If you are struggling with your mixes not sounding professional outside your studio then these 4 techniques can help you.
As sound engineers, it’s amazing when you get hired to record or mix someone else’s music. It means the band or artist like what you do and trusts your opinion, however, how often do we base our decisions on our own perception about the music rather than working from what the band actually wants and how they hear things within their own music?
Do you obsess over plugins? Do you always feel like you need new plugins to achieve the sound you have in your head? Do you spend more time trying new plugins than actually mixing music?
Like this guy's comment: "...it’s so easy to get distracted with plugins and get nothing done."
"...I’ve noticed they’re many [plugins] so you end up looking and searching all the way and wasting time..."
Can you recognise that feeling?
Playing around with plugins can be fun, but don't let it be the main thing you practise, especially if you are starting out. Then you need to focus on developing your ears and mix as much music you can, regardless of which plugins you use. It's after a while when you have developed a certain palette with your current plugins that you can go ahead and develop more "flavours".
Recently, I decided to only use one set of plugins and my reason for this was threefold:
1: To emulate as if I was mixing on a console with an EQ and a compressor on each channel strip. I wouldn't constantly reach for a different hardware unit for each channel (even if they were available)
2: To learn one set of plugins well, getting to know their tone and developing a palette of flavours I could use for future mixes.
3: Spend less time messing about with different plugins (my plugins list is actually kind of small)
How can this thinking improve your mixes?
First of all, it will save you time which can be spent improving your mixes.
And as stated before, this will let you develop a flavour palette which you can use in the future and you will know which plugin to use if something needs a bit more of a certain tone. This is harder to develop and memorise if you are constantly trying and buying different plugins.
You can make faster decisions if something works or not because you don't have a 100 compressors to choose from.
Experiment with how they are sounding if you distort them, of course, you can do this with all your plugins, but limiting the number of plugins you are using will let you absorb the sound and internalise it much more profoundly.
Having a reason to use a plugin and not just putting it on there because you think you need to. By knowing the sound of your plugins, it will give you a better purpose to why you want to use it.
Obviously, you also save money, which you can spend on other stuff for your studio. Such as microphones, acoustic treatment and whatever else you prefer.
You don't have to limit your plugins to only use the stock plugins, use whichever brand you like. I decided to only use the Slate Mix Rack and the other compressors available in that subscription, so it's not a ton of plugins but more than enough to learn and internalise.
Let me know which set of plugins you will use in the comments below.