Q. Should I mix an album as I’m writing it, or all at once?

Published in SOS November 2011
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Sound Advice : Mixing

I'm in the long process of trying to write enough material to put a cohesive, album-length bunch of stuff together. I have a few ideas in 'semi-baked' state, and have got to the point where I have one track written, structured and recorded, and am ready to make a proper mix (I've already made a rough mix).My decision now is whether to go to town on mixing that one track, and then get on with the rest of the writing and recording at a later date, or to keep it at the rough mix stage, finish the rest of the material, then mix the whole lot afterwards.I'm guessing the second approach would lead to greater overall consistency, but this is my first real stab at 'doing an album', if you want to call it that. My output up to now has been rather discontinuous, so it hasn't mattered before.What approach would you take, and how do you think it could help your progress?Via SOS web site

SOS Reviews Editor Matt Houghton replies: Consistency is great if it's consistently good. Otherwise it's not such a laudable aim! There's no harm in still writing and recording stuff while you're mixing other stuff, but I would rather mix one track at a time, so that any lessons I learn can be applied to the next mix, and so on.

Also, bear in mind that, while mixing the first or second tracks, you might have one of those dawning "Oh, that would have been so much easier if only I'd recorded it like that!” moments, and that would be a bugger if you'd already tracked everything else.There's no particular reason not to continue writing while you're mixing other tracks, but it makes sense to complete a couple of mixes before getting stuck into the rest of a project if you're, say, recording an album. This means that you can apply what you've learnt from your first mix(es) to the rest of the material. It also means that any recording issues you pick up during the mixing stage won't appear in all tracks.There's no particular reason not to continue writing while you're mixing other tracks, but it makes sense to complete a couple of mixes before getting stuck into the rest of a project if you're, say, recording an album. This means that you can apply what you've learnt from your first mix(es) to the rest of the material. It also means that any recording issues you pick up during the mixing stage won't appear in all tracks.

SOS contributor Mike Senior adds: I'd second Matt on that one. It may mean that you end up redoing the first couple of mixes with the benefit of hindsight, but I think, overall, it's probably the best option if you're still feeling your way though a little bit with the mixing side of things.

It's no different from when you're mixing anything: you have to reference your work against any other material you want consistency with. Often that will be commercial releases with which you want your work to compete, but it can just as easily be other mixes you've done, which are destined for the same record. If you make sure to do that, then everything else should sort itself out in the long run.

I do tend to keep the main send effects I used for the first mix available for the second if I'm working on several things for one artist, as long as those effects met with their approval first time round! That does help to give some conformity to the sound. However, there are perfectly valid aesthetic reasons for not wanting to make all the tracks sound the same, so you should still try to make each track shine on its own terms. If that means using completely different mixing strategies, then so be it.  .


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