mix a song in 10 steps

My Top Level Process To Mix A Song In 10 Steps.

There is something fundamental missing from all the mixing tutorials on the net. All the talk about using EQ, compression and effects seems to ignore the most basic underlying principal.

But mixing is a process of hundreds of little steps.

Only if you take them in the right sequence, will they quickly, and confidently, lead to reliable results.

The key is to develop a work flow with steps that build on one another, so that second guessing earlier decisions is avoided, and sight of the big picture is never lost. All those little steps lead towards a clearly identified goal.

Without this structure, successive steps might destructively interfere with each other, or even cancel each other out, making the entire mixing process exponentially more difficult, frustrating and time consuming.

After hundreds of mixes, I’ve developed a fool proof process that includes regular stages of quality control, which ensure that I never lose sight of the end goal. I’d like to share it with you.

This is how I mix, in 10 simple steps:

  1. Listen to the rough mix. Feel the vibe of the song, develop a vision, and note down a few words describing it. Figure out what I like and don’t like about the rough mix, and why. Note down any tweaks that would address these points.
  2. Load the session, prepare all technical aspects. Track layout, routing and color. Initial gain staging (K-20). Fix any technical issues with the material like bad fades, pops, clicks, obvious resonances, low end rumble. Very quickly set a rough static balance.
  3. Take a break, ideally over night.
  4. Find, and listen to, appropriate reference tracks to condition the brain and note down ideas that could be relevant.
  5. Work on obvious points from “1” and “4”. Main focus is on getting the vibe working as soon as possible. This involves major balance changes, definition and pressure of the low end, and placement of layers ordered by importance to the emotional experience. Automate volumes for movement and to accentuate the journey.
  6. Reference other tracks to see if anything went haywire. Tweak if necessary.
  7. Remove headroom with gentle limiting, then export.
  8. Take a break, ideally over night.
  9. At home on well known headphones: Listen to reference tracks to condition the brain. Listen to mix, note down any and all things noticeable. This can involve anything from abstract gut feelings to tiny technical details.
  10. Remove limiter, then tweak any points from “9”. Repeat “7” – “10” until nothing sticks out and vision identified in “1” is satisfied.

Glorious 11: Export stereo mix and send it off to mastering.