Anyone that's ever tried to mix knows what an art form it is. It's not just a matter of pushing around some faders and balancing instruments, it's a matter of making the mix interesting as well. Sometimes it's easier to understand where your mix is lacking by looking at what makes a mix sound ordinary. Here's a brief excerpt from The Mixing Engineer's Handbook that describes the 7 characteristics of an amateur mix.
Before we can talk about how to make a great mix, it’s good to be aware of the signs of one that isn’t that great. Does your mix have any of these characteristics ?
1. The mix has no contrast - The same ambient texture is used throughout the entire song.
2. The mix has no focal point - There are holes between lyrics where nothing is brought forward in the mix to hold the listener’s attention.
3. The Mix Is noisy – Clicks, hums, extraneous noises, count-offs, and sometimes lip-smacks and breaths are all signs of an amateur mix.
4. The mix lacks clarity and punch – Instruments aren’t distinct, and the low end is either too weak or too big.
5. The mix sounds distant - The mix sounds distant because too much reverb or other effects has been used.
6. The element levels are inconsistent – Instrument levels vary from balanced to soft or too loud. Certain lyrics that can’t be distinguished.
7. The sounds are dull and uninteresting — Generic, dated or often-heard sounds are used. There’s a difference between using something because it’s hip and new and using it because everyone else is using it.
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