How to mix music: wrapping up

Illustration: Sean Suchara

After hours of mixing a track, how do we go about adding our finishing touches?

For those who stumbled upon this blog post, we’re finishing up a series of beginner mixing tutorials educating producers on the process and workflow of mixing a song. In our first blog post, we talked about how to prepare yourself for a mix. In our second blog post, we discussed four things that you can do during the first hour of mixing. Our third blog post outlines some EQ and compression techniques for your mix, and in this final blog post, we discuss things to consider when wrapping up a mix.

This blog post mentions Splice Studio, which is no longer active. Learn more about the shutdown here.

1. Adding effects

If you’ve been following our mixing workflow since the first blog post in the series, you should have completed volume balancing, EQ shaping, and compression by now. To sweeten things up, consider adding effects such as reverbs, delays, chorus, etc. to your mix. Effects not only give your mix a sense of space and depth, but also help keep things interesting. The use of delays plays with a listener’s ear and provides movement in a mix. Reverbs (both mono and stereo) place a certain instrument or musical part in a space while creative effects such as chorus, bitcrushers, and distortion add color where sounds are otherwise dull. Some engineers like to mix with effects from the very start, but for beginners, it’s better not to rely on effects at the could very easily “mask” problem areas of your mix.

2. Automation

One of the last things you should do is add automation to your mix. Mixing is called mixing for a reason – the process isn’t static. A mix should be constantly evolving as the song progresses. Automation is handy as it helps your mix sound dynamic, yet cohesive from start to finish. Play through your mix and automate the volumes for instruments and parts that need to be louder or softer. Create cool effects by automating effect sends and returns. Use automation to build tension in a mix by making things go loud, only then to dip to a softer volume. Do not underestimate the power of automation, as it can play a significant role in leveling up a mix. Once again, print your mix before you automate, and print it again after. Take a listen and make sure it sounds better.

3. Work your mix to 85%

This tip applies more if you’re working on a mix for a client, but even if you’re mixing your own song it’s still worth some consideration. Personally, I never mix to 100%. By that, I mean that I mix until I reach a point where I feel the mix is in a good presentable spot, while also knowing that there’s still room for improvement. I call that point the 85% mark. It’s at this mark that I send the mix out to my client for feedback and let them know that the mix is not at 100% yet. The benefit of delivering a ‘work-in-progress’ mix is that if your mix is going in the wrong direction from what your client envisioned, you still have the opportunity to change it and not waste that 100% of effort you invested into the mix.

It’s easier to revert a mix back to its 50% or 25% mark if you haven’t fully finished it. As a good practice, save your mix at different stages so that you can roll it back at any time. Splice Studio is a great asset for this, as it provides free, unlimited version control for your projects and stores all of your data privately in the cloud.

September 17, 2018

Reuben Raman Product Marketing Manager at Splice