Why less is sometimes more
As a mastering engineer I'm often approached by clients to ask about my availability to master their forthcoming record. I'm told they're sorting out the mix and will send me the file soon. A lot of the time I end up waiting for a while whilst the client mixes, then remixes their project again and again. One of the biggest problems the self produced artist has is getting bogged down in recording and mixing. In the "good old day" before making a record at home was a simple affair, you paid a studio to do the work and that was that. So why is it some artists take so long to bring out new songs?
Firstly, the sheer amount of technology available now can be more of a hindrance rather than a help. It's so easy to get lost in a world of plugins trying to make your record sound great. The trouble is, it's so easy to lose focus and direction because of this. It's not uncommon to do umpteen mixes and then end up coming back to one of the initial mixes you did ages ago. The other process which can slow down the record making is trying to fix errors which should never have been there in the first place. The old adage of "fix it in the mix" is one that usually ends up causing more problems than if you just get it right at the beginning. Mixing is a lot more simple when you're working with great multi tracks rather than trying to make some dull sounding guitars sound good.
So when it comes to mixing, keeping it simple is often the best and fastest way to get your record out there. Most DAW's come with excellent stock plugins, giving you everything you need, all in one place. Rather than throwing loads of effects and so on at each track, only give it what it actually needs. If a vocal track sounds great with just a bit of delay and reverb, then great! Go with that. There's no law saying you have to add every plugin you have regardless of whether it's needed or not. Mixing should be a straightforward process. In it's simplest form it's really just balancing levels and making sure everything sits together nicely. When you think back to the great records of the 1960's, you're listening to a brilliant song, not the mix. Back then the tools available were limited to say the least and yet the music that cam out of that era is amazing.
Mixing should be an enjoyable process, the end of the creative chain and a point when you should be looking forward to your release. So by keeping it simple you're more likely to have a positive experience and to get your music out into the world sooner. Only do what's necessary and don't think that the next plugin you buy will solve all your problems and make your record sound like it's come out of Abbey Road. You'll save a lot of time and your bank balance will thank you for it too.