The eight common signs of your bad mixes
These are 8 common symptoms of bad mistakes during mixing. We all made them at least once!
1. Lack of clarity:
It’s one of those usual symptoms of a beginner’s first couple of mixes, when he or she is just happy to record everything and throw them together the way they happened (often in mono). Interestingly, later when you re-listen these creations, some of them might actually sound pretty good, and make you realize that you have come a full circle. But what a circle that was!
2. Lack of cohesion or glue:
Those first steps when someone starts using EQ, and man, does he overuse it! Things get peaky and first and foremost: very small. The elements shrink to fractions of their original size, and the space between them never gets filled, so they are hovering in the mix like tiny little stars, light years from each other.
3. Lack of low end:
It happens that someone can’t judge the right amount of low end, and when they are being too safe, the bass elements simply get lost in the mix. And when it happens, it usually happens with the evil help of not getting enough EQ enhancement either. Another reason for this is mixing on laptop speakers or headphones, although the latter can result in pleasant sounding happy accidents too. Still not recommended!
4. Too much bass:
The opposite of the above, it often happens to heavy handed R&B mixes, because “this shite has to drive those subwoofers hard”, right? Yep, but it shouldn’t be able to actually kill them, my friend. Also people often disregard the fact that most of the time compressors (and limiters) act quickly on these high energy sub bass frequencies, practically reducing the headroom to zero.
5. Lack of high end:
When there’s no air on the treble side, for whatever reason. Mostly it’s because the recordings are already muddy to begin with, then the amateur mixer is just too busy trying to make the midrange “happen”, often with the help of sub-par speakers that simply don’t reproduce anything above about 5kHz.
6. Too much “ice pick” (high treble):
Using the same kind el-cheapo speakers, one can add too much of what he can’t hear as well. Others just follow some text or video where some pro guy said the top end gives that sought after expensive sound to a song. So they make sure they use enough of that shit. Listening too loud during mixing can result in temporary hearing loss as well, especially regarding high frequencies. And you are lucky if it remains temporary.
7. The middy mud mix:
EQ-ing elements individually can result in some hefty boosts in the mids, and if you find a certain frequency pleasant for one element, chances are high you’re gonna find the same frequency work for all of them. The problem arises when you unmute all of the tracks at once, and suddenly they are all pushing the same part of the spectrum. It’s gonna sound either like a well driven guitar amp, or a horn. And that – my friend – is nasty.
8. The hollow mix:
This usually happens when someone’s trying too hard to sound like a pro. That’s when too much mids get EQ-ed out, from every single element. Then – just to spice it up – our protagonist puts another EQ across the master bus, and hollows the whole mix out once again. Because he’s heard something vaguely about the smile curve, and some Fletcher and Munson guys.