It’s such a pleasure to be working on the final stages of an album, especially when it’s a project that feels like it’s “your baby!” This is certainly the case with my new album, and should always be the case with your prized recordings, as well! The subtle changes and touches that can occur in final mixes and masters can be so minute that they can barely be noticeable, yet are still majorly important to the final overall effect. It’s interesting how these projects require different sets of ears, till it finally reaches the ultimate ears; the unsuspecting customer! I feel that the artist is without question the most important set of ears in the project, but without my incredible engineer and his ears and his abilities, there is no question this would never see the proper “light of day!”
The process takes many steps, and I have already sat through what are referred to as “pre-mixes” at least 2 or 3 times per song. This is where I (you) make the true decisions in terms of what you want where, what you want to keep, what should be discarded, and just in general, the overall musical spectrum of the album. By the time you’re ready for the final and actual “mix”, all of those steps should have been decided already, even though, as I’m once again discovering, that’s never really the final story! There will always be something else that might be bothering you that you’ve been inadvertently living with, or some new parts you feel must be added in. Regardless, it’s important to leave yourself as “open” to new sounds and ideas as possible until the very, very end of the project. I can tell you, though it’s not advisable, I’ve worked on albums that had to have things changed even after the mastering was done! That’s really a stretch, but certainly there are times where, within reason, even that must occur!
Another critical component to watch for during this phase of your project is to not listen with tired ears. It’s important to from time to time, literally take a breather from it and “step back” a bit so as to listen once again, much more objectively, and with less of a “prejudice” in terms of what you are hearing. By doing this, you are almost putting yourself in the “consumer’s” listening chair, and treating it like you’re hearing it for the first time. I tried this the other day, where I had a lot of other things to do around the house, so I just put my new album on in the background, to see if it had any subliminal effects on me. My overall reaction totally positive, and most of all, I didn’t hear or feel any moments that really let me down musically.
These are the kinds of things you’ll need to look for in your own projects, and you’ll have to learn when “enough is enough” and when it’s really time to put a project to bed! We all can suffer from “overdoing” it, and from too much “nit-picking” for sure when it comes to how we treat our mixes, so please be aware, and learn to “step back” from it, and to keep it as fresh as possible. Guaranteed, you’ll hear all of that effort, even ten years from now, when you may listen again with your guard down!