We’re taught that everything builds off of something else. A house is built off of a foundation, then the walls go up, then the roof, etc. So many times, when we talk about building anything, everything is about planning and then execution.
But, have you ever finished a project only to look at it and realize somewhere you went wrong?
What could you do?
The problem is that, during the building process, you never stopped to review the work. You just kept building. (I’ve done that a few times myself.)
When it comes to mixing, we CAN stop to review our work. In fact, we can even do one better. It’s this trick that I use as it shows me if I’ve made a mistake.
Let’s say the mix is roughed in with gain and volume and EQ work. Now it’s time to take things to the next level with compression or gating or reverb or whatever. So what do you do? You start working on compressing a vocal channel.
After a little time tinkering with the compression settings, you think it’s perfect. Is it? This is where the trick comes into play.
Turn off the compression on that channel during the song. Listen! Did it sound better or worse without the compression? If it sounds better, then the compressor settings are wrong and you need to tweak those compression settings again with a lower attack or smaller compression ratio. Maybe it’s the release rate that’s wrong. Once you change it, turn off the compressor again and compare the sounds.
I’ve detailed the use of several types of audio effects as listed below. With each of these, the best way to test if the settings are right is by turning that effect off and then listening to the difference.
- Ten Minutes to Audio Gating
- Reverb Tips and Tricks
- How to Use Compression
- Is Over-Compression Killing Your Vocals?
Spot Check Your Mix
Use the On/Off trick to spot check your mix along the way. It ensures that all forward progress in your mix is indeed improving the sound. The earlier in the mixing process that you find a problem, the easier it is to fix it.