Five Ways to Ruin a Mix

We as producers and mixing engineers spend a lot of our time trying to get better at what we do. We look for opportunities to learn something new, and always try to keep up on the newest trends in music and sonic glory.

But in this whirlwind of fast-paced change known as the music industry, it’s easy to get stuck in bad habits and bad decisions that can quickly cripple your ability to make a great end product: a great mix.

Rather than focus on the newest, freshest tip or trick, let’s take a moment to remember how we can stay awesome by avoiding these five easy ways to ruin a mix.

1. Prepping and mixing at the same time

You need to prep your mix first. You know—the naming and organizing and routing and all that boring stuff. If you try to do this while you’re trying to be creative, you will fail. You don’t play your guitar without tuning it first, right?

2. Trying to do fancy techniques when they’re not necessary

Parallel compression is not going to save you if you’re unable to make drums sound great without parallel compression. These fancy mixing tricks are no replacement for great ears or great ability. Get great with the basics—level, panning, EQ, and compression—before you attempt the fancy stuff.

3. Soloing

Don’t solo something unless you have to! You’re here to MIX elements together to build a song, not make guitars sound awesome by themselves. No one is ever going to hear the guitars by themselves, so don’t waste your time!

4. Working too long

You need to take breaks, because your ears aren’t invincible and you’re only human. After a while, your ears will adjust to things you’re hearing, and you’ll start making bad decisions.

It’s good to keep your ears fresh. So take breaks by leaving the room every hour or so, and be sure to listen to other types of music in between your mixing moments to help keep your ears in tune with “what the world is hearing” while you work.

5. Running to the internet for advice

So, you’ve been mixing something for four hours and you run to the nearest forum to share with others. You get a ton of very wild opinions and critiques that don’t really seem to help you, because they’re coming from a wide range of perspectives, and with no constructive criticism to back them up. If there is constructive criticism, it seems to push you in the wrong directions.

Don’t make the mistake of involving the internet into your mixing process. It’s not going to help you get anywhere fast. Online forums and critiques are for when you’ve already got a handle on your skills and your tools, and you’re strictly looking for other opinions to broaden your outlook on the job.

I hope these five ways to ruin a mix will help you to prevent yourself from ruining your next mix. Keep mixing with your ears and your gut, that’s the best way to make magic happen!

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