At this point, I am 90-95% happy with my instrumentation and have recorded all the parts that I originally intended for the song. This includes any recordings from enlisted performances by any other instrumentalists or collaborators that I got involved. Now I have all the pieces, and it’s time to mix!
### Final Mix Time!
I have to be honest with you, this is my least favourite part of the whole process. It’s quite technical and frankly I don’t think I personally am great at mixing – my ears have been trained enough to know what is a good mix and what isn’t, but I’m not inclined to pick at the details and do what needs to be done to get the song sounding as good as possible. At this point in my career, I have come to the conclusion that this part is best left to someone who actually likes to do it.
Therefore, at this stage, I have a new decision to make. I’ll ask myself, am I happy with the instrumentation and arrangement of the song as is, or do I want to see if a producer can push it further? A mixing engineer will typically take your raw tracks, shine them up, and make a nice clean mix out of whatever you give him or her, but a producer typically will add some creative input – and sometimes totally rework the track into something completely different.
### Mixing vs. Producing
For example, on my last EP, Panoptic, I decided to work with a few different producers to see not only what would come out of it, but how it felt to go that route. My first album, Bullheaded, was done completely by myself with the exception of the mastering (done by the super cool Phil Demetro at Lacquer Channel and a cello part (which was played by the immensely talented and awesome UNWOMAN, who you should definitely check out). While I’m definitely proud of what I accomplished with it, in retrospect I wish that I had been more willing to step outside of my ego-filled control zone and get some fresh, unbiased ears involved.
Anyway, I went the opposite direction with Panoptic and had every song produced by someone not directly connected to me. I came out with some pretty interesting results.
Here’s a clip of the original version of “Bed of Roses”, which I had mixed and mastered by Chris King of Moon Palace Productions – as you’ll hear it’s really a post-punk inspired track (though ok it sounds more darkwave than post-punk), and he really liked the song as it was, so he worked his magic on it and I still think it sounds great:
To contrast, here’s the version that ended up on the EP, which was produced by BIG RED and mastered by Phil at Lacquer Channel.
It’s way more poppy, and honestly I hated it the first time I heard it. But then I listened to it again and realized that it was stuck in my head and I became obsessed with it – it embodied a lot which I tried to achieve on my own but wasn’t able to. In fact, I liked it so much, that I had him produce the main versions of all four songs on the EP after that.
How you do you decide if your track needs another pair of ears to finish? If you do your own mixes, what do you mix with? Tell me about how you finish your work in the comments!