After one of my recent Mixing Tutorial videos for MixCoach Member, one of our awesome members mentioned my fast paced workflow and decision making process. He asked how I work so quickly. This got me thinking back on my mixing journey, about how when I first started out, I would get bogged down by very small details early in my mixing process. This would keep me working in circles until my ears were of no more use to me than a bear with a tractor.
After bumbling around like this I found that the best solution to keep me moving early on in a mix was “delaying details”. I try to focus on the big picture mix decisions and make them early. Global things like “intimacy,” “artistic direction,” “featured instruments,” and “ambience”, I decide on very early. I leave smaller details, till the end.
This is because deciding on the big things fast and early allows me to keep them in focus throughout the entire mixing process. It also allows me to make the biggest decisions when my ears (and mind) are fresh. Then because I made the global choices earlier, many of the small details… like the final fade, small vocal edits, small automated rides, plug-in automation, etc… are already determined for me by the big decisions I’ve made. For example, if I decided I want the song to be close and intimate, I know I need the vocal pretty dry and close… no additional thoughts required when it comes to “which reverb do I want on the vocal?”
Making those big choices early is sometimes hard because as an artist (even a technically oriented one) you don’t want to “paint (or mix) yourself into a corner”… but to be honest, the more defined those global things are in your mix, the more people will connect with it, and the more they will get out of your art (mix) at the end of the day.
Not getting “stuck” on decisions that seem “hard” is something that is necessary to be productive… If you can’t decide on something quickly, leave it till later when you’ve solved some other issues and refined the mix more. Don’t chase your tail while mixing. Sometimes I can tackle seemingly insurmountable obstacles… and sometime I need to move on and refine other areas first. But regardless I always try to make the big, global decisions early.
It’s the focus that comes from making big decisions early that will really help to make your art the best it can be. You can take care of those pesky details later… it’s the last 10% of the mix… so I don’t think about most of them till then. 🙂