Today I’ll be answering one of the most frequently asked questions by most musicians, which is; should you mix your own music?
I believe that since you’re the one who knows exactly what the final mix and master should sound like then you're the best person for the job. This way you’ll get the music to sound the way you want.
Doing the mix and master for yourself does give you more control and flexibility. You can make any necessary changes whenever you want.
Someone else can do their best to capture your vision but they’ll never get it to sound exactly the way you want. Getting someone else to engineer your music can be a problem when you have to make some changes.
I remember a time when a singer wanted to perform our song. I only had the original song and instrumental tracks. When I reached out to the engineer he wasn’t able to go to the studio to send us the TV version (for performances) because he was busy with job-related stuff.
So, even though working with a professional engineer can be great, it does have its downsides as well.
Can You Mix Your Own Music?
This is an interesting question for me because what got me into studying the art of mixing music was so that I can be able to mix my own music.
My tracks sounded horrible when I played them at various gigs. That’s when I decided to go to music stores and other studios to ask for feedback and advice.
There were no Youtube tutorials back then so it was tough to learn the skill of mixing.
The one thing that helped me learn much quicker was to let other engineers mix and master my songs.
Engineers would point out some issues about my music and what I need to do to improve. So, giving other engineers your music can fast-track your learning curve.
Once you’ve learned from other great engineers then you should be able to mix your own music without a problem.
Just make sure that your sounds are well recorded. If you’re using VSTs and samples then your sound design skills have to be on point. If you want to compete on a commercial standard then you can't be relying on presets.
Another most crucial thing is acoustic treatment. If you’re going to be using studio monitor speakers then it’s wise to get the room treated. If it’s not treated then you’ll need to do whatever you can to deal with the window(s) and door (especially when mixing).
If you’re already using speakers in an untreated room then always mix at low volumes to avoid reflections.
Cover the doors, windows, bring in a couch, bookshelf, and do whatever you can to lower reflections so that the sound of the room doesn’t interfere with what’s coming out of the speakers.
Acoustic treatment should always be your number one priority when mixing music. If you’re going to be mixing your own music then get the room treated. Mixing in an untreated room is like painting in the dark. Also, make sure that you know your speakers in and out.
It’s also a good idea to have a pair of studio monitor headphones. You can use them for reference if you’re not a headphone person. I know some people just can’t deal with having cans on their ears.
However, I would strongly recommend using studio monitor headphones instead of using speakers in an untreated room.
These headphones are designed for mixing and mastering just like studio monitors so they can help you get a much better sound (at least they do for me).
It’s also a great idea to use both speakers and headphones.
Note: not just any consumer headphones such as Beats by Dr. Dre. Unlike regular consumer headphones, these are professional "studio monitor headphones" and they produce a “flat frequency response”.
Finally, learn and master your tools (DAW and plugins) to get the best results when mixing.
Is Mixing Music Hard?
Mixing music is only hard if you don’t know what you’re doing or simply relying on tips and tricks that you get online. More especially when you’re mixing your music, you run the risk of ruining a beautiful song.
Just like everything else, it will be hard if you don’t fully understand the process. But once someone who is good at it explains it to you then it becomes much easier to learn and master the skill.
Learning how to mix music seems to be the most difficult part. This means you’ll need to put in your 10000 hours of practice to fast-track the learning curve.
Another most important factor that makes mixing hard for most people is that they don’t want to learn and master their tools. Many don’t take the time to even read the manual.
I had a useless argument with some guy on a Facebook group about gain staging. I could have taken 2 minutes to grab a screenshot but I decided to just let them be.
So, mixing is hard for those who want to take shortcuts. Take the time to educate yourself about the skill and the tools if you want the process of mixing to be much easier.
It’s really that simple, don’t complicate it. Obviously, it will be hard in the beginning stages that's why it's important to keep studying and practicing to improve.
How Important is Mixing a Song?
Audio mixing is a very crucial process in the music-making process.
Mixing allows you to blend all the individual multitracks and get them working well together to make a finished song.
Without mixing, it will be very hard for the listener to enjoy the music because all the individual tracks won’t make sense in relation to each other.
Basically, without a proper mix, the listener won’t be able to stay glued to their stereo.
A great mix also ensures that the song sounds amazing on any sound device, whether the song is played in a club, car, laptop speakers, home theater system, etc.
You should also never underestimate music consumers, most do know the difference between a professional and amateur mix or master.
Even though they don’t know the science, they can definitely separate a great mix from a poor-quality song.
Mixing is necessary to ensure that the consumer enjoys the music no matter where it’s being played.
Can You Master Your Own Music?
When it comes to mastering, most (if not all) professional engineers will tell you not to master your own music.
Think about it, you’ve spent countless hours on the song from recording, sound design, production, arrangement, and all the way to mixing.
So at this point, you’ve done everything that you can to make sure that the song sounds incredible.
My question is this; since you’ve done everything you can then what are you going to be doing in the mastering stage? This is why it’s recommended to send your music to a professional mastering engineer to give you a second opinion.
A fresh pair of ears can take a great mix and turn it into an amazing song. They’ll be able to fix some mistakes that you might have missed and help you improve.
Many engineers have helped me improve my mixing skills just through their feedback.
Another advantage is that these pro engineers do mastering for a living, which means they do it almost every day. Also, they usually have the right tools and environment to produce the best results for your mix.
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t master your own music. Obviously, if you know what you’re doing then you can.
The best-kept secret of mastering engineers is their well-tuned room. They are known to have "Golden Ears", but the secret is their well-tuned room and professional monitoring system.
If there’s a pin drop in a mix they’ll hear it. Since the room and monitoring are on point the engineer can hear the entire mix clearer and in proper 3 dimensions (height, width, and depth).
This is why it’s always wise to let someone else do the mastering for you.
Or you can rent a professional studio to do the mastering. That’s if you have the budget for it. You can also make a deal with studio owners, you give them something of value in exchange for studio time.
At the end of the day, this stuff is subjective. I mean, it’s art so there’s no right or wrong it’s just a matter of preference.
But I hope this post does guide you in the right direction and answers some of your questions about what it takes to mix your own music.
Feel free to leave a comment below to share your thoughts or to ask any questions.