In the world of recorded music, the mixing process is probably one of the least understood phases of the production process. Music lovers connect with quality; therefore, musicians and artists – and DIY engineers – must become familiar with modern mixing techniques, and utilize them to produce quality music that will appeal to a wide audience. To help with this, Music Producer/Engineer Bobby Owsinski took the time to make up a checklist of questions that DIY home studio recording enthusiasts can use as a tool to help create great music.
One of the questions that many new to mixing ask is, “How do I know when I’m finished?” While many times your mix is dictated more by time than creativity where you have no choice but to declare a mix finished, even if it’s before its time, there are a number of ways to know when you’ve reached the threshold where you’re just making it different instead of better. Here’s a mixing checklist from the 3rd edition of The Mixing Engineer’s Handbook that can help you determine when it’s time to say “finished!”
“Here are a number of items to check to determine the strength of your mix.
Does your mix have contrast? Does it build as the song goes along? Are different instruments, sounds or lines added in different sections?
Does your mix have a focal point? Is the mix built around the instrument or vocal that’s the most important?
Does your mix sound noisy? Have you gotten rid of any count-offs, guitar amps noises, bad edits, and breaths that stand out?
Does your mix lack clarity or punch? Can you clearly distinguish every instrument? Does the rhythm section sound great by itself?
Does your mix sound distant? Try using less reverb and effects.
Can your hear every lyric? Every word must be heard.
Can your hear every note being played? Automate to hear every note.
Are the sounds dull or uninteresting? Are you using generic synth patches or predictable guitar or keyboard sounds?
Does the song groove? Does it feel as good as your favorite song? Is the instrument that supplies the groove loud enough?
What’s the direction of the song? Should it be close and intimate or big and loud?
Are you compressing too much? Does the mix feel squashed? Is it fatiguing to listen to? Is all the life gone?
Are you EQing too much? Is it too bright or too big?
Are your fades too tight? Does the beginning or ending of the song sound clipped?
Do you need alternate mixes? Did you do at least in instrumental-only mix (TV mix)?
Did you document the keeper mixes? Are all files properly named? Are you sure which file is the master?
An interesting mix is all in the details and those take time to sort out. Working through each one of these steps may take a while, but the end result can definitely be worth it.”