Getting Started Mixing Your Song

Before starting to mix a song, do a few things to prepare for the process. Your goal for before starting to mix is to get in the headspace of mixing. This often means taking a step back from the song and approaching it as a listener rather than as the musician who recorded the tracks. Start the mixing process by following these steps:

  1. Determine the overall quality that you want from the song.

    This can be defined as a musical style or a feeling. You probably don’t need to think about this too hard because, when you started recording, you probably had a definite sound in mind. In fact, most composers hear a song in their heads before they even start recording.

  2. Listen to a song or two from a CD that has a similar sound or feel as the song you’re trying to mix.

    Listen on your studio monitors if you can, and try to get a sense of the tonal and textural quality of these songs. Listen to them at fairly low volume and be careful not to tire your ears. All you’re trying to do at this point is to get your ears familiar with the sound that you’re trying to produce in your music.

  3. Set up a rough mix using no EQ or effects and listen through it once.

    For this listening session, don’t think like a producer; rather, try to put yourself in the mind-set of the average listener. Listen to the various parts that you’ve recorded and see whether anything sticks out as being particularly good or bad. You’re not listening for production quality. You’re trying to determine whether some instruments, musical phrases, licks, melodies, or harmonies grab you as a listener.

  4. Get a piece of paper and a pen to jot down ideas as you work.

    As you listen through the song, take notes on where certain instruments should be in the mix. For example, you may want the licks you played on the lead guitar throughout the song to be muted during the first verse.

    Or maybe you decide that the third rhythm-guitar part that you recorded would be best put way to the right side of the mix while the other two rhythm-guitar parts may be closer to the center. Write these ideas down so that you can try them later. You’re likely to have a lot of ideas as you listen through the first few times.

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