Judging a mix objectively can be one of the hardest things ever. After all those hours working with a mix, it can be really hard to take a step back and judge it rightfully. And even more so for the regular home studio owner who not only wears the audio engineer hat, but usually also that of the composer, performer and producer. However, there is a simple method to gain the necessary perspective to analyze your work: outsourcing.
Out of mind
What I mean with “outsourcing” is the, at first glance, simplistic idea of having someone you know listen to your mix. I know, you are probably thinking that not everybody has the chance to know someone with a good ear to make a knowledgeable critique of an audio mix. And you’re right, except for the fact that the effectiveness of this method doesn’t rely on the auditive qualities of your “guinea pig, ” after all you are the one who’s gonna do all the work! In fact, what matters here is not the listening capabilities of that person, but rather the perspective it will provide to yours…
Have you ever noticed how whenever you play back any of your productions to someone else, there’s always at least one moment when you want to intervene to explain, justify or simply make the listener understand something better? Well, if you feel the urge to do this, that’s a good sign there is a problem. Up to now you were probably more or less aware of the issue, but the fact of exposing someone else to it forces you to be fully alert and it’s right then and there that it becomes obvious. Do you catch my drift?
To be honest, I don’t know why this phenomenon happens. It might be some sort of empathy that makes us listen to our music through the ears of someone else, or maybe it’s just an artful trick, or black magic, or simply the same concept that serves as the foundations of modern psychology… Who cares! What matters is that you only need the presence of somebody else to set things straight. Funny, isn’t it?
Consequently, instead of interrupting the calm listening of your gentle audience with your comments, take mental notice of all those remarks that burn your lips. You can actually write them down, if necessary. But try not to imagine the solutions to the problems you just identified, that’s something you’ll do in due course. Just focus on the “outsourced” listening session so you can make the most out of this newfound objectivity. Afterwards, when you are back in your studio, analyze the data gathered and act consequently. Try it out and let me know what you think of this trick!