How to drive yourself nuts whilst mixing a song

I mean seriously guys. So I’m mixing this bloody song that I evidently will never finish and I turn down some low mids and lows on the mix and YUCK, suddenly the mix is too harsh in the upper range! Now I have to bring down the treble too because it’s unbearable. But the treble was fine when the lows and low mids were evidently masking it. But then when I bring down the treble so the song doesn’t too tingy and harsh, the lows and low mids are too high again! So I keep playing this wack a mole game until… the overall level of the mix is so low that the maximizer has to have a threshold of -13db to even bring it up to 12 LUFs. But then when I lower the maximizer threshold it brings up treble stuff that I had already brought down and I am back at square one! I believe this back and forth craziness qualifies for clinical insanity??? Does Steinberg offer mental health insurance??? HELP???

Don’t make your corrective EQ adjustments on the Mix. Instead make them on the individual Tracks which are contributing the ‘bad’ sound to the mix.


Funny you said that I just started taking the time to do that after I posted this. It’s hard to gauge though if there is too much of any one frequency when you’re doing it track by track. I find myself having to solo. Maybe I need to reference track the whole way though???

Would you mind sharing your step by step process for creating, mixing, and mastering in Cubase? Just the big steps would suffice…

While I’m always happy to share, there really isn’t any step by step sequence that’s gonna apply. Think of it a bit like cooking - what you do and the order you do it in is highly dependent on the kind of dish you are making, the specific ingredients you’re using and what sort of shape those ingredients are in.

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I like to simply BUS like things to their own bus and do the tweaking on them. This way you don’t get lost in all the tracks. If needed I then will go to the track itself.

Top down mixing for the win

I also do a little bit of amateur photography.

Over the years, inevitably I’ve found that the shots that work best are those that already looked best in the thumbnail view of all the shots from the camera.

How does this translate into audio mixing? Well, if a track hasn’t been recorded well in the first place, just go back and do it again, it’s the quickest fix. If you can’t re-record for whatever reason, do the best you can with the track itself, in isolation; go easy on EQ at this stage though!

But the real point of the analogy is: give yourself some distance from it.

Some might prefer the term “perspective”. Some approaches would be:
– forget about levels; with 24-bit, you can keep individual tracks around -18dBFS or less
– forget how it “looks”; seriously, I’ve stopped buying plugins with maxed-out graphics
– do a mix, play it loud and leave the room; what does it sound like downstairs/outside/in the corridor?

As for individual tracks, think about, for example:
– why do I need anything over 3kHz on a kick drum?
– why do I need anything below 80Hz on a guitar?

Ultimately, it’s down to your own decisions, based on what you hear with your particular track, and others can only offer guidelines – and maybe, one day, mental health insurance.

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The most “eye opening” decision I ever made when trying to learn how to “mix” was to leave the master output channel’s effects empty. I am in no way a “master mixer” at this point, but that alone has improved my skills greatly.

My suggestion would be to wipe out the plugins on your final output bus and focus on the true “mix”. Until you have everything gelling there is no point in adding things to the final output.


Yes. One big reason is that our ears readily adapt over the course of even an hour to make marginal audio sound normal.

Last week I ran into a good example of this. I was prepping to mix and the vocal had some sibilance problems. So I spent a bit under two hours cleaning it up (using Melodyne, but that doesn’t really matter) and when finished I thought it sounded fine. Next day this same vocal still has too much sibilance. Not as much as initially, but still too much. So I edit it again, and again it sounds fine at the end of the day. But the next day when I hear the vocal all the consonants are buried - I’d gone too far removing the sibilance. So third time is the charm, I do another round of edits, this time making sure to work in 10-15 minute chunks and take breaks between. That one sounded good at the end of the day and the start of the next.

So there is a bit of a dilemma when mixing - you need to trust your ears, but you can’t always trust your ears

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It’s also useful - sometimes - to first mix in mono.