I was sitting on my deck listening to an album I hadn’t listened to in a while. My first impression of the music was the impression I always have when I hear new, well-produced music.

It felt big. It felt larger than life. It had energy.

Then I started listening to it like a mix engineer.

And I ruined it. Let me explain.

As I listened like a mix engineer, I focused on individual tracks the mix. Kick drum, bass, snare, lead vocal, that guitar on the left, that guitar on the right, the room sound on the drums…

Next thing I knew, the song had lost its magic. The song didn’t sound nearly as good to me. Why? Because I was listening to the mix instead of the song.

I was zoomed in on the trees and missed the forest entirely.

Let me make one thing clear. It wasn’t a bad mix. It was a great mix of a great song. But by over-analyzing it and listening to the wrong things, I ruined the experience.

This stood out to me because I do the same thing with my music all the time. I listen too closely to the mixes, and I lose the songs. I get to a place where I’m not happy with the mix because I never stop listening like a mix engineer. As it turns out, I’m more than capable of ruining not only my songs but ANY song I listen to. (Ha.) All I have to do is focus on the trees and completely forget about the forest.

Now…the trees matter. Details matter. Of course you need to EQ that lead vocal. But when you’re mixing, make it your mission to get in and get out. Go micro and fix those problems, then zoom back out to the macro level and listen to the song.

Whenever I’m mixing a song and I find myself bobbing my head to the beat or singing along, that’s a game-changing moment for me. Why? Because I’ve managed to do enough detail work to make the music connect with me emotionally. When I reach that point, I try to get out of there as fast as possible. I’ve done what I set out to do. My job as the mix engineer was to liberate the song from these 20-40 individual pieces of audio. Once I carve enough away for the song to break through. I’m done.

Don’t overthink. Don’t overanalyze.

Over-thinkers have hard drives full of unfinished songs. Under-thinkers have Spotify profiles full of released music.

Be the latter. It’s more fun. 🙂

Joe Gilder
Home Studio Corner

  • Couldn’t agree more Joe! It’s such a delicate balance and one that I think we always struggle with. Knowing when to stop and get the music out there is the key, always good to know I’m not the only one! 🙂

  • Lily

    Profound. Thanks for this article.