5 Things Mixing

By Nicholas Nesbitt

Nicholas Nesbitt is a Johannesburg based creative specialising in Illustration, Digital Design and Sound Design. These are some of his latest illustrated ramblings. Enjoy :)

1. Dont over effect

When I start out a track my first mix is usually pretty near to completion. In part I think it’s because the track is new — I’m riding the inspiration wave and not yet bored of it. Something I have done in the past is to over EQ and add too many plugins. I now try to keep it simple and add as little as possible using only my core set of tools. This way, right from the start, I’m not having to cut back and make giant edits.

Trust your ear and your gut. If a track is feeling good, it usually is good. Sometimes it’s also important to know when to let go of a track that’s just not cutting it. This can be difficult but if it feels like hard work, it generally means that the track is not going to work.


2. Get organised

Label everything. Ideally right from the get-go. But, when you find yourself working on something for hours and you are starting to break your mix, STOP and label your tracks. This way you are still working on the tracks but you give your ears an important break. When you come back to your project it will also be easier to jump back into what you were doing. This makes things less daunting.

I would also recommend using colours to define sections. This will save you time and you will be able to jump back into your project quickly.


3. Be flash

Try make all the decisions for the track in one day. Once the inspiration hits make sure you are there to ride that wave. There is magic in the moment.

Hard work does not mean good work. Sometimes you can nail a track in half an hour. Being able to see and know that the track is there waiting to be created is good…that’s the key and the best you could wish for!

When I am not working on a track I try build up my own libraries of drum kits and effect chains. This way I can quickly pull them into a project with out building them from scratch. This can also help create a consistent sound when working on an album.


4. Your ears need a nap

Give your ears a break. Your ears start to fatigue as soon as you turn on that track.

You will often get obsessed with an instrument and begin to over mix that element rather than seeing the track as a whole.

I like to mix for short periods and then take a break for at least double the time. I also like to take a drive in my car and listen to the mixes between errands. Listening on a different system gives you a chance to hear your track in a different context… you might pick up on things that you can tweak or change. It also gives me an opportunity to get back into the world, find some inspiration and think of what I want to do next.


5. Limit yourself

Try limit your tracks, effects and choices. Limitation is a creatives best friend. It is especially important when working on electronic music as there is basically no limit to what you have at your disposal.

Try to imagine that the album or project you are working on is set up in a studio that has limited instruments and effects racks. That way the recording can have a unique sound.

This will also force you to work smarter and faster. Remember some of the most amazing albums of all time have been recorded on a limited amount of tracks in a limited amount of time.

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