Mixing is probably the most fun out of all the things we do as audio engineers.
It’s where we get to take all these recorded tracks and make them sound awesome.
But….sometimes you might get a little overwhelmed when you’ve gone overboard during the recording process.
There’s nothing you can do about that though. The production and recording process might yield a song that has 50-60 tracks and it’s understandable to get a little freaked out when you’ve imported all those tracks into your DAW because you don’t know where to start.
But what I’m about to tell you will make it easier for you to get rid of that mental block and start mixing.
Break It Down Into Its Elements
Take this mix I was doing the other day. It had about 60 recorded tracks.
For someone not experienced with mixing it might make you hyperventilate a bit, but once you look closely at the tracks you realize there are only four groups of instruments:
- Guitars (including bass)
- Keys and other synths
Even with close to 60 tracks that’s really what you’re balancing together in your mix.
So breathe, don’t worry about the enormity of the session. Once you’ve broken the mix down into a handful of different elements your perspective on the session will change.
Simplify With Routing
Once you’ve drilled the session down you can simplify it even further inside the respective elements.
Say you have all these drum tracks that even by themselves are overwhelming.
- Two kick drum tracks
- Top and bottom snare tracks
- 4 toms
- Overheads and room mics
Even just that can get overwhelming.
But luckily you can simplify further by combining things into busses.
- Combine the kicks into one bus
- Combine the snare into one bus
- Combine the toms into one bus
- Combine overhead and room mics into one bus
That simplifies your 12 drum tracks into 4 tracks you can play with.
You’ve cut your hyperventilating down 66%!
Of course, make sure you balance each track into the bus before so that you have control over the sound that you want, but if you do it in stages and one track at a time you’ll end up with a session that’s much easier to handle.
What About All the Fancy Overdubs?
You’ll have sessions that include all the necessary foundational instruments like guitars, bass, keys, drums and vocals.
You know, those instruments that make up most of the song.
But then you’ll also have solos or lead fills here and there that only play for a limited time during the song as “sweetening.”
Sometimes these tracks can make up a good chunk of your session so it might seem like there’s a lot of tracks but there’s actually not that much going on most of the time.
It’s a good idea to calm your brain down by completely ignoring these instruments until it’s time to mix them in with everything else.
Usually you can group and process those tracks together fairly quickly so worrying about them is pointless when you should be focusing on the mix as a whole.
Work on your mix in broad strokes first. Then focus on the little stuff.
Need More Help Getting Through Your Mix?
I spend a lot of time giving you strategies on creating a great sounding mix inside Mixing Strategies.
In one of the videos I specifically explain my thought process on how I try to visualize how I want a mix to sound like before I even start.
It makes everything simpler and I don’t ever feel the need to hyperventilate into a paper bag.
Check it out here: