase your chances of two things: hearing your mix without a hyped bottom or top end, and minimizing nasty room reflections. Both of which improve your ability to hear your mix for what it is and therefore make better decisions.
When you sit down to mix, open up your session and go to the “loudest” section of the song. Have your monitor speakers turned all the way down and then press play. Slowly raise the monitors volume until you feel like it might be getting too loud (i.e. it will wake your kids/wife/etc). Then back it down a bit and you’re set.
This will likely be a very quiet level, and that’s a good thing. The rest of us “day mixers” have to fight the temptation to mix loud, when you don’t have a choice. Seems statistically you’re gonna come out ahead of us every time.
Two Great Limitations
Honestly, you late night mixers are in a good spot. In fact I’m willing to get you can churn out better mixes than 80% of the home studio population who mix during the day because of these two simple limitations: time and volume.
By mixing in shorter blocks of time and having to mix at lower volumes, you are already setup to win. Funny how “limitations” are actually more liberating than anything, isn’t it?
So, two questions:
- Are YOU a late night mixer?
- If so, how are you going to change your workflow to better take advantage of your time?