Having a clean workspace
An organized space reduces stress and helps you to focus entirely on the task at hand…. making good records. Clean up your desk, throw out that old McDonald’s cup and Doritos wrapper, and pick up that gross pair of underwear. You’ll be amazed at how clearly you can think when you have a clean work area. Spending just 5 to 10 minutes prior to mixing, making sure you don’t have a messy desk and floor is a great way to get your brain ready to focus.
I’ve mentioned this in my post 5 mixing mistakes I used to make and how to avoid them, but it’s so important that I feel it’s worth stating again. Make sure you’re set up for the session before you even get started on mixing. Bring up your tracks (preferably on a day you’re not going to be mixing) and set things up as if you are your own assistant. Label and color code tracks, make sure your edits are clean with crossfades, print tracks you need to be printed, and set up your effect returns and your buses. You should have all of this done prior to getting started. This is easy when you have a mix template set up and ready to go.
Make sure you know you won’t have to do anything during the time you set to work. I also like to set a start and stop time. This helps me keep myself disciplined as well as safety protection for overcooking a mix. I know I do my best mixes within 4-5 hours. Since I know this, I like to stop after 4 hours and take a long break so I can reevaluate the mix after with fresh ears.
Most of us mix at home in our bedrooms. Working at home is difficult because you’re at home and you’re easily accessible to all your distractions. Your roommate calls for you, your kid starts crying, and your favorite TV show comes on… things can be distracting but not if you make sure you put away all of these things beforehand. This brings us to…
Turning off distractions
Turn off your phone, or TV, lock your door, barricade yourself in– whatever you have to do to ensure that there is nothing there that can distract you. It’s a luxury to get to work in a separate studio environment. Having a separate room to work in lets your brain know that when you’re in this room, you are going to be working rather than working in a place like your bedroom where you eat, sleep, and do “other” things. Your brain likes habit, and if it’s used to working in one place, you’ll be able to focus better.
Getting plenty of sleep
It’s easy to take sleep for granted. The older I get, the harder it is for me to go without sleep. The more sleep you get, the easier it is to focus for more extended periods. You’ll also have more stamina which will allow you to work longer and, in turn, will make you more productive.
Every hour or two, I like to take a 5 minute break and step outside and give my ears a break. I like to freshen up my ears by listening to new sounds and hearing something a bit different. I don’t listen to music or like to talk too much, but if it’s nice out, listening to the birds chirping or even just the cars passing by allows me to reset my ears so I can get back a fresh perspective.
Minimizing your sound intake before
Other than reference tracks, I try not to listen to music on a day I will be mixing to keep my sound intake to a minimum on mixing days. I don’t listen to the radio, and I tend to make sure I keep volumes low for everything until I’m ready to start mixing.
I will admit I like to start mixing louder than most people. I like to feel the drums and bass when establishing initial levels. Eventually, I’ll switch over to NS10s and lower the volume to a more reasonable level to fine tune and do a majority of the tweaking.
Setting the mood
It might sound a bit silly, but dimming the lights, turning on your lava lamp, or lighting a candle can do wonders for the mood and vibe of your studio or mixing space. This allows you to feel more creative. I’m not a superstitious guy, I don’t believe in ghosts or aliens, but I do believe in being able to feel and sense a vibe. Mixing is all about feeling and making sure you have a good mood set with appropriate lighting, scent, or whatever else it is that really helps you connect and feel the music. A better environment will allow you to achieve better mixes.