10 Things To Avoid When Mixing Your Next Track

There's a plethora of tips for mixing here at AskAudioMag.com, so in this article Mo Volans shares some things to avoid (at all costs?) when you're giving your tracks that extra polish.  
Title image credit: "Professional Mixing Console in Studio via Shutterstock"

There are plenty of lists out there telling you about the plug-ins you should buy and the moves you should make to execute the perfect mix. With this in mind I thought it might be interesting to compile a list of things you should avoid doing. So here is a collection of common pitfalls and workflow based mistakes that could potentially ruin a solid mix session.

1 - Maintenance And Upgrades

This is key. Don’t forget to run system upgrades, plug-in updates and any IT-based maintenance tasks before you get going. The last thing you want is to line up 100 stems and be told that you need to update your DAW, OS or key plug-ins that are essential to your mix. 

Of course, when these reminders pop up you could just dismiss them, but not only is is better to be running the latest stable releases of essential software, we all know that this stuff is irresistible and you’ll most likely spend hours taking care of it… instead of mixing!


2 - Hands Off The Browser

Procrastination in any form is a time vampire and one of the ultimate creativity killers. If you have a problem with this sort of thing (the chances are if you are a human, you do) then it’s best to remove yourself from temptation rich environments. 

So switch off the phone, hide the iPad and unplug the studio machine’s ethernet or turn off the Wi-Fi. This may sound a little extreme but checking Facebook, getting an iMessage or digging into a Twitter feed can bring a mix session to a grinding halt. Momentum is essential so well worth a quick disconnect. 

Stay away from those cat sites on the net... yes, you!

Stay away from those cat sites on the net... yes, you!

3 - Getting Lost In New Plug-ins

If you’re into audio and mixing, then newly released plug-ins will probably be somewhere on the same spectrum as crack cocaine. Basically we all love the latest and greatest virtual processor that promises instant hit mixes but the start of a challenging mix session is probably about the worst time to try them out.

It’s probably best to hit a mix with a small collection of plug-ins (and hardware) that you know inside out and have tried and tested in successful sessions. Opening Pandora’s box on a new project will probably lead to something less than desirable. 

4 - Think Twice About Attended Sessions


If you are working with an artist or band on a mix, the likelihood is they will want to be involved with the mixing process. If you are open to this and have the facilities then go ahead but speaking from experience this can be a bit of a nightmare. 

Without generalizing too much… 5 musicians that know a little bit about audio engineering can be about as much use as a chocolate fireguard. Remember some of these guys (not all) will probably be very vocal, passionate and use terms like ‘oomphy bass’ and ‘fizzy guitars’. Not ideal. Try to arrange a remote mixing session with an attended listen through if they absolutely insist on being present.

5 - Mastering On The Fly

It’s always a temptation to throw a limiter, compressor and EQ across the master buss. Not only does this give you an idea of how your mix will sound in its final mastered state, but it also makes everything sound louder and therefore better? Whatever your opinion is on this, mixing with mastering processors activated can be a mistake. 

Um, not that kind of fly!!

Um, not that kind of fly!! "Insect fly macro on leaf" via Shutterstock

Although some producers do take this approach, what you end up with is a permanently colored mix. Turn off the processing and you are left with something that can sound half baked. Essentially you end up making mix decisions that are based on the processed sound. It’s a much better approach to mix with an unprocessed master output, you’ll end up with a much cleaner pre-master.

6 - Mix Fatigue


It’s worth keeping an eye on the clock when you are deep in the mix. Spending too long on a single session can end up becoming counter productive. Not only do you start to doubt decisions you are making, but your ears will actually become fatigued, effecting the moves you make in a much more tangible way. 

You will probably find that after marathon sessions, you may come back to a mix that was ‘great’ at 2 a.m.a, only to find that drastic changes have to be made. The trick is to step back, take some time out, go outside, count to 2000 and come back to it. It will pay off trust me.

"woman holding mug of drink with take a break text in chalk" via Shutterstock

7 - Heavy Spatial Effects

Another side effect of staying with a mix too long is that you may end up laying on the effects a little thick. Reverb and delay are prime candidates for processes that get overused. Vocals, lead guitar and synth patterns can all fall foul here.

Time out is probably the best treatment there is. You’ll find it’s not just send levels that get exaggerated over time, but also reverb decay times and delay feedback settings. It can be wise to come back and knock everything back after a day or so of living with the mix. Also try listening again at a lower volume or on smaller monitors. 

Go easy on that reverb!

Go easy on that reverb!

8 - Ignoring Translation 

Translation of your mix to multiple systems has to be right up there when it comes to key objectives. Ignoring this important aspect of mixing can be fatal and leave you with something that sounds great in your room but pretty crappy everywhere else. 

If possible, use a few sets of monitors to compare your mix and help you achieve a level of balance. Outside of the studio, listen on headphones, in the car, on smaller portable speakers and even in mono. In fact, listen to the mix on as many systems as you can lay your hands on. 

9 - Forgetting To Backup


If you are planning on spending days on perfecting your mix, then you will obviously save it at regular intervals but sometimes this just isn’t enough. You never can tell when catastrophe will strike. Fire, theft, hard drive failure, flooding or a plague of locusts could render your data unusable. 

"Backup Computer Key" via Shutterstock

Best course of action here is to back up. Data experts reckon that “if your data doesn't exist in 3 places it doesn't exist at all”. With this in mind you might want to back up on a physical drive and on a cloud service as well. This means that if the worst does happen, you’ll be able to get the mix finished.

10 - DIY Mastering 

Mastering is a hot subject no doubt. Opinion is still divided on whether this is something that is easily achieved at home, or if it’s a process that should be strictly left to the pros. Whichever side of the fence you are on ,one thing is true: you need some level of experience to get the best results.

What I’d say is that if you really value how your mix sounds, or if it is critical that it sounds great, then you should really pay a little extra and get someone in the know to look at it. If you feel you are good to go, then try it yourself but be honest about the results and get a second opinion. Your mix deserves to sound its best, and good mastering really can make a difference here. 

Learn more mixing production tips and techniques at AskVideo.com here:

https://www.askvideo.com/courses/topic/mixing

Mo has been a professional in the music industry for around 15 years. He has released material with the world's leading record labels and also produces music for TV and Film. Mo is also a prolific writer and is a regular contributor to magazines such as Music Tech, Future Music and EQ magazine. There isn't a piece of music software tha... Read More

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