Knowing when a track is finished is the hard part, then you’ve got think about the recording and the mixing. If you’re anything like me, I get my ideas out and recorded, then worry about the mixing (I don’t care if you think this is wrong, because you’re wrong).
When it is finally finished, and the mix is ‘done’ (mynewtrackfinalfinalfinal3.wav) what do we do with it before mastering? Where should we listen, how should we listen?
Start off like this:
1. Listen at a quieter level listen
Such an obvious thing to do, but as music producers, and as musicians (we are pretty bad for this) all we do is listen to stuff on monitors, or in decent head phones loudly.
Music sounds better louder, I’m yet to go to a club where they playing everything below speaking volume.
Listening at a lower level is better for your ears
You hear bits you wouldn’t have noticed otherwise.
2. The ‘bud’ listen
Get out your cheapest (or most expensive) pair of in ear/bud headphones and listen. This is pretty lo-fi as a listening method but most of the people who are listening to your tracks will probably listen on a pair of these.
Things to listen out for here is you bass response, and high end. If your not getting much in the way of bass, revisit your mix and fix this as soon as you can. The best thing to do here is listen quietly, run tweaks and listen again on your buds.
If you’re suffering from the latter and your mixes sound super tinny and very high-end, or there is a lack of high end, then you should go back and roll off some of those high ends that cause your ears pain, or fix any issues with the lack of vocals/snare etc.
3. The £20 (or less) hi-fi listen.
This is an important listen, just like the bud listen, your mixes need to sound great and transparent on all devices.
I listen top mixes on my monitors, then a friend says ‘they sounded a bit bass-less when I listened to them’ – it’s always good to remember not everyone will have good monitors and sadly, we have to make sure our mixes sound amazing on these.
During this step, listen out for your mids, they can be messy. Listen carefully here, mostly to this mid-range as these speakers will be pointing out any issues with these frequencies. Make notes and remove any issue frequencies in your mix.
4. Get out of your room listen.
This one sounds silly, but is actually pretty useful.
Firstly, you get a break, you leave your room and you’re in a different setting, your brain can relax and take 5.
Secondly, you’re outside of your room. You listen to your mix from a different perspective. Hearing you mix like this will allow you to pick up on so many other elements, the bass, the top end, that particular note in the chorus that stands out.
This is probably the most important listen (alongside the quiet listen), you’re completely into a new environment here.
5. The listen to your mix in another studio or setup listen
This does one of two things:
Firstly, makes you think ‘this shit sounds good’.
Secondly, ‘wow, that sounds pretty bad’.
The latter is pretty common, and it’s simply because you are removed from what you know and ‘your room’, so it’s perfectly acceptable.
How do you overcome this? Just simply take some notes, even write down the equipment they, sometimes this can colour sound so don’t always worry that it’s your mix, because it might not be.