In a class last week, our lecturers gave us a challenge to complete a full mix of a 27 track song in under and hour, leaving enough time to do a final print recording. This test didn’t seem to have much of a need, however are lecturers also shared with us the number of jobs that require mixes in less than hour, particularly in areas such as broadcast, where they can give u the stems and expect a mix to play on air in no time at all. I learnt a lot in this test…
Having been my first attempt, I think I came into the challenge a little hot headed, thinking “more is better”. When we all know for a fact, in mixing, it generally isn’t. So to start with, I didn’t even listen to the track or get any vibe out of the song, this seemed counterproductive, however I think it would’ve given me a better idea of how to balance the elements more comfortably. My first point of action was to give every track an EQ and Compressor, I then proceeded through tweaking and cutting stuff in the instruments I didn’t like and lightly compressing nearly everything.
I understand now, particularly with compression that I do NOT need to start compressing in the first 30 seconds of the one hour, it is far better to leave it to later on and use only if needed. I think this really crushed up the overall dynamics of each of the tracks, which meant when there was a build in the song it seemed to have little to change in dynamics for the whole thing. I then proceeded to add some Reverb to Auxiliary for each section, and again I think I fell into the trap of “more is better”. I over mixed the reverb to a level that might have worked better in previous project of mine and with different genre’s, however upon listening back to it after when we moved to mastering, it just sounded like it was swimming and it didn’t suit the song.
After this I started adding multiband compression to each of the auxiliaries, this seemed like a good idea, I believe that I maybe just didn’t use it as effectively as I could’ve. For example, I used it on the drum auxiliary, mainly because the kick, snare and toms were stuck one looping drum track. The kick seemed fairly quiet, so I used the multiband compressor to bring out the bottom end. I think I over used this compressor and didn’t analytical listen to it back in context with the rest of the tracks. I then used a limiter on the master bus, having not remember what we had been taught about leaving appropriate head room for mastering, I near cooked the mix to a point where it was peaking out regularly.
In future mixes like these, I hope to spend a little less time going to town on processing and effects, and put more towards listening consciously to the stems and trying to analyse the genre and style to give me a head start and a solid direction. Processing is great, however can kill your mix just as much as improve it.