5 Things To Think About For Your Next Mix Session
Todd Simpson
Apr 27 2021, 03:10 AM
Posts: 22.589
Joined: 23-December 09
From: Atlanta, Georgia, USA
It goes without saying, but balance is critical. Before you start doing to much with your FX decisions, it’s not a bad idea to try to get levels and panning working for your rough mix. It may be tempting to deal with a mix track by track (guitars first of course as we are guitar people) soloing and focusing in, before we get an overall sense of the track and how it works as a whole. Find your levels first, before you even start thinking about a stereo field. This is before you even add compression which will, of course, change things. However, getting an idea of how the mix “sits” with all the tracks going, is generally a good place to start. Then work on the stereo field a bit by panning bits that need to be panned. You’ll change as you go, but you can benefit from having a starting point.

As mentioned in number 1, we tend to grab our fave plugins a bit too quickly sometimes. We start with a template perhaps, that has our fave plugins pre loaded. They are using our fave presets on given tracks and this is sometimes plenty good enough. It’s a good idea to fight this just a bit by turning off all the plugins when you are getting a handle on your mix. If you are using a guitar sim, you gotta turn that on, or if you are using VST, that should be on as well, but not reverb/delay/EQ/etc. Once you have balanced your mix and gotten it roughly ready as a “rough mix”, then it’s time to start putting special sauce on. As soon as you start adding plugins, using LOW PASS and HIGH PASS EQ as a filter is a good idea. E.G. Use an E.Q. first to clean up the bits that need cleaning up. For example, you have too much low frequency stuff going on with the snare. Put an EQ on it and subtract some of the low end. Use the frequency analyzer in addition to your ears. Depending on your monitors, you may not even hear what is happening below 60hz. But you can see it on your analyzer/eq plugin. So try subtractive EQ first, before you start using additive EQ. E.G. CUT frequencies before you start ADDING.


Once you get a rough handle on your mix, don’t wait too long to add your plugins. If you have things balanced, you’ve cleaned up with some subtractive EQ, then it’s a good time to start adding some flavor with plugins. Finding this balance between what is too early and what is too late is just about practice. You’ll find your own rhythm and pace by doing actual mixing. It doesn’t matter what you mix, as long as you mix something. Just like guitar, the more practice the better.


It’s very tempting to throw OZONE or something similar on your master bus and call it a day, for some folks. Using the master bus to mix with is something that tempts most folk at some point. It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s purpose built for a one fix all plugin. Bad news is that it’s just not a great way to mix. Sure, once you have your mix, putting something on the master bus to “Glue” it all together is a great idea. You probably have a mastering chain all set and ready to go in your fave mixing template that already has your Master plugins set and loaded. Just don’t turn them on and mix through them. This is something people sometimes do without realizing it. They leave the mastering chain on the master bus just active the entire time they are mixing. This really distorts what is happening in your mix. The master bus is best left alone until fairly late in the process after you have the bones of your mix all set. Once that is complete, it’s a great time to see what can be improved by putting some special sauce on the Master Bus.

Once you put the special sauce on your master bus and you are listening back to your mix, try to take a break. Step away. Go have a coffee or something, have a meal, just give your ears a break for 20 minutes or so to let them have a rest. Ears get tired, just like anything else. Tired ears can’t be trusted during mixing. Fresh ears are always better. Once you come back to listen to your entire mix, you may notice things you flat out missed before. All of the sudden, things will stick out that need to be sorted out. Work on it for a hour or two and step away again. Give your ears regular breaks or they will betray you. Also, after a break, try your mix on other things, like other playback systems, ear buds, your laptop, etc. Just try it on a variety of playback systems to get a feeling of how it’s going to travel. You may find it really doesn’t work on certain playback systems and you need to make more adjustments.

This video was very helpful in creating this article.

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This post has been edited by Todd Simpson: Apr 27 2021, 03:10 AM
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