“Speed Mixing”: 3 Ways to Mix Faster with Better Results and Happier Clients

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Pictured: You, rolling in it with your new balla’ speed mixing skills. (Possibly.)

Imagine how much more money you could make if you were able to double your mixing speed overnight.

Or maybe you’d be inclined to think of how much more of life you could enjoy if you were able to work fewer hours wile making the same amount or more.

If you could release twice as many mixes monthly, could you imagine how powerful that it would be for attracting new clients? 

Fortunately, all of these things are possible. And increasing your mixing speed dramatically without sacrificing quality is simpler than you might think.

Let me tell you my story:

When I first started mixing, I wasn’t very fast at it. For many years, I would forever tweak my mixes over long periods of time. I struggled with knowing when to turn in a first mix over to a band.

I also struggled a lot of my own band’s material. I would endlessly tweak and work on the mix. Mixes never felt done, and every three weeks I wanted to go back and redo everything!

Sound familiar?

Many years later, as my studio became more popular, I started getting a lot of work. If you are like me, then you hate saying “NO” to people and not taking their business. So what would happen again and again is that I would always take on more work than I could handle. This forced me to work faster than I was comfortable with.

IT WAS STRESSFUL!!

A young Joel Wanasek burning the midnight oil. Working furiously, but not necessarily FAST just yet.

I spent many long weeks working 80 hours or more each for many years. Then one day, something unexpected happened.

I collaborated on a project with another producer for the first time.

When I went to his studio and watched his workflow, I noticed that it was extremely similar to mine, but I manage to pick up a few great editing tips I hadn’t considered before.

I went home and tried them out and consequently sped up my workflow quite a bit. All of a sudden I was saving a whole day each a week now on my drum editing sessions.

This meant I had more time to mix and be creative with the bands.

Another thing I noticed about the producer I worked with is that he knew every DAW function and plugin inside out.

He read all the manuals. Multiple times. It got me thinking that maybe I should do the same.

As I got back into my groove working on my clients, I started thinking about my workflow.

My editing got so much faster that I wanted to see if I could apply those same lessons elsewhere. So I started asking myself questions about my mixing, and tracking methods. When I started analyzing my mixing workflow, I came up with a lot ways to improve it.

For the first time in my career, I reflected deeply on my own workflow and made a few critical observations that were absolute game changers.

This required throwing out all preconceptions I had about mixing and how I was doing it. All of these little things lead to an instant increase in my speed and turnaround time.

My life got much less stressful, I took on more work, and then something else happened…

I finally hired an assistant.

My studio was growing like crazy and obviously, I didn’t want to put on the brakes. It got to the point where I was really struggling to keep up with a lot of the more mundane tasks. It was then that I realized that I needed to take on an assistant.

As I was training him, we had many long discussions about workflow.

The great thing about teaching is that when you explain something to someone else, you’re forced to analyze and defend your processes. It causes you to come into a much higher level of understanding and mental clarity about them.

With the two of us going at it, our workload was starting to get insane. We were mixing an average of 40+ songs a month.

It was then that we had a realization: We needed to perfect our workflow, maximize our output, our client interaction, our mixing-note sessions, our recalls, and more. We started creating and testing new systems to increase productivity without sacrificing results.

What we came up with is a system that allowed us to mix over 500 songs in a year with ease.

Sounds C-R-A-Z-Y right?!

But, it’s true!

We’ve been knocking out over 500 mixes a year for a few years in a row now. Our record was 67 songs mixed in single month.

67 SONGS. (I hope I never do that again because it was brutal.)

The only way to truly test a system is to push it to the absolute limits and see how far you can go before it breaks down. We refined our productivity to the point where the only way we could possible put out mixes faster would be if we hired another person to ghost-mix along side us in a separate room.

Do you know what though? The good thing for you is that you don’t need to experience this the hard way and struggle through it like I did. You can get on the fast track.

If you’re interested in getting faster at mixing too, here are 3 powerful, actionable tips that you can employ right now that will help you get on the fast track to becoming a speed mixing machine:

#1 Prioritizing

The two major problems in mixing is that most engineers don’t know how to handle:

1. How to let go of a song and say it is FINISHED and

2. How to identify and focus on what is most IMPORTANT

One of the biggest plagues in mixing is not knowing when to say the song is finished. I struggled with it. We all do.

I’ve got news for you: THE SONG WILL NEVER BE FINISHED. Looking at the song as something that is “finished”, or “not finished” is a fallacy. This is art. There is no such thing as “finished”.

The real question is THIS:

“When does the song sound like a song?”

Meaning, when you hit play, does it sound like a song, or are you analyzing the mix?
When you STOP listening to the mix and start listening to the song, you’ve nailed the mix.

However helpful this is, it still doesn’t alleviate the other major problem: Most mixers have no idea what to focus on.

The large majority of people listening to a mix think like this:

1. Do I LIKE this song?
2. Do I IDENTIFY with this song?
3. Does it SOUND good? (Or, is it mixed so poorly that the production quality turns me off?)

Only the drummer and the mixer cares about how the snare sounds. SERIOUSLY.

Do you think the record will sell a single copy more or gain one more fan just because the snare was pitched up 5 cents or the ring on the snare drum decay was shortened?

Do you think that the record will sell one copy more if the guitars had an additional 0.6db at 4,000hz?

Remember, we are audio people. We only hang out with other audio people, band people, and music snobs. We don’t hang out with the average person. We are disconnected and out of touch. My mom still doesn’t even know what a snare drum is, and I’ve not only been doing this for a career, but have played in bands that practiced in her house since childhood.

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  • Curious1

    Should the customer get some free mix time? Suppose they record, but won’t pay for an additional second of mix time? Say you are recording a traditional rock band: two vocal tracks, two rhy. g. tracks, one solo track, bass and 6-8 drum tracks. What % of mix time vs. paid hours should one project? Should additional mix time be at the same rate as recording time?