January 26, 2019
- Too much bass. This is a pretty common mixing mistake. It usually happens because a home studio’s room isn’t treated like traditional mixing and mastering studios are. Most studio budgets allocate 10% of their total budget for treating a room. That includes, bass traps, absorbers, and diffusers. So that means if you have a $5000 budget for your studio build, you should spend $500 of that on treating your room. Your mixes (and your mastering engineer) will thank you later!
- Too much treble. This is the counterpart of the above mistake. And a seriously common one. All that high end can add up and is pretty shrill. All that sibilance and cymbals and high end of the guitar can add up to a nasty mess of treble. I’ll say it again: Treat Your Room! Using diffusers and absorbers will help you get an accurate sense for how much treble to include in a mix.
- Misusing the SOLO button. I rarely use the solo button to get a good sound. I use the solo button to edit a track. Meaning, I use it to find plosives, guitar scratches, bad breaths, random chatter in the studio that the mics picked up and the occasional police siren from outside. When you use the SOLO button you lose context. You don’t mix in isolation. You lose why that instrument is in the mix in the first place. Avoid it until you really need it.
- Over mixing. There is a time and a place to really go down the rabbit hole and mix until your mind melts. Most of the time there is a tipping point to where you will start getting diminishing returns. There is an urban legend that Bruce Swedien was mixing Michael Jackson’s Thriller with Quincy Jones and Michael wanted to hear the mixes. He asked Bruce to cue up the latest mix which was revision 103 or something ludicrous like that. And then after heard that mix he asked to hear the third mix. The third mix killed the 103rd mix – and that’s what ended up on the record. Again, don’t go down the rabbit hole. Most good decisions are in your gut and happen early on.
- Monitoring too loud. I’ll admit, I like listening to music loud. I like to feel the music. That said, I’ll also admit when I am mixing I’ll do a pass of a section and crank it. It feels good and sounds great! But for the most part, I keep my mixing volume at a moderate 85dB with my trusted Radio Shack SPL meter. This way your ears won’t get fatigued after long sessions and your mind won’t get tricked in to thinking something sounds better simply because it’s being played loud.