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6 MAJOR MIXING MISTAKES YOU ARE DOING RIGHT NOW



You have been mixing for a while and making a living from it, but you must be wondering how can I be more consistent and efficient; if so, read on. If you believe you’re all set with the info you got, however; then please don’t waste your time or mine.


For those reading, let’s move on. While mix engineers are constantly looking for ways to get their mixes to an exceptional level; it is important to be able to identify things to avoid. This will help you pick out problem areas with the overall mix rather than examining individuals. So here are 7 items you need to watch out for and avoid right now.


Lack of Definition:


It is simply the timbral quality that you are after coz it has a particular significance on the perception of clarity and definition in your mix. For me; timbral quality means brightness, tone colour, colouration, clarity, hardness, equalization, or richness, don’t forget fidelity and dynamics.


Too many things to watch out for – yes-; but, let’s break this down and devise a strategy that works. The problem is lack of definition, and your usual suspect is either :


· Too much or too little low end.

· Too many sounds in the same frequency (Masking)


Those are more common than you can imagine, I recommend working on the arrangement first before reaching for EQs, compressors or whatever you plan on doing. First, focus on levels, panning and make sure instruments are distinct then you can process if need be. If you are using reverb, delays on some tracks; remember those are sounds you are adding on top of the mix you are trying to declutter so plan ahead 🤓.


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Timing and Tuning ;

I am sure this goes without saying; it’s not uncommon to get tracks that are simply badly recorded especially with the affordability of recording gear. Don’t underestimate the recording process and how much attention to detail you need to have. Many beginners will write while they record – regardless of their reasoning -; eliminating constant for a studio session is a recipe for disaster.




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🤬NO- Please don’t say ‘ fix it in the mix’, that is just sloppy and bad practice. Take the time to practice before you hit record, a few punch-ins are fine but once you’ve done too much of it – it turns into the DAW’s great performance of putting your inadequacy together. Capture an awesome performance; your fans will love you for it and you will thank me later.


Keep in mind that one of the key things that separate chart-topping performers from average ones is dynamics. Great leads know how to control the intensity and level of their voices – not to mention- when to breathe while singing.


Gain staging, Phase and dynamics:

There is so much to unpack here, I will try to be as short as possible. Get a signal flow chart and set it as your desktop background. No; really, gain staging can make or break a mix. Analog mod plugins respond to the strength of the signal in the manner of yesterday’s gear.


I understand that you might be moaning right now that you were born after the world of analogue audio, and you might not know how we got where we are now; however if you do not pay attention to this – you will be stuck forever in amateur world 😬.





Remember that as your sessions become larger and your track count becomes more, the more you need to pay attention to your gain staging. So, Figure out a way to understand signal flow thoroughly (many resources available on this, reach out to me if you want the best resources on this😏).

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Next up is dynamics - the one thing that is continuously talked about in audio production. Controversial topics like loudness seem to have ruled the past decade of discussions in music circles with the general consensus that the louder the track, the more it will grab the listener, some even argue that the practice has been influenced by TV advertising.


One of the by-products of overdoing this is squashed mixes and pumping–like sound, this practice reduces the dynamic range of your track and leaves your mastering engineer with very little headroom. Yes, there is no shame in having great processing on your master but don’t shoot yourself in the foot by leaving no headroom for your mastering engineer. Aim for peaks of around –3 dB for the loudest material and the rest of the track should average in the –6 dB to –8 dB area which gives your peaks somewhere around 3dB to 5dB of dynamics, also try to avoid over-compressing individual tracks for the same reason.

Last but not least is phase relation, it can be confusing to distinguish it from polarity for the novice sometimes I know, check this video if you’re keen to know the difference, In practice; whether you have dual microphone placements for instruments or you got programmed tracks.


Be careful to check your mixes in mono to avoid phase cancellation, listen carefully for things that disappear in mono, Yes- it might be cool to have this super-wide effect on a track but trust me it will totally disappear in mono, even if you never anticipate having any need for mono, your levels are not what they seem; lush reverbs are notorious; it is too common to have that reverb you placed on the vocal just vanish in mono.


And be careful when you are laying bass tracks and drum tracks on top of each other, leaving those parts to slip in and out of phase with each other is a recipe for disaster, the combined tone of those will fluctuate throughout the timeline and you won’t be able to fix it, regardless of the superpowers you have.


Width


I believe width in a sound mix is often overlooked and usually thought about at the end. This is counterintuitive, localisation quality is very much related to all directional sound sources, It includes also stereo image quality and losses of definition.


For those of you who mix in other formats than 2.0 firstly; WELL DONE 🎉. Secondly, remember this applies to the horizontal and vertical plane, don’t forget spatial impression, envelopment, ambience, diffusivity as well🥵.

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I’ll be brief though, width starts with how you address frequency spectrum and panning space between speakers if you’re mixing in 2.0 ☹️ or different speakers if you are mixing in immersive 😁.


Don’t go for BIG MONO, you can have focus in your mix and also utilize the space you have at hand. Maybe don’t have the piano right in the middle, but more on the right. References are a great place to start understanding where others place their tracks. Once you implement this practice, you will see how much wider, open your mixes will become and less crowded too.


Lack of focus and Lack of contrast

Mixes that have no texture are more common than you would imagine, with some having the same musical or sonic texture throughout the entire song. Avoid having a mix that is the same level and intensity throughout, don’t forget that your focal point is going to be the vocals or lyrics in most cases so try to keep hold of the listener’s attention and don’t leave gaps where nothing is brought forward in your mix.


Don’t use Generic, dated, or often-heard sounds, opt-in for fresh and hip instead and lastly, make sure your mix has consistent levels with an accurate balance between tracks. Mixing is a dynamic iterative process at the end of the day; once you got that; you will do whatever is necessary to make sure every single note/part is heard and distinguished.


Tension & Release anyone?


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The transition between verse to the chorus can be a defining factor of a song, similarly; if you have a mix but your transitions are underwhelming - well – you got nothing.


If you ever mixed a song; then you have encountered this. Your choruses are underwhelming compared to your verses, to put it in perspective; the chorus is not fulfilling or providing that release/payoff after all the build-up to it. The usual suspects for this are arrangement, long‑term dynamics and/or failing to mix build-ups properly.


At this point, you are tempted to push the size of your mix's climaxes beyond the extent where they sound the best, and also unremarkably bringing in random unmusical processing, non-linear distortion side-effects. Don’t do this though – instead – maybe you can make the former section smaller‑sounding, in some way, than it currently is. Even different sections in one song might require different sounds from the same instrument, so practice this with caution and think about how you can change the tone and character of different parts of the same track.














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