Be careful not to overwork elements in your mix, as your ears will tire and you’ll potentially end up making mistakes with your mixing. A favorable technique, if time will allow, is to leave some space between finishing the arrangement on the track and completely finishing the mix, allowing you to return to the project with fresh ears and a fresh perspective.
Perfect The Loop
For many modern electronic producers, a ‘final mix’ is less and less common these days, as you will naturally mix and process sounds as you introduce them into the project. Some producers will even produce and mix a track whilst it’s still in the 8/16 bar loop stage. One plus with this method is to finish your arrangement is to pretty much finish your track. This approach is also useful in helping you choose the right sample or sound for each track, applying advanced mixing at such an early stage in the process, you’ll no doubt be much more discerning with your choices when adding new elements, subsequently improving the sonic quality as you go.
Separate the Process
If you find yourself constantly blurring the lines between arranging and mixing, trying bouncing your project down to audio stems. Most DAW’s have very useful export options these days, so you’re able to export all the individual tracks from your project in one go. This method of committing things to audio may help if you’re someone who is constantly tweaking bits of automation or synth parameters; when it becomes such an effort to go back and change such potentially irrelevant details you may realize it’s not so necessary. You could even do a rough mix in your original project, bounce the audio as groups, and create a new session for your buss mix and processing.
More Gain Fading
We’ve already mentioned using simple gain changes in this series to help drop tension in a section of your mix. Further to this technique, simply automating the gain of certain elements in your project can sometimes be favorable to slapping on a compressor. If you find your synth channel is peaking too high as the filter opens, try automating the gain down slightly in these sections. or if there’s a build section of your track where the master volume peaks too high, apply similar gain automations to any lead elements in that section, such as snare rolls, synth filters, and the like. You could even try using this method along with a gentle compressor, similar to the serial compressor technique, except you have much more detailed control over the dynamic reduction with gain automation.
It’s a good idea to always reference your mixes in mono – this can be easily achieved by applying a plugin on your master chain, most utility gain’s will have a mono button for this purpose. When working through a mix, and you choose to apply some imaging to a sound, always have a quick reference to hear how the sound collapses to mono, whilst it may sound great spread across the speakers it may phase badly when collapsing to a mono signal.
Taking this technique one step further, trying mixing your project in mono. You’ll find you have to work much harder to create room for all the individual elements, which could lead to a much more spacious mix. Then, once you’re mix is near finished, convert back to stereo and apply any panning or imaging you feel is necessary, to add that final touch of ear candy.