My son Owen (age 2) recently discovered puzzles.

Man, I haven’t worked on puzzles in years. These simple ones make me feel like a genius. 🙂

I wish mixing a song was as easy as doing a little 30-piece puzzle.

But perhaps it is?

Maybe we make things too complicated?

The problem we face when mixing a song is that it’s really easy to never finish. You just keep tweaking and tweaking…for years. 

Puzzles aren’t that way. I know for a fact when I finish a puzzle. All the pieces go into place to reveal a cohesive picture.

What if we need to treat our mixes more like puzzles?

What would that mean?

First off, it would mean doing what the late Stephen Covey famously taught — “Begin with the end in mind.”

Before you dive headlong into a mix, stop and decide what you want that mix to sound like. I know it’s not as simple as a puzzle, but if you don’t have some sort of plan for the mix, you might be setting yourself up for endless tweaking.

Have an idea for how you want your mix to sound, then mix the song until it sounds that way. 🙂

Here’s what I’m NOT saying. I’m not telling you to abandon all creativity and flexibility. Sometimes I’ll have one idea for a mix, and the mix itself will take a turn in a different direction as I mix it.

Once I know what that direction is, however, I have my finishing point. I know that once I get the mix in front of me to sound like the mix in my head, I’m done.

Making that imaginary mix a reality is dang near impossible if you don’t have a good understanding of how to use EQ.

To finally get a handle on your mixes, go here:

6 Responses to “A Puzzling Approach to Finishing a Mix”

  1. Roger Foster

    I like your analogy. Mixing to me is like a crossword puzzle. You jump in and get a lot of it sorted quite quickly. Other bits take more time and trouble to sort out and then there are usually parts you would love to complete but they just don’t fit so you leave them as is.

  2. Garren Hogan

    Hi Joe,

    I’m having a very difficult time with the mixing process. I’m using EZ drummer for the drums and after doing “the car test”, realize that the cymbals and hi-hat are waaaaaayyyy too hissy and drown out the mix. Do you have any suggestions for reducing this high-end harshness of the hi-hat and cymbals on EZ drummer tracks? I ask because of course you have great advice and also because you’ve spoken about EZ drummer in the past and perhaps you’ve dealt with this issue before.


    • Joe Gilder

      Hi Garren,

      The easiest way is to either turn down the overhead mics or to use EQ on the overheads to get rid of the harshness.
      Does that answer your question?


  3. Dilan R

    I just import a song of the same style, with similar instrumentation and a mix I like, and refer to that. Still a hard job though, but much more productive with a target in mind.


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