I must admit that today's topic makes me grind my teeth, but we really need to call things by their name. And, as with any other creative discipline, when it comes to mixing, productivity is important, if only to try to land all those ideas constantly roaming the mind of the "creator." Although, in my opinion this a lost battle anyway, because when you actually crystallize an idea, it invariably leaves an empty space that must be filled with yet another one. But that's the whole idea, isn't it? And since it's impossible, let's get hands-on with it!
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The goal of today's article is to help you finish as many mixes as possible without it taking you any more time than they currently do. Because the problem is obvious: regardless of whether you are a pro or a beginner, your days only have 24 hours and, consequently, the amount of time you can dedicate to mixing is limited. Fortunately, optimizing time is not that hard as long as you are aware of one thing: nature abhors a vacuum.
You do know what I mean, right? Whenever your schedule seems to be impossibly busy, you probably almost always manage to get enough energy out of somewhere to fulfill all your duties. However, when you only need to accomplish one single task during the day, most times it takes up to the last minute to get it done, as easy as the task may be. Some people actually take this to extremes, even if it means being put under enormous pressure to get the job done, which by the way was never urgent to begin with. It's like when you were back in college and had to stay awake all night long to meet the deadline of a project you had neglected for weeks. We somehow have an annoying tendency to allocate as little time as possible to any task we need to perform.
This state of affairs can be experienced as a fatality when it is subconscious. However, once you know the secret, you can turn things your way and take advantage of the situation! An easy way to improve you productivity is to set a reasonable duration to all the tasks you have to accomplish.
Getting back on topic, when it comes to mixing, usually the best way to get to the end of a project is to set the amount of time you will be allocating to every task right from the get-go. With this in mind, I suggest you to limit the time you will be dedicating to each stage before you start working on the mix: the vision of the mix, the initial balance, EQing, compression, the stereo field, etc. Whatever your mixing methodology, you can always split it into simple actions and define the time you should spend on them, according to the song you are working on. Afterwards you only need to see how to fit it all into your calendar and the time you have available. In time, you'll see that it's not that hard to stick to the commitments you've made and meet the deadlines you've set, while your productivity increases significantly!
See you next time for some new adventures in mixing!
For me, I can usually forecast the mixing work pretty well if I've got a good set of stems. Unfortunately, it's editing that can blow the schedule all to kingdom come. If it's a couple of pops or clicks, no problem. But if it needs comping, tuning, vocal cleanup (breaths & noise), tightening up drums and bass (dynamic or manual splitting and quantizing), I have to make a decision to either do it myself or send it back. It seems most mix engineers have a price point for editing ($25 to $250 an hour depending on complexity), I'd just rather not do it anymore unless it's my own mix. I used to enjoy it, but now it's just tedious and can add hours or days to a project...