Have you ever worked REALLY hard on a track, spending hours recording and mixing it before you compare it to a professional track, and realize the mix sounds like crap? That the bass is thin, the mid frequencies are muddy and the highs too brittle? Yet, it had been sounding perfectly full and rich when you were recording and mixing. The mix was totally badass until you compared it with another track, sounding powerful and clear. Ever happened to you? Well to me it has. Not just once, but a LOT of times. Actually, it ALWAYS used to happen to me. How can you prevent this from happening to yourmixes? In this article, I will show you one crucial magic trick that will help you get rid of this problem for good.
The answer is actually quite simple. Use a reference track. Always when you are mixing, switch back and forth between your mix and a professional track in the same style/genre. In addition, ALWAYS listen to a few professional tracks before you begin your mixing session. Of course, to create a good mix, you will have to be good at mixing, but this is really important. I will tell you why in a second.
First of all, your ear might fool you. If you are listening to a track that has too much high frequencies for a longer time, your ear will adjust to this. It will dampen some of those high frequencies to make it sound balanced. This is a natural protection system of the ear. By example, if you have been to a night club or concert without using protection (no, not that kind…), I mean hearing protection, you have most likely experienced a temporary hearing loss when you get out. You may hear a ringing tone in your ear, and find yourself yelling to your friends, even if it is quite silent around you. This is because your ear has lowered the volume of the sound you perceive, to protect itself from damage. The same thing actually happens to mixes in your studio too! Your ear will automatically dampen frequencies that are too loud to prevent damage.
This means that if there is too much bass in your mix, your ear will adjust to this. Same if the mid frequencies are too loud, or the highs etc. This means that you can sit for hours mixing a track that is totally unbalanced without realizing it! No matter what, it will sound good to you, because your ear has adjusted itself to it. This is one of the reasons that your mix will sound like total crap compared to a professional recording. So how can we fix this?
Well, we are back at the reference track. That track should as I said, be a professional recording of a song in the same genre as you are mixing. This track is balanced and mixed properly, just as the result you are trying to achieve. By switching back and forth between your mix and this track, your ear will constantly be adjusting to the sound of the pro recording, making you able to hear the flaws in your own mix. It is like you are resetting your ear, tuning it properly each time you are listening to your reference track. And by tuning your ear to a perfectly balanced mix, you will hear what’s wrong with your own, and be able to correct it.
So now, make it a habit to start every mixing session by listening to some professional music, to tune your ear. Also, always make sure to use a reference track when mixing, to always keep your hearing fresh. I hope this will help you mix better, and create some amazing music that sounds great, even when compared to top industry mixes!