The Dreaded Mixdown This is where many new recordists fall down. It's one of the hardest things to get right, but there are a few things you can do to help get your mixes closer to where they should be, right from the start. (MixerMan, who gets paid big bucks to do this, will hopefully jump into this thread at some point.) It requires a different mindset from tracking and arranging. It also requires that you not be married or in love with any one part in the song. Tip 1. Get as far away from the song as possible before you try mixing it. Don't try to do a mix right after a tracking session. Your ears are fried, and you're too close to the song right now. Objectivity is the word to remember. Wait a few days or even a week or more, if you have that luxury. Yes, some people can do a good mix right away, but that usually takes years to acquire that skill. If you haven't been doing mixes for many years, you ain't one of those people, so wait. Tip 2. Mix low. Yes, cranking it sounds cool, but it will also introduce more room reflections and give you a warped picture of the sound. Crank it when you think you've got the mix nailed, but keep it low for as long as possible. Tip 3. Listen to the song, not the tracks. The biggest mistake new mixers make is soloing each track and making it sound full and rich by itself, then they wonder why the whole thing sounds bloated and muddy. There are several methods that work to construct a good mix. You can start by bringing all the faders up, with the pan pots centered, and all effects turned off, or you can decide what the key element in the song is (the vocal, for example), and start working from that. Different engineers use different methods. Tip 4. Build a box - a small stage in your mind. Imagine a stage. You control where the player appears on that stage. Panning lets you control left to right placement, volume and reverb lets you control front to back, and eq lets you control the frequency blend (low to high). Tip 5. Resolving conflicts in the mix is the single biggest problem facing a mixer. You'll always find several tracks competing for attention in the same frequency range. The kick competes with the bass. The bass competes with the low guitars. The guitars may be competing with the vocals. The keyboards are all over the place. It becomes an even bigger problem for most people when they solo a track and work to make that instrument sound as big as possible. Bad move. All the instruments hafta work together and a particular instrument has to sound good with ALL the other instruments. For the good of the song, some of the bottom end on the bass or the guitars may have to be eliminated. Yes, the instrument may not sound good when it's soloed, but it will blend in better when you listen to all the tracks. It's up to you to decide which instruments need to be shaved, but if you concentrate on the song first, it will start to become more and more obvious what needs fixing. Tip 6. Take frequent breaks and get away from the music for a few minutes. Rest your ears. If you're doing it right, it's the most demanding part of the whole recording process. You are literally listening to ALL the instruments at the same time, following them all at once, and it's easy to burn out. Wanna see an engineer really blow up? Try talking to other people in the control room while he's trying to work on a final mix. There's a lot more, but we'll save it for another day, or wait to let others weigh in on this most difficult of all subjects.