When Is Your Mix Done?

| Mixing, Tips

Have you ever mixed a song for too long? You start out trying to make a few tweaks and changes to improve upon your first mix, but then something happens. You go past the point of no return and things start sounding worse. Or maybe things keep sounding better but you are afraid of letting go, in the hopes that you can perfect it. In either case, how do you know when is your mix done?

Set Some Boundaries

If you’ve read my ebook then you know what I think of limitations. They are your most useful tool for actually being productive. You must establish some limitations in the form of boundaries when mixing if you ever hope to finish a mix confidently. What are some of those boundaries you ask? The biggest one in my mind is how much time you allow for mixing.

Block Out A Set Amount Of Mixing Time

Everybody mixes at different speeds. And everyone is mixing different genres with varying levels of complexity and track counts. This is all to say that there is no magic amount of time that it should take you to mix a song. I’ve suggested before that you try the 3 hour mix on for size. It might be the best thing you ever do.

The big idea is that you are being intentional with your time and using that time “limit” as an indicator of when you should be wrapping things up. If there is no time limit (which is rare if working with a paying client, but common in the home studio) then you’ll never know when you are done. It’s almost impossible to stop.

Have A Set Number Of Mix Revisions

One of the best things I did early on as a freelance mixer was to be upfront with my clients that there would be a max number of mix revisions I would do. For me that number is two. How this looks practically is I mix by myself in my studio with no initial help from the band. I then send out a MIX 1 of the song for them to hear. 100% of the time this is never the final mix. Ever. Even if the band has no feedback, I always have changes I want to make after walking away from the mix.

I then tell the band that I will make up to two revisions of that first mix for each song. Every song ends up getting a MIX 2 (even if it had one minor change) which usually makes everyone happy. Maybe a couple of songs move on to a MIX 3, but that is it. No more revisions. If we aren’t happy with the mix after two full revisions of the¬†initial¬†mix, then there is no hope really. This is as good as these songs are going to get. Time to finish and move on.

Man Up And End This Thing

For all you ladies out there reading my blog (and I know there are some!) I apologize for the terminlogy. But the honest truth is your mixes are never done by themselves. You could tweak away for years and still find things to “improve” or try. The only way to be done with a mix is to “man” up and end the darn thing. Commit to what you have and don’t be so scared to move on.

You only get better at mixing if you actually complete some mixes and move on to other ones, so do the right thing put your foot down on the mix. You’ll get better on your next one. I promise.

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19 Responses to “When Is Your Mix Done?”

  1. Joel Avery

    Also, if you just aren’t happy with it, maybe something or some things need(s) to be re-recorded or added to the song. If you have the time & scheduling available, do it. Even if you’re not a producer, you may need to play Producer and make a recommendation. It can’t hurt to ask, AND 99% of the time, the client will appreciate your attention & commitment to a good sounding project. Good sounds in, good sounds out.

    Reply
  2. marty

    hey graham my name is marty and i want to know will your rethink mixing help when it comes to mixing hiphop and other urban style music?

    Reply
  3. mary

    I hear you on the mixing Graham. My worst problem was having too rumble in almost track. I’m currently working with music samples and about 95% of them are too muddy. I’ve had to cut from 100 to around 350 hertz from most of my bass and drum tracks. I’ve got 3 so-called mastering/limiter/equalizer/compressor plugin sets each costing over $200 a piece! None of them are any good at cleaning up distortion and rumble in my book.

    My guess is that my older plugins are for perfectly recorded material. They’re no good for anything else! Long story short. I demoed the PSP audioware plugin (pspaudioware.com)titled PSP Master Q. That program only costs $149 USD and it does what it’s supposed to do. I don’t bother using my other eq plugins when I need to do surgical eq. Removing mud from tracks certainly frees up headroom. So from henceforth the first thing I do is get the mud out my tracks, then I concentrate on adjusting the high and mid frequencies. Wish I’d purchased the PSP Master Q to begin with. My mixes could have been finished over a year ago.

    Reply
    • Alex

      can you give some example of that track? link?

      Mostly it does not depend on plugins price, with free plugins or these
      standard included built in plugins will give also good result. The key is how to use them.

      its good to have high pass filters on tracks which dont have to play low.
      Also, all which you dont hear with your equipment is best to cut frequencies. Problem arises when we dont know exactly our loudspeakers limitations, then boost instead these frequencies. But this way we only compensate loudspeakers frequency curve and has nothing to do with mix itself. Thats resulting in mud. And if that will be also mastered with compressions then it is even worse.

      EXACTLY the same principle and tips will work for all these things which are VST plugins. Whatever if its free or 500 USD.

      Reply
      • mary

        Alex. I’m not sure if you were responding to my comment or not. I did mention plugins in an earlier post today. You see I tried the free plugs and the commercial plugs with the same results with most of them. And from my experience there’s a lot of muddiness to cut from a track if you’ve got to cut from 250 to 350 hertz. And my PSP master Q will cut out all the mud and hiss I need to cut. I’m not a mastering engineer but I do know that a plugin aint not good (free or paid) if it doesn’t improve the sound of the mix no matter which way you turn the knob or slide the dial. My samples need surgical eq and any ole eq won’t do. I have no idea what type of environment my samples were recorded in. They sound to me like most of them were were recorded with the sub-woofers turned on and/or there was simply too much audio hum coming from somewhere. Maybe the instrument, speakers, who knows. No pun intended. But I mentioned the PSP Master Q because after spending almost 2 years fighting with equalizer plugins that don’t work for “problem tracks” (too hissy and/or too muddy). I finally found a plugin that gets the job done for me. I hope others will try it so they won’t waste years of their life without properly mastering one song.

        Reply
        • Alex

          yes it was comment for your post.
          250..350 Hz is really a very high frequency too cut. Something must be off place. At first — does these samples play fine when listening in solo if not then you need to pre-treat them.
          I got very curious actually to hear what are the samples you talk about? Where? And what track is that?

          Well, for hiss and hum there are little milder and better things — for noise there is multiband expander or even better – dynamic noise limiter / (so called “denoiser”). Then it will reduce hiss without affecting soundpicture overall. For hum there are really need high-Q filters set ONLY for AC network frequency where it was recorded (its 50Hz multiple or 60Hz multiple). usually its enough to set filter respective to its native and 2nd harmonic (50 and 100Hz if it was recorded in Europe, or 60Hz and 120Hz if it was recorded in U.S.)

          Reply
          • Alex

            if only that network rumble is problem then that high Q filter for 60Hz and 120Hz will solve the problem. And samples must be treated individually so. But still, it wont be interesting to see which samples are you talking about and what is the track what was problematic.

  4. Alex

    typo: “But still, it wont be interesting to see which “. I mean — “it will be interesting to see that track”

    Reply
  5. scobra

    This is a GREAT article. Ive mixed a few records but the last one did go on and one forever. It all too easy to do. Keep up the great work Graham.

    Reply
  6. Mike Sorensen

    Great post. Whilst I agree with a lot of the pointers you’ve made I also have to listen to an old studio hand I once knew who knew when a mix was done because of the amount of whisky left in his bottle. He had to be just past the point of no return to lose his ears to the music and return to being a fan. Only then could he say for certainty whether he had a hit on his hands!

    By the way I thought this was such a good post and debate that I pointed my readers your way by blogging about you. Hope it helps keep the discussion going a little longer.

    Thanks
    Mike

    Reply
  7. marty

    hey graham my name is marty and i want to know will your rethink mixing help when it comes to mixing hiphop and other urban style music?

    Reply
    • Graham

      Marty, if you have a specific question about a product in the future, just email me through the contact form and I’d be happy to get back with you.

      Regarding your question though, yes, my approach to mixing in REthink Mixing (as in all of my tutorials) will help you in any genre. It’s purely a matter of using the tools correctly and creating a solid workflow.

      Reply
  8. Alex

    Thats pseudo problem!!! “man up” is the EXPRESSION only which means “be confident, determined” and has nothing to do with he or she. But if feminist alike persons will get problem then they totally misunderstood the big picture. (Wo)man must take it with sense of humor actually, it helps
    Also it seems pure language related issue — there are languages where just one word means both — “he” and “she”. So you have to ask over if that person was talking about woman or a man, otherwise you dont know.

    Reply
  9. javier

    Sexist language is in your mind not in our intention nor in our common “all day use” language.

    Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1.  Is sexist language ok if you’re an audio engineer? | Kim Lajoie's blog
  2.  When Is Your Mix Done? | Acoustic
  3.  Why Your First Mix Is Likely Your Best Mix » The Recording Revolution

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