What are the 10 most common mistakes when mixing music – and how do you fix them? Mixing music is often a difficult process, but it’s also one of the most fun. After arrangement, you adjust the volume sliders, apply compression, effects, and equalizers – balancing all your channels to make your music sound the best it can. But in the mixing process, there are very common mistakes producers make that, in the worst case, can ruin your mix.
In this article, we’ll go through the ten mistakes we’re all guilty of making when mixing. We’ll also share tips on how you can easily ensure you don’t make them.
1. Forgetting To Check The Mono
The word mono means "one" or "alone." In music and mixing, mono means that sound is coming from one source. With two speakers, this means that the same sounds are playing in both speakers, rather than having different information left and right, as with stereo.
Why do you need to check your mix in mono? Well, it’s simple. If your mix sounds good in mono, it sounds good everywhere, even in phone speakers that often are mono. You also hear phasing issues, which you then can correct.
Use a mono tool such as Ableton’s ‘Utility’ audio effect on your master channel. Put it to mono and hear if sounds disappear or sound weird. Correct the sound until it sounds good in mono again, then turn your master back to stereo.
2. Relying On Mix Presets
We wish mixing were as simple as using a one-fits-all-solution or preset to fix all issues and make it sound fantastic. Sadly, there is no such solution. That's why it's not recommended using mixing presets in equalizers, compressors, and other effects.
Even though some mixing presets can be a starting point, they often never fit your specific sound. You always have to tweak it somehow to make it sound as good as it possibly can.
Instead of relying on presets when mixing music, listen carefully to your mix, and make decisions that way. Do you want your lead to be brighter? Use an equalizer. Want your vocal to have more color? Add saturation.
3. Compressing Too Much
We want our sounds loud and powerful and often spring for the compressor to make that happen. The compressor makes the lower parts of the sound louder and limits the peaks from going overboard.
The problem, however, is that over-squeezing your compressor removes the dynamics of your sound. We need the highs and lows to ensure our track is energetic and impactful. A flat and overly compressed mix is a boring mix.
Use the compressor with care, and don't go overboard. A little goes a long way.
4. Making All Sounds Wide
A major problem with synths and effects is that they all try and sound impressive. While it sounds innocent, it means that most of the synth presets and effects will have cool effects and stereo widen your sound. And when everything is wide, your mix loses focus and power.
For ultimate balance when mixing music, you need both narrow sounds (mono) and sounds in stereo. Having both makes your music sound balanced and spacious.
Lower frequency sounds are generally mixed narrower (or in mono) while higher frequency sounds can be higher. Balance your mix by having only one or a few wide or super-wide elements while keeping your lower frequencies nice and narrow.
5. Overdoing High Frequencies
We love crispy highs, as long as they don’t hurt our ears. But we miss an important aspect of boosting high frequencies too much, and that’s that your mix gets unbalanced. People will reach for their earplugs when they hear a track with over-amplified high frequencies on large club speakers.
On large speakers, trebles can sound extremely harsh, which is why you need to tone those frequencies down a bit.
Roll of the super-high frequencies and try not to boost the highs of all your sounds. Be delicate and remember that your ultimate goal is to have your music play in massive club speakers, where a little goes a long way.
6. Overdoing Lower Frequencies
We love feeling the deep, heavy bass and are not afraid to boost the lower frequencies. However, too much bass and lower frequencies can easily destroy your mix. Especially on larger speakers where too much sub-50Hz frequencies will destroy your sound.
Low frequencies are, of course, okay but don't boost them to excess. A happy medium is much better, even in very bass-focused tracks like house and techno. It makes your track cleaner and much more balanced.
When mixing your music, cut bass frequencies under 20Hz and be gentle with boosting your lower frequencies. Also, make sure they don’t clash with your kick.
7. Mixing In Solo
We all solo a track sometimes and make changes to it while mixing. And sometimes, it's necessary to hear the detailed problem areas of a specific sound. The problem comes when you make mixing decisions without hearing how one sound fits in with the rest of your track.
Mixing music is about making everything balanced and sounds great together. If you only make your mixing decisions based on one sound, you will almost always make the wrong decisions. For example, you might make a soloed guitar bright and crisp because it sounds better. But in the mix, that same guitar would maybe sound off and require a different mixing approach.
Try and only mix in solo when you have a specific problem to fix, like looking for pops, clicks, or peak resonances. Mix with all of your tracks playing to hear how they sound together all other times.
8. Only Listening To Your Mix In One Source
The key to an excellent mix is how well it translates over different systems, like small speakers, car sound systems, headphones, and massive club speakers. Suppose you only listen to your music on your monitors or your reference headphones. In that case, you miss the feedback needed to make your mix excellent.
Different audio sources translate your sound differently, so your key is to find a happy medium that sounds good on most. Having your track sound good on monitors or reference headphones is a good start, but you still need to check your mix on as many sound systems as possible to ensure your decisions are correct.
Listen to your mix on as many audio systems as possible, including cheap, commercial headphones and in cars. Send it to friends and listen to their sound system. The more input you get, the better.
9. Forgetting About Headroom
It's very common to completely forget about the headroom when mixing music, making all channels as loud as possible. However, cranking the volume up will bite you later, when you need headroom for your mixing and mastering.
By having a headroom approach from the beginning of your arrangement and mixing stages, you can save yourself the trouble later while making your mix and master sound better, as a result.
Put all your channels at lower volumes to ensure you have a headroom in your mix.
10. Taking No Mixing Breaks
To make the best music mixing decisions, you need a fresh set of ears. After hours in the studio, your senses can get dulled and used to particular sounds and frequencies – making you take unwise mixing decisions. Therefore, taking breaks is key.
Your ears are very delicate instruments, which easily get fatigued. They do, however, quickly recover by taking a break.
Make sure to take breaks often when mixing music. Go for a walk, do something completely different and come back to the mix later, even (and especially) when you think it sounds fantastic. Coming back will often cause you to hear things you didn’t before.
Do You Want To Make Music As A Career?
Picture this. You pour a hot, rich cup of coffee and sit down in your soft, comfortable studio chair to get ready for another productive session.
With complete confidence and knowledge about creating deep house, hard trap, high tech minimal music, and more, you know how to make headshaking beats and breathtaking melodies instantly.
You get started quickly, put together your track in a breeze, and mix it to excellence within hours…
Your tracks get millions of listens every month, and you can’t believe you’re doing what you love the most for a living – every single day.
Imagine living the producer life and having complete self-confidence in music production... knowing how to craft every sound you can imagine from scratch in your favorite VST synth, how to arrange it to professional standards and mix and master it to brilliance.
Well, good news.
All this knowledge is ready for you in complete, expert-made step-by-step courses.
And not only that – they’re also ready with a vast library of all the professional sample packs and presets you need, including templates for all the finished tracks to discover all techniques and tips up-close.
We’re proud to present our biggest bundle ever for serious music producers…
Discover The Ultimate Bundle.
With over 193 products included and life-time access, you learn everything you need to know to make music your full-time career!
Included in our biggest bundle ever is:
- 34 Complete Courses + all products released this year
- 28 Sample and MIDI packs + all products released this year
- 108 Templates + all products released this year
- 30 Preset Packs + all products released this year
Production Music Live’s Ultimate Bundle shows you exactly how to:
- Make Grooves
- Write Breathtaking Melodies
- Craft Beautiful Harmony And Chord Progressions
- Get Inspired Instantly
- Create Sounds From Scratch In Your Favorite VST (Sound Design)
- Make Tracks From Start-To-Finish In Popular EDM Genres
Get ready to start your journey as a professional music producer with our biggest pack ever…
Premium Bundle: Ultimate
Click here to learn everything about music production.
Thanks for reading, and see you in the next article.
About the author
Pelle Sundin is a Swedish music producer and writer, active with his chillout project PLMTRZ. He also produces psytrance. When he's not producing, he surfs, skates, and chugs coffee.