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10 Mistakes We All Make When Mixing Music (And How To Fix Them)

mixing music 

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

mixing music checking in 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.

Mixing Tip

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

mixing music relying on mixing 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.

Mixing Tip

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

mixing music overcompressing

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.

Mixing Tip

Use the compressor with care, and don't go overboard. A little goes a long way.

4. Making All Sounds Wide

mixing music overwidening

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.

Mixing Tip

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

mixing music 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.

Mixing Tip

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

mixing music overdoing low 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.

Mixing Tip

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

mixing music 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.

Mixing Tip

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

mixing music only listening 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.

Mixing Tip

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

mixing music 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.

Mixing Tip

Put all your channels at lower volumes to ensure you have a headroom in your mix.

10. Taking No Mixing Breaks

mixing music taking 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.

Mixing Tip

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.

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Thanks for reading, and see you in the next article.

Pelle Sundin
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.

 



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