Sending a poor sounding rough mix down the production chain is like showing up for a job interview in shorts and a dirty t-shirt – you only get one chance at a first impression. Rough mixes are used as a reference for the band, producer, or other engineers who may have more gigs to send your way, so making sure your work sounds excellent is time well spent.
Start With Polarity
Start by checking your session's integrity in regards to phase and polarity – especially if you didn't cut the tracks. But even if you did the work, it's still a good idea to put them through the acid test before you blend in the other tracks. Use linked Trim plug-ins on any instruments that are recorded with multiple microphones – especially drums. Because you're listening specifically for low frequencies, it's best to hear playback on speakers set at medium-to-high volume. Your best chance at making a proper phase or polarity decision is to move some air in the room.
Juice It Up
Ambience, reverb, and delay can make an instrument more dynamic and give it a more finished quality. But easy does it! When assessing if your effects are too loud find the sweet spot, the point where you miss it when it's gone, but it's not strikingly obvious when it's there. That leaves room for other treatments that need to be hotter in the mix to better define a critical instrument or vocal.
Level It Up
Everyone compares mixes to other trusted finished products. To make sure you're mix will stand up to the competition put your final mix through a trusted limiter that exhibits a hands-off approach to the quality. In this case, the Slate Digital FG-X Virtual Mastering Console is being used. Its Constant Gain Monitoring feature lets you hear the final product with and without the processing at the same level.
Watch this free tutorial to see all these tips in action.