We’re back with another FAQ Friday! It has been a while since we have done one of these, so we are very excited to get back to it! Today’s featured question is: When mixing, how can you know when you can’t trust you ears anymore and need a break?
I remember talking to Jim Scott about this, and he said when he is taking too long on something, that’s when he needs to take a break. Bob Clearmountain says the same thing. He says you’ll never make good decisions if you are just obsessed about one thing.
With that in mind, I know that some things we do take some time to set up. Maybe you want to set up some multi-effects things where you have delays going into reverbs and a flanger on it, maybe there’s some panning function and some automation, for example. Of course, all of that is not going to be done in one second. But, if you are sitting there trying to EQ something to fit perfectly in the mix and are overthinking it, that is a really good sign that you need to take a break.
What I learned working in Pro Tools – or whatever DAW you work in – is to save the session, even if you haven’t printed the mix yet. Before you do something really crazy like remix all the drums or something else. This was, whatever you do after that, you can always revert back to the original version. Some autosave functions will save portions of your mix, but there is nothing better than making a conscious effort to save the session and give it a unique name, so if you want to go back the next day and listen to where you were in the middle of the day, and where you ended up at the end, you can do it.
If you are spending hours working on something, that is not a good sign, because you’ve lost sight of your end goal. You really need to be looking at the whole of the song and not just focusing in on and obsessing about one thing. You need to hear how the snare drum sounds in the mix, not just how the snare sounds on its own!
When you take a break and come back with fresh ears, you might hear the issue instantly and know exactly what to do, but with tired ears, you listen to it, and you know it’s wrong, but you don’t know what the solution is. Remember that all the best mixers in the world take frequent breaks while they are mixing! So create that kind of atmosphere where you can stand back and give yourself really good perspective, and you will be much better off!
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Watch the video below to learn more about this and hear the answers to other great FAQ Friday questions!