There are plenty of ways to a better mix and many of them don’t require you to spend any money.
Try these out and let us know how you get on.
Loud, Medium, Quiet
You may mix at the same volume all the time, you may even mix at a predetermined level, one that you’ve been told is the correct level in db. However there are plenty of top mixers who break that rule and mix at varying levels, many of them quiet. One thing to do when mixing any music is to listen to it loud, medium and quiet, by doing this you’ll start to hear how the mix changes at different volumes - it’s not magic, it science. Try it and you’ll find you start getting better balances in your mix.
Solo And Mute
The solo and mute buttons are vital when mixing, the solo helps you to get the sound you want in isolation beforee tweaking it in context, but the mute button is equally useful and I’m not talking about the banjo tracks either. Often as mixes get more complex and filled up we can wonder if a particular track is right in the mix, sometimes they may not be the star of the show, but they still have their place, almost in an inaudible way - by using the mute you can see how each track is contributing to the mix, even if they are not right up in your face.
Stereo And Mono
It is vital to check mixes in both stereo and mono and make sure that you have not lost stuff by pushing it too far to the outer reaches of the stereo field. Any modulation, reverb and delay effects are all different when summed, so make sure you hit the mono button at least once during the mix. The same applies for post production, some people may still have mono TVs, or worse those weird crappy stereo simulators that really mess with phase.
Move Around The Room
Yes there is a sweet spot in your studio where the stereo image is going to be best represented. However you’ll find that by getting out of the sweet spot and moving around the room it can also help as you listen to a track, especially if you mix in an untreated room. Some swear by the idea of going out of the room and listening, they often hear more bass - again this isn’t magic it’s to do with the length of the wave on lower frequencies.
Speakers, Pro Headphones And Earbuds
As with any mix it is worth checking it on a variety of sources, some swear by car stereos. One thing I always do is to take a listen on headphones, some also check mixes on earbuds. Like it or not, a lot of our tracks are now listened to on crappy headphones and earbuds - I don’t suggest you mix to the lowest quality repro device, but at least it worth checking on those things to see how they sound.
All the above are not rules, but suggestions, in the end the more tricks we have up our sleeve when mixing the better mixes we end up with.