2. You’re Aiming For Perfection.
If you’re a perfectionist, it’s time to stop.
There’s a massive difference between excellence and perfection. Sometimes we think we’re pursuing excellence when we pursue perfection, but in reality we’re creating something dull, lifeless, and sterile.
Sometimes perfectionism is simply a form of procrastination. We don’t want to finish because we’re afraid no one will like our work, so we procrastinate. We say things like “It’s not quite perfect.”
Sometimes the most endearing aspects of an album are the imperfections. I like to hear noise on a guitar track, or when the singer isn’t perfectly in tune. It feels real. It feels human.
Aim for excellence? Absolutely.
Aim for perfection? Please no. It’s not worth it, and it will ruin your music.
1. Your Source Material Isn’t Good Enough.
You knew I was going here, right? It’s become the mantra of Home Studio Corner.
GIRATS — Get It Right At The Source
You can follow all my advice perfectly and still end up with mixes you’re unhappy with if you don’t get this part right.
Your mix is only as good as your recording. Your recording is only as good as the performance and the song itself. If any of those are lacking, the mix will suffer. No amount of mix tricks will save a bad song, or an out-of-tune guitar. If you swap your focus and spend 90% of your time and attention on recording raw tracks that sound amazing rather than trying to learn new mixing tricks, a funny thing will happen: your mixes will sound better…way better. You will realize that you’re better at mixing than you thought. You simply weren’t very good at recording (or songwriting, or playing guitar, etc.).
There’s no shame in that. It’s simply reality. If I can’t play trumpet (I can’t), it doesn’t make sense for me to seek out information on how to get a better trumpet mix on my trumpet recordings. Why? Because my trumpet recordings sound like garbage because I can’t play trumpet.
Oftentimes we ask the wrong question. We make connections that aren’t really there. It would be like getting all hot and bothered about a study that says people who visit cancer clinics are 10 times more likely to have cancer. While that information is true, it isn’t helpful. It implies that going to a cancer clinic is what gives someone cancer.
It’s the same (albeit far less serious) with music. We blame our bad mixes on our bad mixings skills (or our cheap plugins), when in reality the real problem (most of the time, at least) is the recording itself.
That’s not always the case. We still need to learn how to get better at mixing great-sounding tracks, but it always has to start there. Otherwise, you’re fighting an uphill battle that you can’t win.
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Joe Gilder is a Nashville based engineer, musician, and producer who also provides training and advice at the Home Studio Corner.