Transform Your Rough Recordings Into Released Records, Even If You Only Have a Home Studio

Mixing Philosophy: Where Do You Start?

Mark writes in with a question about mixing philosophy I thought you might find interesting:

“I’d love to know your philosophy for what to start a mix with? Drum kit first; introduce the bass, build from there – end up draping the vocal on top? Or get the vocal sounding how you want and mould everything around that. Or just start with the most interesting/dynamic element (apart from the vocals) and mix everything to suit. Or none of the above. I appreciate every mix has the potential to be treated differently but would be keen to know your mindset leading into it.”

All of those methods Mark mentioned are solid approaches because no song is exactly the same.

However, most of the time I start with all faders at the same level while I’m organizing the tracks. I just let the song play as I’m color-coding and arranging each instrument section just to get a feel for the song and what’s going on in it.

Once the organizing is done I’ll do a rough balance across all the faders, familiarizing myself with each individual track and what it’s contributing to the song.

Then I’ll solo the foundational elements – usually the drum-kit – and build from there. If the song doesn’t have drums I’ll find the most important rhythm instrument and use that as a foundational anchor for the rest of the tracks to fit around.

I’ve recently started experimenting with making the lead vocals act as the ceiling of the mix so that all the tracks have to fit between the drums and the vocals. That way I always have the drums as a foundation, and the vocals as the loudest point of the mix that none of the tracks are allowed to dominate.

This sets a good foundation level and a good range of volume in between the drums and vocals where the rest of the arrangement has to fit.

That’s what I’ve been doing lately and it’s been working out nicely.

From there I add each instrument so that it fits with the drums and vocals. Once everything is balanced with volume and panning, I route the tracks into my template and start to add processing like saturation, EQ, and compression.

Once the mix has a tight two-dimensional image I add the third dimension with reverb, delay, and effects.

This method has been working well for me for years, and it’s helped thousands of other home studio musicians and producers I’ve taught through the Step By Step Mixing method.

It’s just a simple system that works, something that Matthew said “transformed his mixes”

Here’s the rest of what he had to say about Step By Step Mixing:

“Björgvin’s book was the first one I purchased when starting to mix my own songs and it was perfect—just detailed enough to help me get things right, but never got me bogged down. I was able to get through the book, and my mixing, with relative speed, and the difference it made in the sound of my songs was huge. Love this book.”

If you’d like to learn a simple mindset that helps you find an organized approach to your projects so that you can gain the confidence you need in your mixing skills, Step By Step Mixing will help you out.

It’ll give you simple guidelines to control the chaos and a systematic plan to transform your rough recordings into clear and punchy mixes.

Hit the link to learn the same system that’s helped thousands of home studio musicians and bedroom producers like yourself get amazing results from their records:


Remember to join us for Audio Issues Happy Hour today at 4:30 PM PT where I’ll be chatting with award-winning Canadian music composer, J. T. Cloutier, author of The Bedroom Super Producer.

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About me

About Audio Issues and Björgvin Benediktsson

We help musicians transform their recordings into radio-ready and release-worthy records they’re proud to release.

We do this by offering simple and practical music production and success skills they can use immediately to level themselves up – while rejecting negativity and gear-shaming from the industry. A rising tide floats all boats and the ocean is big enough for all of us to surf the sound waves.

Björgvin’s step-by-step mixing process has helped thousands of musicians confidently mix their music from their home studios. If you’d like to join them, check out the best-selling book Step By Step Mixing: How To Create Great Mixes Using Only 5 Plug-ins right here.