Nine steps to working through your track mixdown methodically
Many producers view track mixdown as tedious, however, if you break it down into steps it becomes much easier.
First and foremost is to make sure your project is organized and grouped well, this will save you a lot of time in the later stages, trust me. Spend the extra few minutes now to arrange things sensibly.
Step two is to move onto the timing and phase of your low-end elements, for me, this often entails an oscilloscope and a slight adjustment delaying a channel by a few milliseconds. Using a scope to line up the elements can make a big difference, where your ear may not have picked up on those slight differences – it’s said that our ears only start to perceive time differences around 35ms.
Next up is the Pre-EQ step, this is where I go through correcting any frequency issues such as conflicts between multiple elements. I view this as the most important stage and should take up the most time. One thing about working with EQs is that our ears quickly adapt to the environment, so the next step is to take a short break, reference and analyse other material.
Don’t stress and over-compress…
Step five is the dynamics, but this is something that should be used very lightly. If you’re unsure, rather step back to the previous step and try to fix the problem there. Dynamics processors are handy tools when you need them, but they can often cause more damage than intended, so take care when applying them!
The next step is to analyse and reference again, our ears may have adapted to the settings that we just dialled in on the compressor, but in reality, it might be way too squashed. A quick break, reference and analysis will help pinpoint those issues.
We should be getting somewhere now, and the next step is a little bit more creative, however much like the compressor – overdoing it can cause issues. Step seven is where I do all my Post-EQ and spatial processing, if elements need to be wider or if I feel something needs a bit of a boost at a certain frequency.
Step eight is another round of referencing and analysis, however, this time – it is important to check the track in mono, especially if you applied a lot of processing in the previous step. Widening can often cause sounds to disappear in mono, which causes all sorts of issues with your mix translating onto various sound systems. If any sounds do disappear here, go back to the previous step and dial back your settings.
The last step is to go through your channels and get the volumes right, the reason I leave this for last is that if you do enough reference and analysis, your levels should already be very close to the ultimate goal, and a shift up or down a few 0.1 dBs will finish it off.
For a visual walkthrough of my workflow, check out the video here: