Welcome to Day 21 of 31 Days to Better Recordings.

Mixing, mixing, mixing.

I love to mix. I really do. There’s something deeply satisfying about taking a bunch of tracks and making them blend together nicely into one cohesive, rock-solid mix.

Over the next several days, I’m going to share some mixing tips as a part of this last “trimester” of 31 Days to Better Recordings. 🙂

But before we jump in and start talking EQ, compression, reverb, and the like, we need to take a few minutes to set the stage for the mix.

What’s your process for starting a mix? Do you just dive in and start EQ-ing the kick drum? Do you default by putting your favorite EQ and compressor on every channel?

Easy there, turbo. 🙂

Just like we talked about going through the pre-production process before you start recording, it’s important to take some time before a mix session to identify the focus.

Whatchoo mean, focus?

When you start mixing a song, it’s easy to just start EQ-ing the first instrument you hear, then work from there. Or perhaps you work on the drums, then bass, then guitars, then keys…and save vocals for last.

There’s nothing wrong with any of these approaches (I usually start with drums), but what I want you to do is to have a reason for why you use your particular approach to mixing.

Every song you mix should have a focus, a single track (or group of tracks) that demand the most attention. Once you identify the focal element, you should figure out what you want IT to sound like, then build your mix around that element.

Try mixing instruments in order of importance.

For example, if you’re producing a simple singer-songwriter song with only 7 tracks, the focus will most likely be the vocals (since the singer wants his/her lyrics to be heard). In that instance, I would start by mixing the vocal…by itself…solo’d. Once I’ve got the vocal sounding like I want it to sound, I’ll bring in the guitar, etc.

On the flip-side, if you’re working on a heavy rock mix, chances are the vocals aren’t nearly as important as the guitars, so start with the guitars, then drums and bass, then vocals.

What’s the point?

This may sound a bit odd to you. Why does it matter what order I mix my tracks? I’ll tell you.

Let’s say you want the vocal to be the focal point of your mix, but you mix all of the instruments first, and save the vocal for last. Well, you’re going to have a heck of a time trying to get that vocal to sit well in the mix.

Chances are you’ll have to remove a lot of low-mids to keep it from interfering with the rhythm instruments and sounding boomy. The result? That nice, full vocal you were looking for gets lost in EQ.

However, if you started with the vocal, you would then be forced to build the rest of the mix around the vocal, rather than trying to force the vocal to fit in an almost-finished mix.

Day 21 Challenge

What is your normal mixing order? Are you thinking about switching things around? I challenge you to give it a shot.