The world’s #1 mixing mistake.
You’ve spent hours on your mix. You’re almost done. It sounds amazing in your studio monitors, so you decide “I’ll just check the mix in my car speakers, and then I’m finished!” You walk out to your car…and then back to the studio. Hours later, you’re still making mix adjustments, and you’re still “almost done.”
Can you relate to this story?
Of all the mixing mistakes that I’ve encountered on the thousands of projects I’ve mastered, there’s one mixing mistake that I see the most. The world’s biggest mixing mistake is to forget one thing:
Bad mixes only sound good in the studio.
Great mixes sound good everywhere else.
So how do you create mixes that sound good everywhere? Better gear? A better studio? Secret Jedi mixing tricks? Those things can, and sometimes do help, but the most important thing you can do to improve your mixing skills is almost always ear training.
Your ears are the most important tool in your studio, and training them is the single best investment you can make to improve your mixes.
What you need to train your ears:
- Make a “reference playlist” of your favorite songs. I’ve had many of the same songs in my reference playlist for years. I use it constantly, especially when checking out new speakers or headphones.
- Get a few different brands of speakers and put them in different rooms of your home. They don’t all need to be professional studio monitors. Consumer grade speakers often work better as “outside the studio speakers.”
How to train your ears:
- Listen to the first song from your reference playlist on each of your “outside the studio speakers.” Take mental notes on how each speaker makes the song sound a little different.
- Now listen to the same song your studio monitors. Take mental notes about how your studio monitors sound compared to each of your “outside the studio speakers.”
- Listen to a new song from your reference playlist on your studio monitors. Close your eyes, and see if you can imagine what that song will sound like on each of your “outside the studio speakers.”
- Get up and walk to each of your “outside the studio speakers.” Listen and see if the song sounds the way you imagined it would.
- Do this with each song on your reference playlist. Can you listen to a song on one set of speakers and accurately imagine how it will sound on another set of speakers?
When you can listen to a song on your studio monitors and imagine exactly how it will sound on your “outside of the studio speakers”, you’ll truly “know” your studio monitors. Once you achieved this level of ear training, your studio monitors will start to become useful tools to help you create “portable mixes” that sound great everywhere, not just in the studio.
But why is my mix so quiet?
If the songs on your “reference playlist” are from popular artists, they will have been mastered at a professional mastering studio and will sound louder and more “glued together” than your unmastered mix. Don’t worry about how loud your unmastered mix is before mastering. Just focus on getting your mix sounding good, balanced and in the right ballpark.