A modern mix can be sophisticated and complicated, so it’s very easy to overlook something in the heat of the moment that can be important to the integrity of the mix and that can help take it to the next level. The Ultimate Mix Checklist provides a number or questions to ask yourself as your mix goes along.
◻︎ Does your mix have contrast? Does it build as the song goes along? Are different instruments, sounds or lines added in different sections?
◻︎ Does your mix have a focal point? Is the mix built around the instrument or vocal that’s the most important?
◻︎ Does your mix sound noisy? Have you gotten rid of any count-offs, guitar amps noises, bad edits, and breaths that stand out?
◻︎ Does your mix lack clarity or punch? Can you distinguish every mix element? Does the rhythm section sound great by itself?
◻︎ Does your mix sound distant? Try backing the reverb and effects down.
◻︎ Are you listening at the proper level? Listen louder for low frequency balance and quieter for general balance.
◻︎ Are instruments clashing frequency-wise? Can you hear every mix element distinctly?
◻︎ Can your hear every lyric? Every word must be heard.
◻︎ Can your hear every note being played? Automate to hear every note.
◻︎ Are the sounds dull or uninteresting? Are you using generic synth patches or predictable guitar or keyboard sounds?
◻︎ Does the song groove? Does it feel as good as your favorite song? Is the instrument that supplies the groove loud enough?
◻︎ Does the song have too many elements occurring at the same time? More than five mix elements occurring at once sounds confusing.
◻︎ Does the song have dynamics? Does the intensity change from section to section?
◻︎ Are the bass, kick and snare balanced? Does each have their own frequency space? Can each be heard distinctly?
◻︎ What’s the direction of the song? Should it be close and intimate or big and loud?
◻︎ Are you compressing too much? Does the mix feel squashed? Is it fatiguing to listen to? Is all the life gone?
◻︎ Are you EQing too much? Is it too bright or too big?
◻︎ Are your fades too tight? Does the beginning or ending of the song sound clipped?
◻︎ Did you do alternate mixes? Did you do at least provide an instrumental-only mix?
◻︎ Did you document the keeper mixes? Are all files properly named? Are you sure which file is the master?
TIP: Taking a short break before going over this mix checklist can provide a clearer perspective of how the mix really sounds.
You can read more from The Mixing Engineer’s Handbook and my other books on the excerpt section of bobbyowsinski.com.