How to Finish Your Mixes – A Step By Step Guide
We talk a lot about how to start a mix, or how to get a rough mix going, but we don’t share as much about how you know when your mix is finished.
Let’s talk about how you can be confident about finishing your mixes so you can be proud to release your music to the world.
Get a Good Mix Going
Before you’re ready to start the finishing and finalization process, you want to be happy with how your mix is sounding so far.
That means using processors like:
and other effects to get your mix grooving. I’ve written plenty on these subjects before so take a look at some of these articles before you continue:
Once you’re happy with your mix, move onto the next step.
Use a Reference Mix
The first thing you want to do in the finalization process is make sure your mix compares to other commercial releases in your genre. Find songs that you like the sound of that sound similar to the music you’re working on and compare your mix to the commercial release.
Your mix might sound a little quieter because it hasn’t been mastered yet. However, you can still use that reference mix as an excellent goal to strive toward.
If you love the sound of someone else’s mix and you can get your mix close to sounding like it, that’s a huge confidence booster!
For a detailed post on how to use a reference mix to make your mixes sound better than ever, check out the post below:
Make Sure Your Mix Translates to Every Speaker
Now, all you need to do is listen to it on multiple speaker systems and change what jumps out at you as different. If the bass is really muddy on a certain speaker then try to EQ the bass so that it still sounds powerful on your studio monitors while staying clean on the muddy speaker.
Check out the cheat sheet below for my 7-step process to make your mixes translate to any speaker system. It might seem simple, but trust me that if you follow the process and trust the system then your mixes will get better.
Reference it whenever you’re getting ready to finish your mix.
I referenced the final chapter of my best-selling Amazon ebook, Step By Step Mixing: How to Create Great Mixes Using Only 5 Plug-ins when I was making this infographic. To elaborate even further on the translation process I wanted to give you a sneak peek into the part of the chapter where I break it all down for you.
Personally, my mix process is as follows:
I mix in mono on my Behringer Behritone Mixcube, mostly following the steps I’ve given you in the previous chapters. The Mixcube is a terrible speaker that has no low-end or highs. It has only one driver and sounds pretty terrible. However, if I can make my mix sound halfway decent on this speaker I know I’m getting somewhere.
Multiple Speaker Check
I flip my mix over to my Yamaha HS-5s and do another round of tweaking. This is usually a rebalancing effort on EQ but I also flip my mix out of mono at this point. Now I can hear the stereo spectrum pretty well. If I get a “whoa! That mix really opens up even though it wasn’t sounding bad before” I know I’m on the right track. I’ll spend some time on reverb, delays and other effects.
Then I listen to my mix on my Focal CMS50s that are coupled with a subwoofer. Now I can really hear all the little things in the mix, as well as all the low-end that’s present. Usually, this requires me to tweak the drums, kick, bass and other low-end instruments.
How My Dog Helps Me Finish My Mixes
Once I feel my mix is done I bounce it and upload it to Dropbox. I take the dog for a walk and listen to my mix multiple times on earbuds, making mental notes of what needs to be changed.
Honestly, I think my dog Buckley knows my mix workflow better than myself. Especially when I’m finishing up a mix…
He’ll be lying on the rug in the back of the studio as I’m doing my mix checks.
Then, as soon as I flip my mix over to the main speakers, he props up one of his ears, thinking
“Oh….he flipped the mix over to one of the main speakers.”
I’ll look back at him, and he’ll quickly close his eyes and pretend like he’s snoozing away – ignoring the loud music coming out of the speakers of course.
Then I flip my mix from mono to stereo, and he knows something’s up. He’ll jump to his feet and twist around chasing his tail in excitement.
He knows what’s coming.
Then I change over to my Focal monitors with the subwoofer, and he gets even more excited. I don’t know if he’s particularly into the bass response, but this is usually the time he stands up on his hind legs and puts his paws on the armrest of my chair.
I swear, I feel like he’s nodding in approval. He wants me to move onto the next step.
I usually push my chair back to the sweet spot for the far-field monitors so that I can hear the full frequency response. I want to make sure there aren’t any hidden surprises in the low-end.
It’s at this point Buckley darts out of the room as I bounce my mixdown. I wait for the mix to finalize and I upload it to Dropbox so I can listen to it on my phone with my earbuds.
Then I call him, “Buckley, it’s time for a…”
Before I can finish the sentence, he dashes back into the room, leash in mouth, head cocked to one side and his eyes clearly saying “Walk?”
That’s how I finish a mix, and even if you don’t have a dog to keep you company, you can still follow the steps to make your mixes translate.
Once I’ve done my revisions I usually get feedback from my studio partner before sending it to the client.
If the client has any feedback I change the mix accordingly and send him the final mix.
Notice how many different pairs of both speakers and individual ears the mix goes through before it’s done?
You don’t want to rely on one single monitor set up in one room to make your final mix decisions. You want to make sure your mix translates well everywhere the mix will be listened to.
Tweak and Rest
After listening to your mix on multiple systems, give yourself a couple of rounds of tweaks and then call it a day. If you’re constantly tweaking and re-bouncing your mix you’re wasting an awful lot of time that could be better spent otherwise.
If you’re working with your own band then let them have the final say. If they like it, stop tweaking! If you’re working with a band and they like the sound of the mix, your work is done. You don’t get paid extra for every tweak so why waste your time if everyone is happy?
All of the steps listed so far should define about 80% of your workflow.
Sticking to a standard workflow that works for you will help you know what to focus on next.
You can certainly do a fair amount of jumping around from one thing to another throughout the mix, but in general, sticking to these guidelines will speed up the entire process and help you complete your mixes faster.
Get it Ready for Mastering
If you’re hiring a mastering engineer to master your mixes, make sure that all of your songs are ready for mastering.
- Check your levels and make sure you have enough headroom.
- Clean up your master bus if you have too much processing on there for their liking.
- Check with your mastering engineer if they have a specific way they would like your mixes delivered.
Make Pro, Radio-Ready Mixes With Step By Step Mixing.
If you don’t feel like your mixes are quite ready for mastering you may want even more step by step mixing help….if you’re struggling to get your mixdowns to sound professional and can’t figure out how to get the balance right for that polished sound, I’ve got just the right thing for you.
The 2nd edition of Step By Step Mixing will teach you to mix a song from start to finish so you end up with mixes that translate well to any speaker system, from your club’s PA to your dad’s Bluetooth speaker.
If you’re hoping to learn:
- New tricks for balancing a mix
- Techniques to speed up your workflow
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that build on your existing techniques, whether you’re a beginner or more advanced, thenStep By Step Mixing is guaranteed to get you there…or I will refund every penny.
Don’t Look for Techniques All Over the Internet
Villermö is a recent Step By Step Mixing customer and he told me that he loved the idea that he could find all the information that was scattered over the internet in one concise, organized and ready package.
He wanted to know how to get better mixes but didn’t want to waste time jumping from one article to another. Instead, he grabbed Step By Step Mixing and got all he needed to know in one affordable package.
Use Step By Step Mixing to Help Your Band
Jared is another customer who recently purchased Step By Step Mixing to help his band find the best way to mix the songs they’ve played together for years. He is trying to gain the most useful knowledge possible to know exactly how his mixes should sound. He has tried many other videos, but based on my other videos and emails he thought the way I passed on the information was “down to earth, but in an informative way.”
Join Jared and thousands of others that have learned the Step By Step Mixing Method right here.