It’s a fact of life that we all make mistakes. After all, we are human, right? With the widespread availability of cheap and even free plugins, we often get caught up in the frenzy of grabbing every VST we can possibly fit into our hard drives. While this isn’t inherently a bad thing, it can often lead to us forgetting about basic techniques and relying on presets and (god forbid) mastering to fix our errors. In this article, we go over 3 common mixing mistakes producers make.
Unnecessary EQ boosts
A classic mistake made by many newer producers is to instantly reach for the EQ boost when things aren’t sounding right. When done right, EQ boosts can do wonders to lift a sound up but without the proper care it can quickly lead to imbalances and mix clutter. Instead, try cutting the sound where its frequencies aren’t required. Does that floaty pad really require all that low-end rumble? If not, cut it!
The kick and bass are too loud
This is a common complaint among mastering engineers when receiving premasters from producers, and it’s worth mentioning that this mistake ties in closely with the one above. Cranking up the kick and bass is tempting as you’ll immediately be gratified with the impression of added ‘weight’. However, this can cause your mixdown to collapse, as overly loud bass eats up your tune’s headroom. This means you won’t be able to get your final master sounding as big as you want.
Many producers swear by mixing the kick and bass first, and then mixing everything else around it. Making it a rule to have the kick and bass glued together early, at a constant level, ensures that you’ll never tempt yourself to crank it beyond reasonable volume. Try it out and see if it works for you.
Your mix lacks width
Another common mistake is the lack of stereo width that many producers fail to inject into their mixes. Having an overly ‘centred’ mix can lead to all sorts of cluttering and spacing issues, and the lack of width will mean you’ll be left with a pretty boring tune.
This isn’t to say that you should start panning every element hard-left and right. The opposite can also become the case, i.e. a mix that is too overly wide. As a general rule of thumb, try to keep the core skeletal elements of your track (kick, bass, and snare) mono’d. By doing this, you’ll have a strong foundation right down the middle, leaving the sides free for you to occupy as creatively as you wish.
Be careful with over panning, though. You’ll want to create the illusion of space and separation between the elements but without going overboard and having instruments bouncing left and right (unless of course, that’s what you’re aiming for).