When I first started mixing my one hope was that I would send a mix to a band so good that I wouldn’t get a single note back. They would be so blown away with what I’d done that they would immediately release the track (and it would go number one and win me my first of many Grammy awards…obviously). I soon realised, however, that that is a ridiculous notion – what are the odds that my first pass of a mix would not contain a single mistake?! Or that it would sound exactly as everyone in the band, and the producer, and the label and everyone else, heard it in their heads? Its just not realistic.
That being said I have had a few clients recently who have not sent any notes through for some of my mixes (by no means all!) and I worry that this is a result of them either not REALLY listening to the tracks or not wanting to offend me by telling me what’s shit about my work.
When your mixer sends you their first passes of your tracks I recommend sitting down with your phone turned off and on another continent, using speakers that you listen to all of your music though and give 100% of your attention to the music. Think about the balance of the instruments (its not good enough that you can hear everything, can you hear everything as clearly as you like? Would you rather the guitar panned to the right instead of the left? Is there enough reverb on the vocal? etc etc.) Think about the sound of the track as a whole (is there enough top end on it? Is there enough bottom end? Is it too narrow or too wide? Too much reverb? etc.). Listen to some other music that you know really well, does your track seem to exist in the same universe? (It will likely be quieter as the tracks you have to compare it with will be mastered, if you can adjust the relative volumes of the tracks in a playlist then do, or just turn your speakers up when your tracks come on).
Once you’ve done that grab your headphones and rinse and repeat, then get in the car and do the same. If you listen to music when you go for a run? Do that. On the train? Do that (don’t get the train just to listen to your mixes) and so on. Don’t don’t be shy to tell your engineer anything you don’t like about their mixes – these tracks will live forever.