There are a few things that you learn over time. One of those things is how to get great guitar tones. Another is how to tune a vocal flawlessly. And dealing with clients is yet another.
Don’t make the same mistake I made recently when sending off a batch of mixes to a client. Don’t even make this mistake if you’re just showing your music to friends, family, or even putting it on YouTube. This rookie mistake can cost you a good impression on your listener.
So what was the mistake?
Not limiting your mixes to make them loud.
Here’s the scenario:
You’re mixing, mixing, mixing and are just about ready to bounce. You know that you’ll be mastering it after you get it approved by your client. Without considering the consequences, you decide to do a quick offline bounce and shoot it out in an email.
They call you 15 minutes later, saying that the vocal sounds “weak,” the drums are flat, and there is just no energy.
But you thought your mix was perfect!
Let’s quickly translate what your client said into engineer-speak: “The mix is great, but it’s not mastered.”
They want to hear a recording that is as loud as their favorite tracks. When they load it up, they’re going to be comparing it to whatever they were just listening to, and it better be as loud or louder. Otherwise, they’re start picking apart an otherwise perfect mix.
This translates to just about anyone who is going to hear your mixes. Whether it’s a potential fan on YouTube or your best friend, they won’t think it’s very good if it’s super quite.
It’s a good thing there is an easy fix for this. It’s called limiting your master bus.
Whatever DAW you’re using, you’ve probably got access to a mastering limiter. Throw it on your master bus and turn it up. Set your output to -0.3 dB and pull down your threshold until it’s loud enough. Don’t distort your sound, just make it loud.
This isn’t mastering your track, but it’s pretty close. You’ll get a much better response to your mixes if you do this. Remember, however, that if you are sending your mixes off to be mastered by a professional, you should not put anything on the master bus. Let them do that. This is just for showing your mixes off in the meantime.