The Do’s and Dont’s When Mixing

In this short tutorial that we have for you we detail some of the top twenty do’s and don’ts in record production. Some of the facts that you will be presented with might not have crossed your mind before, but nevertheless these are some general rules that you want to remember. Even if you feel like you are a pro record producer it is still important to keep to certain limits in your line of work. It is so important that you don’t waste more time than you need to, or fall over silly mistakes that can take hours to remedy. In the past we have all made the odd mistakes, here and there, but this article is here to help you maintain a professional reputation for when The Pro Audio Web Blog cannot come to your rescue so easily. The first rule is to read this list…

1. Do: Listen first! Yes Mr Obvious, but there is a generation of visual mixers, who rely on what they think the EQ curves for a guitar should be set at… This is not the way to mix.

2. Don’t: Start applying plug-ins or editing with out a complete analysis of the track. Again, sounds very basic and enthusiasm is great, but don’t be too eager to jump in straight away. This is how many simple mistakes are made, which can be very destructive to a well recorded track.

3. Do: Listen to finished mixes on as many different monitors, speakers, stereos, head/ earphones as you can to see how your mix translates between them.

4. Do: Create backups at each major stage of the mix process. Backing up is always a good habit to get in to, nobody likes having their hard work lost!

5. Don’t: Add compression/EQ if you don’t need to. Many people assume every recorded track needs some sort of plugin effect. For example, if you have captured the sound with the right dynamic range, leave it alone!

6. Don’t: Be afraid to re-record! Never feel negative about re-recording; hearing something in a mix may give you a clearer idea about a different microphone choice or placement.

7. Do: Use automation, where needed, for example to create build ups before choruses and fade outs to end the song.

8. Do: Ride the vocal line throughout the song. A common error I find in mixes is the vocals being lost or having to fight with other parts in a track.

9. Do: Take regular breaks. Ear fatigue can start to mask your judgment of the sonic characteristics of your arrangement.

10. Don’t mix to 0db, this is far too hot. Try and leave approximately -4-6db headroom for the mastering engineer. I always ask my clients to stick to this guideline as much as possible when submitting tracks.

11. Do: Watch your low end frequencies. Many mixes don’t translate well to other mediums because of bass and low-end distortion, as a result of a build up of low-end frequencies.

12. Don’t: Transcode! Keep your project resolution settings in line with the resolution you recorded at. Again another basic one, but can be an easy mistake to make, especially if your DAW loads projects with a default resolution that differs to your recorded PCM’s resolution. This leads directly into number 13.

13. Do: Learn your DAW! Check the settings, get stuck into the preferences and settings. Bend the Daw to your needs and not the other way around!

14. Do: Bounce down MIDI tracks to audio. Once the MIDI data is finished, it will just suck CPU from your computer and it will be much quicker to load your project if it just contains audio.

15. Don’t: Let your channels clip. Get your gain stage sorted early on, this will save you time later on when mixing.

16. Do: Group your tracks. Moving 4 guitar parts in unity keeps them balanced and stops you having to move/solo/mute faders separately. A time saver and keeps your mix balanced.

17. Do: Label your tracks correctly with useful detail. When you have just recorded, all the information is fresh in your mind, but 3 weeks later can you remember what microphone was positioned where and running into what pre-amp? These factors may add detail to your choices later when mixing.

18. Don’t: Over use effects processing. Effects, either digital or ITB, can be great ways of enhancing a mix, but to many or over-saturation of effects can be destructive to a mix. Try and keep reverbs and delays as ‘sends’ to your channels as you can have a greater control over the wet signal being sent to the original track.

19. Don’t: Just stick in the stereo field. Sum to mono! Many DAW’s and mixing desks allow you to sum your mix to mono. This can show you how your mix translates to mono and can also give you a more focused direction on your mix.

20. Do: Get a second opinion if you’re not sure on a track. Preferably someone completely new to the track, as they can offer an unbiased and completely new angle, that could open up a new idea or solution.

Chris Pavey

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