Mixing can be so much fun, especially when you are that point when everything is sounding kick-ass.
The drums are hitting hard, the bass is groovy, the vocal sits nicely on top and we feel like kick-ass mixers.
Then we take our mix out in the real world and it sounds completely different.
The vocals might not feel as loud anymore and all of a sudden the drums are lacking all of its low-end.
This can make us start questioning our decisions during mixing, for example, we might question if the vocals are loud enough or if the mix is too bright or too bassy.
You might even start looking for that perfect control-room to mix in, but that will most likely take a lot of money and/or time. Time you can spend mixing and honing your craft.
So, what can you do in situations like these to fix your mixes?
One of the biggest impact my mixes benefitted from was to start mixing really quiet.
By mixing really quiet your perception of where things sit in the mix will improve dramatically. You will start to notice, really easily, if something is too quiet, too loud or too bright or bassy.
By mixing really quiet you will start to have a more “even” mix and when you check your mix in other speakers, it should be a much more pleasant experience rather than one of dread.
Beyond that, it will let you mix for longer periods of time because you will not suffer from tired ears and a tired brain.
This technique works great on either headphones or speakers.
Learn Your Room, Speakers, Headphones, Etc.
I do a lot of my mixes on headphones (I’m using the Sennheiser HD650) and over time, by playing these mixes in rooms I trust, I know how loud, for example, I need to make the bass so it translates well.
Even if you don’t find a perfect room and it varies a bit from room to room, make a note how it sounds on speakers you trust and how that sounds in your headphones.
Depending on the headphones you are using you might find that you need to make it feel a bit too bassy or slightly less bassy to make it translate well to speakers.
You also need to learn how your room sounds. Perhaps it hasn’t been designed by an acoustician which means you will most likely encounter some problems.
Listen to a lot of music and take your mixes to rooms you can trust so you know at which frequencies you have a problem at.
Make a note of this and apply that knowledge to your new mixes. Go back and check, did it improve?
Too Bright Or Too Bassy?
By implementing the previous techniques you will hopefully start to feel when something is either too bright, not bright enough, etc.
However, if you, like me, compare your mixes to other songs out there, you might find that your mix is never as bright as them.
Does that mean you need to go in and brighten every track in your session?
No, but you can perhaps add a dB or two on your master track just to brighten it up a little (Assuming you still have some headroom left).
Use some reference tracks that you know well and that sounds great wherever you listen to them. Compare them to yours and try match the brightness or the low-end if that’s what you need.
Again, listen quietly to make the best adjustments.
Side note: Don’t only mix super quiet, make sure you check your mix at loud levels too. It’s important to feel and hear the impact of your mix and if something pops out that you didn’t notice before.
Something I heard from a prominent engineer is to use analysers. Especially when you are starting out.
How does your favourite sounding track look on the analyser? How loud is the bass?
Try and match your mix with your favourite track using an analyser and see how it feels.
The track you compare to have most likely been mastered so make sure you don’t get fooled by the level difference. Bring the level down of your reference track down to yours so you don’t get fooled by the “louder is better” syndrome.
I hope some of these techniques helps and let me know in the comments below what you think and if you have any other techniques you want to share!