Why you need direction and focus in your mix

Every mix needs direction and focus. Like almost everything else in life, you need to have a pretty clear idea of what you’re about to do *before* you do it. You have to go into it knowing what you want.

If you don’t know what you want, how are you going to get it?

A mix is no different. Before you even start adjusting EQ or patching in compressors, you need to know how you want to end result to sound. Not necessarily the exact settings (although ballpark would be good!), but you certainly need to know the following:

  • Which sounds will be in the foreground? I’ve written a lot about depth already. Without a clear focus in the mix, you’ll end up trying to make everything louder than everything else… with predictably bad results.
  • What will the overall tonality of the mix be? (eg – light, deep, thick, saturated, acoustic, etc). Unless you know this, your mix will likely end up mediocre (even if it’s a decent functional mix!)
  • What ambience does the mix need? (eg – short/long, lush/dry, deep/shallow, natural/unnatural). This needs to be decided in the context of the speed, depth and tonality of the mix. Rather than loading up a reverb and twiddling the controls until it ‘sounds good’, take the time to think carefully about the ambience of the mix before you reach for any reverb.


    • Dangerrat
    • February 7th, 2011

    Excellent! I’ve been using the “random twiddling” approach for years and it really gets you nowwhere in terms of finishing anything, though it can be fun at times, but very frustrating in the long run.
    I’m really wondering where this attitude does stem from, that people often think using their mind is opposed to making good music.
    I suppose you’re using a similar approach when composing, which I can imagine could probably make an interesting future article (hint hint ;-)).

  1. @Dangerrat
    ‘Random twiddling’ certainly is valuable while you’re learning your tools. In fact, talking about direction and focus when mixing only makes sense if you already know your tools.

    It’s the same for composition. Aimless wandering is useful when you’re a beginner just finding your feet. Composing with direction and focus makes sense when your command of composition techniques is strong.


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