Long-time reader, first-time questioner Mark asks:

Would making 3, 4, or 5 different versions of a mix be more detrimental than helpful?

How many versions of mixes do you do? My iTunes library certainly has its fair share of songs with “Mix 4” or “Mix 5” in the title.

In short, it’s easy to drown in a sea of options.

As awesome as computer-based recording is, it has its downfalls, the big one being infinite choices. Your initial instinct is to think that having 10 mixes of a song will help you make sure you pick the exact right one.

But as we saw last week, that’s simply not the case. (Remember? Mo’ choices, mo’ problems.)

Plus, the endless cycle of second-guessing yourself makes it impossible to make a decision you’re remotely happy with.

So…what do you do? Mix the song once and be done with it?

Nah…

I’m a firm believer that most songs I work on aren’t mixed, they’re REmixed. (No, I don’t mean I pull in a drum machine and do a dance remix of the song.) I mean I normally need to come back and make changes after my initial mix.

It looks something like this:

Mix, mix, mix. Done. Bounce Mix #1.

Listen to it for a few days. Let it simmer. Take mental notes.

Tweak, tweak, tweak. Done. Bounce Mix #2.

Listen to it for a few days. Happy? Great. You’re done.

Not happy yet?

Tweak, tweak, tweak. Done. Bounce Mix #3.

You get the idea.

HERE’S THE IMPORTANT PART — Once I bounce a new mix, I FORGET ABOUT the previous one.

Don’t have five mixes to choose from. Always take your latest mix and work from THERE. Once you start going backwards and revisiting earlier mixes, you’re in trouble.

Sometimes you need to raise the white flag and start all over…but that’s not something I do very often.

Want practice mixing? Clicky-click right here and see if you’re up for the challenge:

www.MixWithUs.com

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  • Xan

    I gotta really agree with Joe wholeheartedly on this one…! 🙂

    It is exactly how I have been doing mixes for a long time. The was once a time where I would have several mixes and try a pick a winner from them, but the problem with that is that too much “psych” can come into it.

    But I will say, that sometimes it can take more than 2-3 mixes to get it right. And I always keep the older mixes just in case ov losing perspective and over-cooking things. Although I cannot recall a time where I have ever gone back to one ov these – it’s always been onwards & upwards..!

    As for the other idea that people have stated here about doing ‘Save As’ ov your project when you is about to do a major tweak. I agree with this. I often use it this technique when I am doing a render ov a track to remove all the greedy plugins on it for example. Or I might decide that a song needs an arrangement change (aint’ digital grand!) so I’ll keep the old version just in case the new arrangement is “arse”. 🙂

  • Blaine

    For particularly large/busy mixes where I tweak so many things along the way I lose track, sometimes I’ll just do a “save as” before a major mixing session. I will open the old file just for reference if things should get tweaked beyond the point of no return to something that worked previously. Has been a godsend several times when my brain has mixing overload.

  • The most important part for me is waiting even just one day before listening to your mix again. There are subtle details you just can’t hear anymore once you’ve worked on something for hours, approaching it with a cold mind is the best favor you can do yourself.

  • Blaine

    Sometimes I will do “save-as” for different stages of mixing along the way in case I over-tweak something and want to get back but can’t quite remember what I had, then I can open an older version for reference only. This can be particularly helpful with very busy mixes where maybe the client asks for an instrument to be added, then later removed when EQ was applied in the interim and I want to get back to the previous EQ.

  • Bob Sorace

    I do the list thing, and I will also give my mixes to people I trust and have them make a list on what they think could be tweaked. There are so many things I could miss because I hear it so much that a problem will begin to sound “normal” to me. I’m in this phase with my EP project, and it’s really helping getting that outside perspective!

  • Andrew

    I think it’s fine to do as many mixes to get the “job done” (I stress that more than bouncing version based on doubt and curiosity). It took from what I remember 40 different mixes for Billie jean (and true it was the 2nd or 3rd mixed they picked from), and any Motown song it as MANY AS IT TOOK to get it right (read any book from Motown. If you want a hit song do whatever it takes, but beware that you can lose focus of what’s important).

  • Brooks

    Joe,

    One thing I have heard of, and makes sense to me (pretty sure I got this from Graham) is making deliberate multiple mixes. Bouncing out a 2nd or 3rd version of a mix with a solitary change, like raising or lowering the global vocal levels, or guitars, etc.

    Just a thought, but I agree that sometimes you just need to call something done, rather than think that you can only make it better, because if you don’t you’ll A) never finish anything and/or B) Just get way out of hand and end up with a sub-par product because you moved so far away from your initial intent.

  • Felipe

    I kinda work the same way as Joe. One thing he didn’t mention is how you save time when you’re more objective about the tweaks. In my first mixes I got myself spending time “tweaking” a certain EQ curve that I couldn’t actually hear the difference after the tweak.
    When I bounce down a mix, refresh my ears and live with the mix for a few days, I make a list of the tweaks I think that might fix the things that sound bad.
    This way, when I reopen my session, I’m more objective on what to fix, because I just have to follow the list.

    • YES! Making a list of “tweaks” is a HUGE help. That way you don’t allow yourself to tweak things that don’t need tweaking, and you only focus on the specific things you know need attention.

      Thanks Felipe!