So much of our blog focuses on how to get the perfect mix fast and efficiently. I’m a big proponent of streamlining your workflow so you can focus on bigger mix decisions. There’s no point in spending an hour making a tweak that 0.01% of your listeners are going to hear.
Time is money and that means the more time you take to make mix decisions is the less your time is worth (if you’re working at a project rate). If you’re someone that works an hourly rate, you’ll end up charging your clients for time that’s frankly wasted to them.
However, not every part of your process needs to move fast. There are situations where taking your time is actually going to give you a better end result that’s noticeable (both audibly and financially). By taking your time in recording sessions to capture the right sound from the start, you don’t have to worry about fixing anything in the mix. The best sessions I’ve ever worked on were the ones where everything was recorded perfectly, and my mix decisions were the icing on top. It’s the way the process is supposed to go.
If you’re looking to maximize your time in the studio with a band, there are certain things you can do before the session even starts to get ready. If demos are available, reference them to know what to expect. Knowing how the song is structured means you can go in and set up a session template beforehand. Create your session; add markers for different song sessions, set your tempo, add tracks, etc. All of this cuts down on the time you’ll need to spend getting yourself situated while the band is in the room.
Setting up your microphones before the session is also a great idea that will let you take your time once the band arrives. By having your microphones on stands in the general vicinity of where they’ll be used, all you need to do is focus where it’s really going to count – the placement of that microphone.
If you’re working in a studio with a lot of outboard gear, have your patches ready so your signal chain is good to go before the session starts too. You might need to spend some time gain staging your signal chain, but that’s a much easier task when all of the routing is already taken care of.
Are there going to be changes once the session starts? Of course; but wouldn’t you rather have to swap out a single microphone or duplicate a guitar track in your session than have to set everything up while the band is sitting there ready to go?
Capture Plenty of Vocals
Trying to capture the perfect vocal take is a farce. I don’t care how amazingly talented a vocalist is, there will never be a session where a single vocal take is going to be enough for me to move forward with.
Even when a single nails their performance, there are going to be situations where you’ll need an alternative take. Maybe you need a doubled vocal for a chorus, but didn’t think to record one. Wouldn’t an alternate take have come in handy?
Mixers like Billy Decker know all too well why alternative takes are necessary, and they’re why Billy keeps a vocal booth right off of his mix suite. Sometimes, artists just need to come back in for an overdub session as the mix starts to take shape if there’s not enough session material to work with. By having that booth available, Billy’s been able to bring in country artists like Sam Hunt, Chris Young & Cassadee Pope and save a session.
Time to Mix
Taking your time to record each of your tracks means your mix session should be an absolute breeze. Your goal as a mixer should be to find balance between the tracks and glue them together in a way that sounds professional and polished, but without a great source, your attention gets pulled elsewhere. Rather than gluing your drums together for a big, natural sound, you’re stuck treating them individually – EQing a kick or snare into oblivion.
The best mixes are the ones where EQ decisions are subtle. You should be working to enhance your tracks, not fix them.
Need Some Tracking Guidance?
If you’re not sure exactly how you’re supposed to be recording something, let us help. Our blog is a great place to start, but the best tracking guides are available exclusively to JST VIP members along with much, much more.
For a limited time, JST VIP members can even get mix crits directly from chart-topping mixer Billy Decker.