Know When To Walk Away From A Mix

My buddy Bobby, who is an awesome audio engineer and recent graduate from the famous Black Bird Academy in Nashville, recently had a problem.

He called me and asked if he could borrow a mic from me, because he was trying to mix a vocal that was just giving him the run around and he wanted to re record it. He had used multiple mics already, and every time he tried to EQ it properly it just wasn’t right.
He’d pull out the midrange frequencies that were bothering him and the vocal lost all the presence. He tried very popular mics from ribbons to large diaphragm condensers, to dynamics and still couldn’t get it to sound the way he wanted.
I’ve been there, and it SUCKS!
You immediately start doubting your skills as an engineer and if you should even be doing this for a living. It happens to the most seasoned of us all.
The mic I lent him didn’t help in his mind. I told him he may just need to take a break and walk away from it for a while.
This can be tough if you have a deadline, but even taking a few hours of a break can give you a fresh perspective on the issue when you come back.
A lot of times we are mixing for long hours and our ears adapt to what we are listening to. Sometime they begin to fool us.
Taking a break for a few hours, or even coming back to it the next day can instantly shine a new light on what you need to do.
Going down that rabbit hole of tweaking till you’re blue in the face is not good for your sanity or the mix
Walk away.

photo via Pintrest

The Dark Side!

I’m sure most of us test out our mixes in different listening environments, and that’s very healthy. I’m sure we all use the dreaded “car test”.
I play the theme song in my head of Darth Vader and the Dark side as I’m walking down the sidewalk to test my mix out on my wife’s car stereo.
“DUN DUN DUN, DUN, DUN DUN, DUN, DUN DUN”
The car test is always what lets me know what I need to address in my mixes. My typical process is to listen to one of my reference tracks, or a song from a mixer/artist I love to hear what it’s “supposed” to sound like in the car.
Then I play my mix and compare. Is the vocal to harsh? Is the snare drum too loud? How is the kick and bass working together?
I take mental notes, go back in my studio and adjust accordingly.

It’s Ok

Don’t beat yourself up if you find yourself in Bobby’s situation. Just take a moment to give your ears and mind a rest and regroup.
Listen to it in another environment and compare to a reference track.
Doing these 2 things can give you back you confidence and sanity.
Also remember, done is better than perfect. In case you didn’t know, perfect doesn’t exist.

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