"Overthinking a mix" - we've all caught ourselves doing this at some point. It is usually the point where we start to overcomplicate the mix process, which in turn clouds our judgement making it difficult for us to finish a mix. Years ago, I was the king of the "overthinking mixers", I was simply the artist that couldn't put the brush down.
It is very easy to fall into this trap as plug-ins and modern DAW workflows lure us into believing we have limitless power and creative options at our fingertips to mix a perfect record but it is these modern workflows that can easily lead us up the garden path. Read - If You Want To Improve Your Music Productions Then Stop Doing These Things Now
Over the years, experience has taught me to recognise the early signs of overthinking a mix. Listed below are a selection of signs to look out for that may show you are overthinking a mix.
Spending Too Much Time On A Mix
Spending days on a mix is never a good idea. In reality, the only thing that will come out of a lengthy mix process is a mix that sounds compromised as you'll most likely try too many ideas and end up losing sight of what needed to be done. There are real benefits to having mix deadlines. If you don't work to deadlines then you run the risk of not putting your best into what you are doing. Before I started mixing professionally I mixed my own music, there were no deadlines. In those early years, I would spend days mixing a song. When I started charging clients for my services I realised that the results of my mixes were getting better and this was linked to me having to deliver mixes to deadlines. Having a set amount of time to get things done really helped me to get my priorities in order. Deadlines also helped me focus on what was important in the mix. Check out our 15-minute mix series videos to see what can be achieved in an extremely short timeframe.
Too Many Revisions - Final_FINAL
Another sign of "overthinking a mix" to look out for is when bouncing too many mixes, especially when a mix revision only has a minor adjustment such as a vocal level being set 1dB louder or a reverb being set slightly lower on the snare. Of course, it is important to bounce mixes out of Pro Tools and reference on other playback systems but try not to get into the habit of over checking your mixes out of the studio as you simply will not get the job done.
Falling Out Of Love With The Song
This is the biggest "overthinking a mix" sign I fear - Losing the love for the song before I've finished the mix. Mixing is an exciting and fun process. Couple that excitement with a song/mix you have an emotional connection with then you can't fail, however, if you start to overthink a mix you run a serious risk of falling out of love with the song before you've even finished it and it can be difficult to rekindle that relationship and get the mix sounding good.
Backpedalling is when you are deep into a process such as putting the finishing touches to a mix - Suddenly you decide to go back to the Arrangement process to cut in a new song intro or Tracking stage to record a new instrument. Yes, backpedalling can easily be done in today's modern DAW workflows but it's not a fluid way of working. Each process in music production exists for a reason, such as:
Mixing is the stage that confirms all the creative choices made in the prior music production processes. If you are in the mix process and feel there are problems in the song then stop mixing as the song clearly isn't ready to be finished.A good way to avoid backpedalling is to ensure you've prepared your session for mixing - read my articles 5 Steps To Prepare A Track For Mixing and 5 Mistakes To Avoid When Mixing.
Let's Hear Your "Overthinking A Mix" Signs
There are 4 signs of overthinking a mix I've recognised in my own workflow from over the years. Share some of yours with the Pro Tools Expert Community in the comments below.