Why Your Mixing Doesn’t Sound Professional

by Andre Gonsalves

The number one reason people have bad mixes is not because they don’t have talent or are stupid or don’t know what they’re doing. No what separates your mixes from the a so-called professional mixing engineer all comes down to your listening environment.

Now when I say listening environment, I really mean 3 things: the room you’re mixing in, the speakers you’re listening to, and your own past experience with listening to music in that room.

When you have a good listening environment that is a room that is treated with the necessary panels, bass traps and is the right shape (usually diamond shaped), you’ll be able to judge your mix a lot better, you’ll also be able to make better artistic choices when creating because you’ll pick out the best sounds. I’m not saying you need to convert your basement studio into a million dollar recording facility, but you’ll be surprised how much say a well placed couch and bookshelf, usually behind your listening position can help your mix.

Obviously, your speakers have a big role to play in this, most old studios use the NS10s, which I use as well, however, keep in mind the low end on these speakers is non-existent so you are either going to need a sub-woofer or a great pair of studio monitor headphones (And no beats by dre will not do).

But again if you know your headphones made by some famous rapper really well, go ahead and mix on them. The main thing is knowing your speakers. This all comes down to your greatest set of hardware and that is your ears.

I still remember what Drake’s engineer/producer “40” told me and that’s if you want to learn how to mix just sit for a few days in front of the speakers listening to all your favorite music.

But instead of listening for enjoyment, listen for all the subtleties in the mix. Go back to all the great music from the 70s, 80s, 90s and 2000s and really take in how those records were mixed. You don’t have to take notes per se, but it is a good way to train your ear to work with your speakers in your listening environment.

Have you ever noticed how you’ll make the best songs in your car? It’s probably because you spend most of your time listening to music in your car than you do in your studio.

A simple fix for this is to spend an equal amount of time in your studio studying great music. You’ve already trained your ear for your car’s listening environment, now train it for your studio’s listening environment.

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Andre is the head audio engineer at ADG Mastering, which he helped found in 2012. For the last 10 years, he has made it his mission to empower aspiring artists and musicians from around the world. You can see more of Andre's writings on our Blog.

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