Did you know that 80% of your mix comes in the first hour? It’s true. The majority of your mix’s sound, vibe, and direction is set in those first 60 minutes, regardless of how much more time you spend on the mix. So whether you mix quickly or slowly, simply being aware of how critical that first hour of the mix is will dramatically help you moving forward.
Your Gut Is Always Right
The moment you first fire open some tracks to mix your brain starts working. You are hearing these tracks maybe for the first time and ideas start to swirl in your head. Your initial gut response to what you are hearing is paramount. The visual image that materializes in your mind is critical. Your unique way of hearing music comes to life and you must trust it.
The way you think the drums should sound is correct. The tone and vibe of the guitars is spot on. Your aesthetic for the lead vocal is brilliant. It’s only when you begin to over-think your decisions to things fall apart. Only you can mix the song the way only you can. So trust that your initial first impressions are correct and move forward with them.
Volume, Pan, And EQ
When starting a mix, I think it’s critical to make some big picture decisions early on and work quickly. In fact, the three biggest decisions to make that have the largest affect on your mix’s sound (in my opinion) are where you set the tracks volume level, panning, and EQ. I think compression and reverb/delay are a close second to the overall aesthetic of a mix, but volume, pan, and EQ are critical to get in the first hour.
Start moving quickly and commit to fader and pan pot positions and overall EQ settings without looking back. The rest of your mixing time will build off of these moves and likely not change things much. In fact, my good buddy Joe Gilder did a recent test where most of his mix’s tone came in the first 20 minutes.
Why? He made the obvious big picture moves (trusting his gut) and didn’t look back. The remainder of his mixing time was spent fine tuning what he did in the first 20 minutes, not reinventing the wheel.
What Your Audience Will Really Hear
Honestly if you get that first hour of mixing right, the rest of the process will come together pretty easily. Everything from automation, to sweetening, to mix buss processing will be less daunting because the mix already will sound good. It might be pretty static, but it will be 80% of the way there. And this is critical for you and I to understand: what the rest of the world will hear in our mixes is what we accomplish in that first hour.
Did you catch that? Most of what the average listener will hear in your mix will be your gut decisions about volume, pan, and simple EQ/compression moves. This all can come in the first hour. Everything else you do to the mix, as important and wonderful as it might be, will likely sail over the heads of the typical music consumer.
Go For The Big Wins
Why is this important for us to comprehend? Because it’s smarter to put the best of what he have into the areas that really make a difference. In mixing, that is what happens in the first hour. Put all of your best effort and focus into those first 60 minutes and you’ll do well. Don’t get too hung up in what comes next, as important as it is, it can only build off of what you accomplished in the first hour.
Go for the big wins and mix hard, early.