I’ve mentioned before how beneficial it can be to set limitations for yourself in the studio. I’ve done the One-Hour Recording Challenge, I’ve told you how I limit myself to finishing a mix in four hours, and just recently I showed you how to get a great-sounding rough mix in 30 minutes. (You can watch the replay here.)

So what did I learn from my 30-minute mix session?

1. Time Constraints Force You to Focus

Once the timer is ticking, you’re brain immediately begins to focus on the most important aspects of the mix, and you automatically discard all the less important components.

It’s nothing magical. You quickly realize that if you spend 25 minutes tweaking your kick drum EQ, that leaves you with 5 minutes to finish the rest of the entire song! Not good.

So, while my 30-minute mix isn’t perfect, I realized that the most important elements of the mix should be the primary focus of your mixing efforts. If you have 30 minutes, that’s all you have time to focus on anyway. If you have more time, then you can focus on the little “extras” (tweaking delay settings, dialing in the EQ and compression a little more, automating volumes, etc.)

2. The Importance of Well-Recorded Tracks

One comment that kept coming up in the chat room while I was doing the mix was how good the tracks sounded by themselves. It’s true. I did a fairly good job of recording the tracks to begin with, and that enabled me to build a good-sounding mix quickly.

Remember, it’s immensely important to get it right at the source. Don’t just expect to fix it in the mix.

3. Less is More

Due to the time constraints, I didn’t have the luxury of auditioning a bunch of plugins and plugin settings. I found myself skipping out on a lot of things I would normally do.

One example is on the drums. Normally I EQ and compress the kick, snare, and overheads. Then I’ll work on the room mics, toms, and high-hat (usually just with EQ). Then I’ll run the drums through an aux and compress the entire kit (or perhaps try some parallel compression).

However, during the 30-minute mix, I spent a little time on kick, snare, and overheads, then I listened and moved on. I thought about trying out some compression on the entire kit, but guess what? I was already happy with the way it sounded.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Only add elements to your mix if you think you need them, not because you simply think you should add them.

Your Turn

  • What kind of time constraint will you be adding to your next session? It doesn’t have to be “30 minutes to mix a song.” Maybe something easier, like “Comp the lead vocal on two songs in an hour.” Let me know what you’re going to do by leaving a comment. I need 10 comments before I’ll post again. (I mean it. I didn’t post yesterday because the last post was sitting at around 8 comments.) 🙂

Also, if you’d like to dive deeper into mixing, join MixWithUs.com.

[Photo by julianlimjl]