Mix revisions process: two things to consider to give the best feedback
Revising a mix is one of the last phases of a project; finalizing a mix before it goes to mastering. You can plan for your recording session but what happens once the recording phase has ended?
Depending on how you worked it out with the studio or engineer, you might:
Come back to the studio for mixing sessions: Be in the room with the engineer for real-time feedback and typically leave the final mix session with the final mix in hand
Have the project link sent to you via email for approval (a process done remotely): Ideal when your team is working remotely across the state, country, or planet.
In either case, effectively communicating is essential to avoid hiccups on the road to mastering and releasing your project.
Although the principles are the same in each scenario, we will take a closer look at the remote process, including:
The revisions process
Range of speakers
The revision process
In this approach, you receive project mixes from your engineer to comment on. The comments could be requests for small adjustments to better align with your vision. The feedback you have is then addressed so the next version brings you a solid candidate for mastering.
The revision process may happen [ x ] amount of times, depending on what you and your mixing engineer have agreed upon. If the amount of revisions has not been discussed, the process can turn into a trap, as both parties can excessively go back and forth, repeating the process more times than either of you expected.
Knowing the revision expectations, if any, will enable you to make more focused decisions and give the best feedback to get your project wrapped up and ready to release sooner than later.
Now that the process has been laid out, we can dive into how to give the best actionable feedback.
You don’t need to have ultra amazing critical listening skills to listen to your mixes and make comments on the mix.
By the time you have reached this phase, you have heard and performed the songs hundreds of times during rehearsals and in the recording sessions, so you already have an understanding of analytical listening and comparing this with your vision.
You understand what feels right and what the overall vibe of the song should be. You can listen to industry professionals on training your ears to dive deeper into the rabbit hole, but for now, let's move ahead.
Be free to provide whatever feedback you believe will get the message across to bring actionable results. It should be enough to format comments like:
Turn [ x instrument] up/down at [ minute: second ]
Brighten [ x instrument ] during the section from [ minute: second ] to [ minute: second]
Listen on a range of speakers
To get an accurate overall picture of the mix, listen on anywhere from 4 to 5 different speaker systems. Speaker types can include:
I should also note that although your phone, tablet, or laptop speakers are in no way considered high fidelity speakers, the fact is, people will listen to your music on them. Im sure you have also pulled up your music app on your phone to show someone what you're about, right? It's worth listening on those devices as well.
The reason for this is to compare and hear if there needs to be a change. Asking yourself, “am I hearing ‘x,y,z’ in all systems or just one?”, will help you determine if what you’re hearing is coming from the mix or from the particular system you’re hearing it on.
Playback systems and headphones have major sonic differences but you don’t need to evaluate headphones to make decisions (although I did this for fun and later, for work).
Suffice to say that different speakers and headphones highlight different parts of the frequency spectrum so don't obsess over listening to perfection for every set of speakers. The name of the game here is to listen for consistency.
If you hear an issue in one system but not on another, it’s likely an external influence and not from the audio file itself.
Bring your mix into the real world and out of in-home speakers or studio monitors. This will give you a better sense of how others will listen to your music.
A common environment to listen in is the car. Take time to listen at a low volume but feel free to take a drive and turn it up!
This gives you a chance to listen at different volumes, which is also how listeners interact with music.
One of the largest contributing factors to the length of a project is the revision process. The faster you are able to provide revisions, the quicker the entire process becomes.
Considering how, where, and what you listen to your mixes on will help you get focused feedback and ultimately help you wrap up the project and get it to your listeners sooner.