Mixing Board at Radio ValenciaLet’s debunk some mixing myths today, David Letterman style. πŸ™‚

Here are 10 common myths about mixing:

MYTH #10 – “I need big 8-inch monitors and a subwoofer to adequately mix the low end.”

Yes, bigger speakers produce more low frequencies, but that doesn’t mean you NEED them. I’ve never owned anything bigger than a 6-inch speaker, and I know lots of engineers who mix all day long on 5 and 6-inch monitors.

MYTH #9 – “I need to compress every track in the session by default.”

You can substitute the word “compress” with anything. Doing certain things “by default” is lazy. There are tracks I almost always compress, but I … get this … LISTEN to them before slapping on a compressor.

Make sure it actually NEEDS what you’re about to do to it.

MYTH #8 – “I don’t need anyone to critique my mixes.”

What about the client, silly? If your mix makes YOU happy but makes the client (or artist) SAD, then something needs to change.

Ask for critiques. They’re like brussel sprouts — kinda gross and sometimes make you want to hurl, but they’re good for you.

MYTH #7 – “It’s impossible to get good mixes in a home studio.”

Home studios certainly have their challenges, but you can absolutely get great mixes from a home studio.

MYTH #6 – “Good mixes require hours and hours of time.”

When you’re first starting out, this might be true. But the more experience you gain, the faster you should be.

It’s completely reasonable to expect to be able finish a mix in just a couple of hours.

MYTH #5 – “Mixing in mono is old-school and doesn’t apply anymore.”

Listening to your mix in mono is one of the BEST ways to reveal issues in your mix. What may sound like a nice, solid mix might sound muddy when you flip it to mono.

The solution? Leave it in mono and deal with the muddnyess.

I believe one of the main reasons people can’t get their mixes to translate to other systems is that they don’t spend enough time mixing in mono.

MYTH #4 – “If I just had ______________, my mixes would be better.”

What’s in that blank for you? A new interface? Plugin bundle? New studio monitors?

I hate to break it to you, but talent trumps gear every time.

Every. Time.

MYTH #3 – “Deadlines inhibit creativity.”

This one you’ll simply have to try. Have you ever used a timer while you worked on a mix? You may think it keeps you from being able to work effectively.

The truth is it makes you focus on what’s actually important for that mix.

Set a timer and just see how much you can get done in even one hour.

MYTH #2 – “I can learn everything on my own.”

I’ve got so many little techniques that I use when I mix a song…hundreds. Did I figure out some of them on my own? Sure.

But most of them came from simply talking to other engineers or watching them work.

You don’t have to break the mold with your mixes. There are a lot of really talented people out there who use tried and true techniques. Learn from them however you can.

MYTH #1 – “I can just ‘fix it in the mix.'”

I believe it’s programmers who always say “garbage in, garbage out.”

It’s true in mixing, too. If your tracks sound like garbage, your mix will sound like polished garbage.

If your tracks sound amazing, then the mix is already halfway done. Don’t settle for “fixing it in the mix.” That’s not what mixing is for.

Which myth are you guilty of believing? (Hint: I’ve believed ALL of them at some point.)

For some good old-fashioned mixing practice AND training (a killer combination), check out:

www.MixWithUs.com

  • I’m really self conscious about how long it takes me to mix something. I just finished up a project with a really good band, when I put the recording on the monitors and set levels, it already sounded good. This of course made mixing a lot easier, I probably averaged about two or three hours per mix.

    When I do a mix in two hours, my brain tells me ‘Hey man, it didn’t take you long to mix that. Are you sure it’s good?’, which causes me to think ‘Aw man, I dunno, I better listen to it again’, then I find I like 98% of the mix, and get anxious about the two percent that only I’ll hear.

    I have a difficult time getting over the voice in my head that tells me I should only mix a song a day. I’m at least conscious of it, and my clients are happy with my work when it takes me two hours to mix a track. Hopefully with time, I’ll get more comfortable with finishing a mix in two hours.

    • Xan

      That’s something about mixing – it’s a very psychological process as well as an artistic one.

      Actually it’s mastering I hate the most. Normally when I am getting close to the end all ov a sudden everything seems to “sound crap” and I HATE the sound ov it. I hear all these annoying little faults that make me want to go back possibly to the mix phase and extensively change things.

      It is easy to lose sight ov the fact that those “annoyicons” are often just things that only you’ll notice.

      Here’s a trick to get around this. Put your mix on a stereo & turn it up quite loud. Then listen to it from the next room. Chances are it’ll sound more appealing and also you’re kind ov simulating more ov what someone who is not close to the process might hear.

      I heard that Led Zep’s producer did this with some ov their albums. And he would take it a step further – anything he couldn’t actually hear when he was “down the hall” in his case he would actually remove from the mix.

  • Melvin Blickenstaff

    Mono may be older, but still great. I recorded an entire song with my uncle, starting with a live backing track of drums, acoustic guitar, and vocals. We ended up doing a few overdubs, and the final mix sounded awesome, but I didn’t realize until afterwards that I never panned anything away from center. I could not believe how good a mono mix can sound.

    • Xan

      Hehe yeah….If you play a mono mix through stereo speakers. You’ll find that most people won’t even notice it’s mono unless you tell ’em…! πŸ™‚

  • JFelipe

    Guys, when you talk about mixing in mono… does it simply mean keep panning to the center on every track?

    I’m asking because I’ve never done that. I always mix stereo from beginning to end. Gotta say that the panning is a pretty important part of the mixing to me… but I’ve always heard about this technique :O

    • You can pan everything to the center, but that’s more difficult. Mixing in mono means essentially panning your master bus to center. There are plugins and hardware boxes that do this too.

  • Xan

    I agree with most ov these, and TOTALLY agree with #3. I work to deadlines all the time & if anything they get you more creative as motivation seems to cause creation! πŸ™‚

    The only one I am not so sure on is #10. Little nearfield monitors are fine, but it is TRUE that they don’t produce those lower frequencies. And this can lead to the undoing ov one’s mix once it is heard on a system that CAN produce those frequencies.

    Since I only have little monitors I also have an old Yamaha Graphic EQ that has quite a decent Vacuum Florescent displayed Spectrum Analyser. That way I can SEE those freqs that I can’t hear.

    Although in some ways this is a bit ov a stab in the dark, as you can’t actually mix those bands from looking at a little screen!

    I am gonna add a sub to my setup, just a mono one that I can switch in when I am curious as to what is happening down there. I will not leave it in constantly though, just flick it on when I need to check it. It will save quite a few test mixes being run in to the house to listen on the lounge stereo! πŸ™‚

  • Bob Sorace

    #8 made me laugh! I’m guilty of #3, still can’t get past it…

  • Great list, Joe. How about #11? “Trying to use every published tip and trick on a mix is not a good thing”. I subscribe to a bunch of recording magazines and online newsletters and I’ve realized that info-overload can be a serious obstacle to mixing. Use your knowledge but don’t forget personal experience and intuition.