Here’s a straightforward mixing tip: monitor your music at a low level. This may seem counterintuitive, as many producers tend to want to crank up their mix to really feel the music, but it works.
Mixing at a low level is something that many successful engineers prefer for two reasons:
Listening at really loud levels tends to make the bass sound more prominent than it really may be. Turning it down helps you to get above the mix and better hear how the equalization is really affecting things.
Likewise it’s harder to detect compression and other dynamics processing when your mix is very loud. When you’re tweaking these things you can get a much clearer picture of how they’re affecting your mix at a lower volume.
It’s always good to crank up your music periodically while mixing just to get a feel for where things are at different levels, but many producers have found that they hear the EQ and compression most accurately in the mix at a low level.
If you’ve ever stayed up all night mixing–tweaking a track for hours on end–you may know that when you went back to listen to your work the next day it sounded really different… and usually not in a good way. That’s because your ears burned out after a few hours.
Even the most seasoned engineers know that their ears and brain only can last for so long in the studio before it becomes counter productive. This is called listener’s fatigue. The best way to help your ears stay sharp longer is to keep the volume at a moderate level and take a break at least every couple of hours.
Your ability to distinguish the details of your mix deteriorate as you stay in the studio longer. Keeping your ears fresh is crucial to getting a great sounding mix and master.
Next time you sit down to mix or master, try monitoring at lower levels and see if you can appreciate what many professional engineers and producers have already discovered in having more accuracy and stamina.