As a mixing engineer, it is pretty tricky to know whether your mix is ready or not.
There is always that second thought telling you to do more and more until the mix gets dirty, and you are forced to roll back.
Worry not if you do not have the proper guidelines to judge your mix!
In this article, we are handing you a 10-point checklist that will let you know if your mixes are ready or not. Also, these are the same checkpoints pro mixing engineers sub-consciously use to judge the readiness of a mix.
Now, let’s get right into this article to know if your mixes are ready for mastering or not.
10-Point Checklist indicating that your Mix is Ready for Mastering!
Go through these 10 points for a better mix judgement next time. Also, aim at having all these things checked in your mix rather than 3 or 5.
1) No clipping audio channels
No clipping signals are a big sign that your mix is well-cooked. It helps you prevent any unwanted distortion or complications in your mix.
A mix free from clipping is a fantastic foundation for further mixing and mastering. Use gain staging in your mixes for getting loud and clear mixes. And also to ensure that your audio channels are free from clipping.
Also, if you do not want to use gain staging, at least avoid red hot signals that are clipping and are clipping digitally.
Pull down the volume fader and leave a headroom minimum of 6 to 8 dB on the master fader.
2) You cannot add any new plugin or sonic angles
Adding plugins and seeing the mix reach its highest potential is an heavenly trip for a mixing engineer.
But, there comes the point where you either cannot add a plugin into the plugin chain or the mix quality reduces as you keep on adding new plugins.
At this point, it is evident enough that your mix is ready and ready for the mastering stage. There is no point in stuffing your audio chain. Take a step back and listen to the mix.
However, if your mix does not sound good as you might have thought, remove the plugins and remix the audio track for a second time.
3) Mix sounds great on multiple systems
A mix sounding and translating consistently with different audio systems is a telltale sign of a great mix. It is one of the things that you, as a mixing engineer, should aim at more than anything.
Also check: Best studio monitors for mixing!
Also check: Best studio headphones for mixing!
Once you feel confident with a mix, play it through different systems and check if there are any breaking points or poking frequencies. Use other audio sources like sound bars, cars, and mobile phone speakers.
All these will give you different perspectives on your mix, which is an excellent analysing tool for mixing engineers.
So, run the mix through multiple sources and repair any sonic imbalances. If you cannot find any unusual mix behaviour and the mix pleases the artists, you have probably done a great job.
4) Mix compares well with reference tracks
Are you even working with reference tracks? See how closely the mix and reference tracks compare.
When your mix sounds similar to reference tracks, it is a big sign that the mixing process is progressing toward completion.
Use reference tracks actively during the mixing stage, so you do not beat around the bush when mixing vocals, tracks or instruments.
Reference tracks offer a great way to finish your tracks quickly. Use A/B settings in any song reference plugin to match your mix to the song.
Often, an artist will provide one or more reference tracks. But feel free to reach out to the artist when you need help picking reference tracks that match their style.
5) Mix is glued properly
Gluing the music mixes together is what we need the most from any mixing project. The main reason is that all the tracks need to sound cohesive.
Use mix buss compression, different types of saturation, filtering, processing, and effects to glue together a mix. Be careful that you don’t make the mix or song sound thin in achieving cohesiveness. Apply subtle changes with each processing in the mixing.
Here we are reducing any chances of an instrument or vocals sounding or popping out of the context of the mix. For this reason, gluing the mixes together becomes crucial and necessary.
Therefore, if the mix sounds like a single unit despite multiple music layers, you’re good to finish the mixing project.
6) Each instrument takes its own space
Most of the time, it is a great idea to call off a mix when you can sense and feel instruments taking their own space in a mix.
The song is most likely complete when instruments are separated from each other and sit in their own pocket. Listen to the mix and ensure that there is no sound muddying up other audio tracks.
An easy way to analyse this is to play tracks one by one and see how clean they sit with each other.
7) You can listen new things in Mix
A great way to judge a mix is through critical listening. Critical listening involves listening to any song or mix in a way that a music lover does.
Most mixing engineers keep an eye on how their mix sounds even though the audio tracks are still not FULLY mixed.
Dissect the audio layers in your music mix by ear. It is a great way to ensure you rely more on your listening skills than seeing the audio tracks and the mix.
Listen to the song as it unfolds its different layers. Focus on how these layers changes and how the emotion of a mix changes.
Your mix is complete when you listen to your mix if you hear new things, transitions, plugin behaviors, and other stuff. At this stage, it is an excellent idea to involve artists to get feedback.
This way, you are prepping yourself to create a highly emotional mix that expresses depth through different vocals, harmonies, and instrumentals.
8)There are no hisses, pops, clicks and noises
A few things that can get left out in the mix are noises, pops, clicks, and low-end rumble. Often you’ll not notice these unwanted noises when the whole track or mix is playing.
The problem with these small noises is that they occupy certain frequency regions and add up to make a mix sound muddy and piercing.
Therefore, it is essential to review each recording at least once to ensure that all the parts are clean and noise-free.
Furthermore, cut out the dead parts from audio tracks where no audio is recorded.
Removing dead silences is one of the great ways to remove any unwanted pops and clicks from any recording, whether vocal or instrumental. Don’t forget to cross-fade vocal tracks and audio recordings after cutting them.
Next, clean out the vocal esses and hisses using a de-esser on both male and female voices. Focus on the regions lying between 4-10 kHz for removing vocal hisses and esses.
9) The Artists love the Mix
Another great idea to check whether your mix is ready or not is to explicitly ask the songwriters, producers, and all the artists involved in the song.
This step alone will offer you tons of perspective on what needs to stay and go out of the music mix. Hence, getting making the overall process smoother and more effective.
Getting the artist to love the mix is one of the challenging parts of the mixing process, primarily if you have not worked with them on multiple projects.
Understand the artist’s perspective and tell them your take on the mix. All in all, don’t get too caught up. Eventually, things will fall into place with time.
10) You have run out of time 😉
Last but not the least, if you have surpassed the deadline, there is no benefit in working overtime on a project.
Accept the mix as it is and move on with other projects and getting them complete. The more projects you’ll take the better you’ll become in analysing projects and completing them on time.
Moreover, it will take considerate amount of time and mixing projects to become better at knowing yourself and your mixing style. Trust the process and play as the situation demands.
These top indicators tell whether a mix is ready or complete for mastering. Most professional mixing engineers have these basics ingrained in their mixing process.
Try implementing as many of these tips as possible in your next session. Moreover, with time they will become ingrained in your mixing process and help you to decide quickly if a mix is complete or not.