Mixing is hard work and the information you receive from other mix engineers is often hazy and generalized. I suppose it’s like asking Chagall how to paint (if you could ask him). Everyone has their own style and approach, which is the cumulative experience of 20 years or so in the business. However, I’m going to give you my top 5 mixing tips. If you’re still trying to understand how to EQ and compress, look back through our studio recording section.
1. Don’t watch the music. If you’re mixing in-the-box, you’ll need to keep a keen eye on the mixer and you’ll obviously need to see your plugin GUIs, but watching the arrangement/edit screen can trick you into thinking that things are working when they really aren’t and can generally distract you. When I mix in-the-box, I keep a monitor off to the side and only look at it for adjusting plugins. If you’re using a console and/or hardware units, there’s no reason to look at a screen at all.
2. EQ in the mix. When it comes to the mixing stage, there’s no reason to isolate instruments in order to EQ or compress them as this bears no resemblance to how they’ll sound in the mix. If something’s getting buried, jumping all over the place, or needs settling back into the mix, make your adjustments with the whole mix playing.
3. Don’t mess with the rhythm. Try not to mess around with the drums and bass too much. The rhythm section should be the foundation of the mix and changing it too much will throw everything else off and give you a lot more work to do for no good reason.
4. Sleep on it. Your hearing (and therefore judgement) can be affected by many factors from tired ears to alcohol. Even the lighting in the room can affect your mood, which colours your perceptions. Finish the mix, go to sleep and come back for a second listen in the morning.
5. Enough is enough. There will come a point when you have finished the mix, but don’t know it. You’ll keep digging in and making tiny changes that don’t make a blind bit of difference. When you find yourself making tiny, almost insignificant adjustments to EQ and reverb, stop. You’re done.