There are all sorts of things you can do to improve your mixing skills. You can read books, watch YouTube tutorials, and take courses. If you’re really serious, you could even get an internship at a studio or go to college to study music production. But there’s also something you can do which is way easier than any of these options…
One of the easiest, and most enjoyable ways to get better at mixing, is simply to listen to music, on your studio monitors, in your studio room. Just sitting and critically listening to music, in the environment that you mix in, through the gear that you monitor on, can reveal a bunch of things to you…
Gaining insight and developing your own tastes
By sitting and listening critically to music, you’ll start to get an insight into some of the various ways that different producers approach mixing. It will help you develop a taste for what you do and don’t like about different mixes, and it will help you develop a vision for how you might like your own mixes to sound.
Listening to the level relationship of the different instruments on your favourite songs can help you to develop a preference for how loud you like different instruments to be in a mix. Listening to the panning can give you ideas about how you could pan your own music. What about the reverb? Is there plenty of reverb in the mix, or has the producer left things pretty dry? What about the frequency response of the mix, is it bright? Is it dark? By really listening to music and trying to pick things apart, you’ll get an excellent insight into how other producers mix songs and simultaneously start to build up ideas of how you might like to mix your own. You’ll be amazed at how varied people’s approaches to mixing are. You might even think that you’d have done things completely differently, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that!
Getting used to your speakers and room
Another benefit to listening to music through your studio monitors, in your mixing room, is that you start developing familiarity with your gear and your mixing environment. By spending time listening to music on your home studio monitors, you start to develop a better understanding of the way that those speakers reproduce sound. Are they bright? Are they lacking in the low end? Getting to know your speakers is so beneficial. My own home studio monitors are actually pretty bass-heavy. But I’ve been mixing with them for about 12 years, so I know how a mix should sound on them.
The same is true of your room. Keep in mind that when you’re listening to music, you’re not just hearing what’s coming out of the speakers, you’re hearing the room too. And whilst we’d all love to be mixing in perfectly acoustically treated rooms, that’s not always the case. Perhaps your room is imparting low end into what you’re hearing. Listening to music in your mixing room helps you build an awareness of how your room might be colouring the sound that you hear. It also gives you a reference point for how mixes that you love sound in your room.
So, don’t neglect one of the easiest ways to get better at mixing. Sitting and listening to music in your home studio, through your monitors, is an invaluable form of mix training. It will help you to analyse the different ways that people mix music, help you develop preferences for how you like music to sound, build familiarity with your monitors, and help you to get to know the sound of your room.
Have you listened to music in your home studio? What did you learn? Have you found any other simple ways to improve your mixing skills? Leave your suggestions below.
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