You’ve heard the expression “rolling the dice,” right?
It means you’re taking a chance on something. You might be “rolling the dice” when you try that new Mexican restaurant. Or maybe when you head out to a concert full of bands you don’t know too well. You might love it, but you might hate it.
It feels great when you take chances and they pay off. But it feels awful when you take a chance and it completely backfires. And unfortunately, we tend to “roll the dice” when we’re mixing *without even knowing it* far too often. Good thing there’s an easy way to solidify the process and take fewer chances in the mixing stage.
First of all, let’s define what “rolling the dice” means when you’re mixing. It means you’re working without a plan. If you don’t have a specific plan of attack that will help you navigate through the countless decisions you must make while you’re mixing, you’re bound to take a few too many chances. So how can you avoid this pitfall?
Easy. By pre-visualizing your mix. That’s a weird way to phrase it, but you’re essentially trying to “mix the song in your head” before you actually get into the process. This will force you to consider what exactly is important to you – is it the vocals? drums? guitar solo?
Whatever it is, you’ll be able to identify it much easier by doing this. And once you identify that, create a specific plan of attack – how are you going to go about creating the perfect mix that will showcase exactly what you want it to?
I like to write out my basic outline. It might look something like this:
1. Get the vocals perfect.
2. Add in the drums, but not too much – should be tucked back, especially kick.
3. Layer in bass, should fill up a lot of space.
4. Keep the guitars lower, but put the keys in at the same time to strike a good balance.
5. Adjust levels.
6. Add reverb on vocals, drums, guitars, and keys.
Sometimes, I might even get more specific than that. But even this rudimentary guideline will help me move through my mixes without rolling the dice. I know exactly what I need to accomplish in the mix in order to make it just right. So try this out for yourself. Your outline might look completely different – that’s ok! It’s your process, do it how you work best.