Mixing tips to help you stay creative AND productive.
As a home studio musician, you might find mixing an exhaustingly frustrating aspect of your record-making process.
I understand that completely, and that’s why I’m here to help. You see… us mixing engineers find mixing one of the most satisfying aspects of the music production process. It’s where we get to take all these recorded tracks and make them sound awesome.
But sometimes you might get a little overwhelmed when you’ve gone overboard during the recording process. There’s nothing you can do about that, though. The production and recording process might yield a song that has 50-60 tracks and it’s understandable to get a little freaked out when you’re getting ready to mix that together by yourself. You have no idea where to start!
But what I’m about to tell you will make it easier for you to get rid of that mental block and start mixing.
Break the song down into its elements.
Take this mix I was doing the other day. It had about 60 recorded tracks.
For someone not experienced with mixing it might make you hyperventilate a bit, but once you look closely at the tracks you realize there are only four groups of instruments:
- Guitars (including bass)
- Keys and other synths
Even with close to 60 tracks, that’s really what you’re balancing together in your mix.
So breathe. Don’t worry about the enormity of the session. Once you’ve broken the mix down into a handful of different elements your perspective on the session will change.
Simplify with routing.
Once you’ve drilled the session down you can simplify it even further inside the respective elements.
Say you have all these drum tracks that even by themselves are overwhelming.
- Two kick drum tracks
- Top and bottom snare tracks
- 4 toms
- Overheads and room mics
Luckily you can simplify further by combining things into busses.
- Combine the kicks into one bus
- Combine the snare into one bus
- Combine the toms into one bus
- Combine overhead and room mics into one bus
That simplifies your 12 drum tracks into 4 tracks you can play with. You’ve cut your hyperventilating down 66%!
Of course, make sure you balance each track into the main instrument bus before so that you have control over the sound that you want. But if you do it in stages and one track at a time you’ll end up with a session that’s much easier to handle.
What about all the fancy overdubs that don’t fit into the main categories?
You’ll have sessions that include all the necessary foundational instruments like guitars, bass, keys, drums, and vocals. You know, those instruments that make up most of the song. But then you’ll also have solos or lead fills here and there that only play for a limited time during the song as “sweetening.”
Sometimes these tracks can make up a good chunk of your session so it might seem like there are a lot of tracks, but there’s actually not that much going on most of the time. It’s a good idea to calm your brain down by completely ignoring these instruments until it’s time to mix them in with everything else.
Usually, you can group and process those tracks together fairly quickly so worrying about them is pointless when you should be focusing on the mix as a whole. Work on your mix in broad strokes first. Then focus on the little stuff.
Fast and efficient means more songs.
Cranking out more mixes means getting better at your craft. Being an efficient musician is one thing, and it’s incredibly important. But becoming an efficient mixing engineer is another thing altogether.
Gary Keller, the author of The One Thing, said it best:
“When you see someone who has a lot of knowledge, they learned it over time. When you see someone who has a lot of skills, they developed them over time. When you see someone who has done a lot, they accomplished it over time. When you see someone who has a lot of money, they earned it over time. The key is over time.”
Reading that, it’s no wonder you can’t mix fast if you’re just starting out. You haven’t done it enough “over time” to create “mixing muscle memory.”
The importance of deliberate practice.
One of the best ways to learn to mix faster is to develop a deliberate practice. That means blocking out times where the only thing you focus on is improving your mixing skills.
That means not:
- Checking email
- Updating your Facebook feed
- Responding to Twitter
- Posting on Gearslutz or other forums
… while you’re trying to mix a song. Instead, you’ll completely clear your schedule for nothing except making your mix sound good. No distractions and no exceptions. Let me repeat that:
No distractions and no exceptions.
You’ll improve much more with an hour of deliberate mixing practice where you fully immerse yourself in the process than if you’re constantly multitasking between different things. Even if you think you spent an hour mixing, with all the distractions you’ll be lucky if you get 15 minutes of true focus with all the constant interruptions you’re imposing upon yourself.
Make deliberate and focused practice your natural state when you’re trying to improve your mixes. You’ll get there faster.
Do you want better mixes in less time?
Learning to mix quickly is incredibly important today. Whether you’re mixing your band’s new single or working on an EP for a client, you still want results fast!
Let me ask you:
- Do you already know the basics of mixing but you still waste time tweaking the mix long after it’s done?
- Do you want to finish your songs faster so you can release more music and reach more fans?
- Do you have limited mixing time and want to get more clients and finally quit your day job?
- Do you want to be as productive as possible in your home studio and produce faster without losing quality?
If you answered yes to any of these questions and want to learn how to mix fast and efficiently, then my new eBook, Better Mixes in Less Time is perfect for you.
Better Mixes in Less Time: The Productivity Playbook for Mixing Engineers is my brand new Amazon eBook that teaches you how to create an efficient workflow that makes you a faster mixing engineer.
Inside you’ll learn:
- How to think like a productive and efficient mixing engineer to save time and money
- How to make time for mixing music when you have a busy schedule
- The power of deliberate and deep practice, even if you only have 25 minutes to spare
- How to find pockets of time to improve your mixing skills
- Important productivity tools and methods to stay on task and finish faster
- How to use a mixing template to speed up the mixing process and eliminate distractions from too many plug-ins
- The exact mixing template I use, and the workflow I use to make faster mixing decisions because I don’t have to search around my DAW any more
- How to prepare for a mixing session and know exactly what to do when you start the mixing process
- An easy mindset for knowing how to EQ, compress and use effects
- My 9-step process for taking a mix from a rough recording to a finished song
- A special, step-by-step plan on how to schedule your time so you’re always creating new mixes (even if you don’t have any songs)
- See exactly how to group and buss your instruments for a faster workflow
- Learn what processors you should put on your master bus and your groups to get your rough mixes sounding good immediately
- What effects busses you should create in your mixing template so you can easily create punch through parallel compression, width through stereo widening and depth with reverb and delay
- How to create your own presets for your compressors so that all you need to do is to tweak the threshold to add tightness to your tracks
- How to use the right plug-ins to speed up your mix workflow and to avoid wasting time constantly browsing your plug-in folder
If you’re currently taking forever to finish each song because the mixing process is taking you too long, then the workflow inside Better Mixes in Less Time will help you save hours of unnecessary mix work so you can crank out quality mixes in no time. Check it out here.