Getting mixes done faster

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Getting mixes done faster

Post by Aaron Straley »

I've been seriously mixing for about 6 months now, and my mixes are still taking me way too long. Started using templates this week to speed things up, and just getting to know my DAW better is helping. Also making quicker decisions on how to deal with problem areas.

I need a more systematic method and thought you guys might have some good suggestions. I feel like I am too random in my method and this is holding me back

What strategies do you recommend for speedier mixes?
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Re: Getting mixes done faster

Post by blinddrew »

I think some of this comes down to whether you're working on 'complete' songs, and literally just doing the mixing, or whether you're creating and mixing as you go.
Assuming we're just looking at the mix side of things, then the pink noise method can help: https://www.soundonsound.com/techniques ... -reference
Personally I find that doing my first cut mix in mono and at low volume helps make some of the critical decisions.
But that's it from me really as more often than not I'm mixing and creating at the same time.
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Re: Getting mixes done faster

Post by The Elf »

Speed comes with experience, confidence and competence. Just keep at it and don't be looking for shortcuts at this stage.
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Re: Getting mixes done faster

Post by RichardT »

If you haven’t got it already, I recommend Mike Senior’s book ‘Mixing Secrets for the Small Studio’. It features a very systematic approach to mixing.

Speed will come with time - it’s worth spending time struggling with your mixes at this stage to make them the very best you can as this will teach you a lot more than trying to finish them quickly.

I’d also be looking to make sure your playback monitoring is the very best you can make it. This makes an absolutely massive difference to hearing what’s wrong and so being able to fix it.

Also it may be worth taking time out to experiment with different techniques and tools just to learn more about them. For example, dynamic EQs, gating, multing, parallel compression, etc etc. then you’ll feel more capable of using them for real when you need to. Mike’s book will help you both to understand the techniques and more importantly when to use them.
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Re: Getting mixes done faster

Post by Wonks »

And it may help you if you limit the number of software plugins you have available to use, so that you don't spend several hours deciding which compressor works best for a particular sound. Pick the ones you like best/use most, and stick with those until you feel that you are mixing at a reasonable speed. It helps you to get to know those plug-ins very well so that they become quick to dial in the sound you want.

Then you can start adding in more plugs, but don't add too many at a time. If there are plugs you don't use, move them into a different folder e.g. 'VSTunused' so you don't have them cluttering up your effects list.
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Re: Getting mixes done faster

Post by Sam Inglis »

What's driving your wish to mix faster? Are you unable to get all the mixing done in the time available? Or do you just feel frustrated that it's taking so long? If the latter, I wouldn't worry. As long as you enjoy mixing and find it rewarding, who cares if it's slow?
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Re: Getting mixes done faster

Post by James Perrett »

I'll probably just echo what others have said but I'd say that it is all about getting to know your tools and good ear training - especially knowing how particular sounds are created. Wonks suggestion of limiting your plug-ins is also good. A good general purpose eq and compressor will work for most things if you know how to drive them.

It is also about having a good idea of where you want the song to go. If you just have a load of tracks full of ideas that might work (but might not) then the mix is going to take far longer than one with a load of tracks that were created with a particular sound in mind.
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Re: Getting mixes done faster

Post by RichardT »

Sam Inglis wrote: Thu Oct 06, 2022 2:33 pm What's driving your wish to mix faster? Are you unable to get all the mixing done in the time available? Or do you just feel frustrated that it's taking so long? If the latter, I wouldn't worry. As long as you enjoy mixing and find it rewarding, who cares if it's slow?

Personally I have a love-hate relationship to mixing. It's great to have something come together, but it's painful when fixing one problem reveals another, and fixing that reveals another, almost ad infinitum.

But I agree that there's no need to hurry unless there are external deadlines to meet.
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Re: Getting mixes done faster

Post by Matt Houghton »

It took me ages (several years) to get to the point where I could mix relatively quickly. Speed is still not my strongest point either! But here are some random tips that spring to mind on reading this thread:

1. You need to have monitoring you're confident in so that you're not second-guessing your decisions all the time. Doesn't have to be the most expensive listening system in the world, but you must have confidence in what it is telling you.

2. However good your speakers/headphones, (1) means listening to LOTS of good commercial material, and getting to know it intimately so that system, so that you can make good judgements on what you're mixing. The good thing about that is that it's a lot of fun!

3. You have to have material worth mixing — on a technical level (eg without noise or horrible room tone preventing you doing what you want to do with a source), a musical level (being on time, on pitch etc, as well as decent parts and instrumentation/arrangement choices, and an emotional one (quality of performances/programming etc.). Otherwise, you spend ages thinking you're mixing when you're actually just compensating for problems — that can take time, leave you frustrated and, worst of all, turn you off the material, making it hard to focus on the end result.

4. Gain staging — stick to the analogue way of working when it comes to levels. Yes, you *can* get away with pinning the meters into the red in a modern DAW, but being disciplined about levels helps a lot when it comes to using analogue-modelling plug-ins, and particularly threshold-based bus processing (eg mix bus and drum bus compressors). The point here being that it helps you avoid problems, which helps you avoid spending time chasing your tail.

5. Focus on the most musically important sounds first. Eg, lead vocal and drums/bass (in that order) are likely more important than anything else. Spend time getting that core of the mix right, and the rest will fall into place much more easily.

6. Don't worry about what you cannot hear. As in, don't go down the rabbit hole solving problems that annoy you only when something is soloed. You can always go and attend to that stuff later if you really feel the need, but better to focus on the big picture/broad strokes first.

7. Avoid ear fatigue — have a calibrated reference listening level that is your default (doesn't stop you going louder or quieter, but you can return to this whenever); take regular short breaks (cuppa time!) away from music. Occasionally take a longer break — go feed the ducks, take the dog for a walk or whatever. This all stops you making decisions when you can't really trust your ears... which obviously causes that whole 'chasing your tail' thing again.

8. Don't listen on everything on loop for ages. As well as hastening listening fatigue it leads you to be overfamiliar with the music — ie your ears grow accustomed to any problems. Instead, try having a notepad/pen handy, and as you get into the mix, try the tape-style workflow: play back once, listen, take notes on your thoughts and any problems, and write down a snag list. Work through it and then listen again. I find this helps me haul my ass across the finish line!

Of course, Sam's point is a good one: there's no reason why you *must* mix fast unless you have deadlines to meet or want that album to come out before the end of Time.

Dammit... a couple more and I could have called this a listicle :lol::headbang:
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Re: Getting mixes done faster

Post by RichardT »

Great points Matt. To amplify point 8, which I wholeheartedly agree with, I find it helpful to work on a number of songs at the same time to increase that sense of freshness and distance.
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Re: Getting mixes done faster

Post by Aaron Straley »

Thanks everyone, great advice that I will take to heart. I definitely need some self imposed time limits. Some of the denser mixes are taking me more than 20hrs, mainly because I cant get to where I want it, and refuse to call something complete that I know is not right.

I get really sick of listening to the same song that much and it ends of having a negative impact. It feels like I am not being very productive when it takes this long.

Yes I want to be able to mix faster, for a more satisfying experience and better end results. Lord knows I cant get any slower.
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Re: Getting mixes done faster

Post by The Elf »

Aaron Straley wrote: Thu Oct 06, 2022 7:32 pm Some of the denser mixes are taking me more than 20hrs

That's not untypical. Even a relatively simple mix can take a day, depending on your definition of 'mixing' - often the de-essing edits and tuning can take half a day on their own.

I'd worry less about how long things are taking and more about what you have at the end of the process.
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