When a Mix isn't working...10 things to help
We all get it.
A mix isn't working.
It's become gradually worse than what had been done earlier. Due to various reasons you've now ended up where you are. You're not loving the mix but you're too far down the path with dB incremental lists 'to do' from the Label, Artist, Producer, Artist's other half and Label again....and short of obviously going back and just resetting everything back to Zero, where do you turn?
I've started to use a Mix 'reminder' Hit List. These are just tips or advice I've picked up over the years from trial and error, working with other mix engineers, experimenting when something has worked well or having a chat about a specific mix dilemma with producers who have shared their knowledge.
One such successful Mix Engineer did point out to me that whilst I was busy trying to find the reason why the last tracks I'd worked on were better, he reminded me that sometimes it's ok to actually accept that you've just got better at it.
I was looking for a reason. What was the plug-in or piece of hardware I'd used? - or the way I'd setup the mix up etc? But we all have the great ability to learn, and this was what made it important for me to put together a little Mix Hit List. Just to keep me learning and help implement ideas.
So below is mine, feel free to use, abuse or ignore! - but sometimes I get so absorbed into a track that it's good to take a step back and I've found this a great way for me to regain the focus, and help decide what is important. I've found it always helps regardless of the genre I'm working in.
1. Energy and Emotion are the most important factors
2. Determine what elements in the track are most important ( Focus on those elements and let them flow )
3. Have a focused idea or Plan ( Pick your style and STICK to it )
4. When to be inventive and when NOT to be inventive ( Don't just use FX and new ideas for the sake of it )
5. Balance Balance Balance ( Don't set balance by rules - set by emotion - but always check phase )
6. Panning ( keep it interesting - get a concept for your panning and what it's meant to do - e.g Larger than Life or Intimate Focus )
7. Compression / EQ on the Mix Buss ( don't over-do mix buss compression - leave something for the Mastering stage - but make it sound as close to the finished deal as you can )
8. Use of FX for No Reason ( Chorus, Reverbs for no reason..don't do it )
9. Compression for No Reason ( If it doesn't need it - don't do it without a reason )
10. Compete by standing out ( over exaggerate by an extra 10-15% something - make something stand out to grab the attention )
Now I just need to find a way to remind me of all those plug-ins that are hidden away that I've forgotten about...Ideas anyone?...