It’s an age-old question: how long should I spend mixing?
Or maybe it’s rephrased as “how do I know my mix is done?”
Some people will say that you should never “finish” a mix, only settle. These people are pessimists. Others will say that you should spend no longer than two hours mixing. These people are lazy.
So when should you put a mix down and call it done, and when should you keep working on it? There’s a really simple trick that will give you a definitive answer as to whether or not your mix is done.
And that answer is time.
Yes, time. “But isn’t that the question?” It is also the answer, my friends.
Here’s what I mean. It’s really hard to hear your mix with fresh ears to be able to determine whether or not it is finished. The best way to do this is to put it down for a while – maybe a week, maybe a month – and come back to it. After not hearing it for so long, you’ll immediately pick up on any flaws or problems with the mix. You’ll also know if it’s finished.
There’s a couple of reasons why this works. The first is that you start to tune things out after hearing them a certain way for so long. For example, if your hi-hat is too loud in the mix while you’re tracking vocals, and then too loud when you’re mixing, you’ve probably already tuned it out and aren’t even thinking about it. Before you know it, your mix is completely out of whack after hours of mixing.
Another reason why this works is because you start to build up the “perfect mix” in your mind. Keep in mind, you can’t go back and listen to remind yourself what it sounds like. You can think about it, but don’t actually listen to it. As you hear it in your mind, you’ll start to hear exactly what it should sound like. This will help you form an idea of what you want your mix to sound like. And if, after an extended break, you don’t hear that when you listen to it, you’ll know just what to change in order to make it perfect.
So there isn’t a defined time frame on how long you should spend mixing. There is, however, one way to help you know when your mix is finished, so try it out on your next project!