This can be a disheartening descent into madness, but thankfully it doesn’t have to be that way.
I’ve found that following a simple framework has helped keep me focused and maintain a big picture perspective while working on a mix.
Keep in mind the goal is to try and create the maximum impact for the listener. No one cares about what tools or techniques you used.
Here’s my extremely simple, yet effective process:
Mixing Simplified in 7 steps
1. Organize Your Session – Name your tracks, consolidate your audio, and place a marker for the different sections of your song. Commit to your sounds!
2. Set Up Your Tracks/Routing – Prepare your return tracks with the effects you plan on using. Set up your group buses.
3. Balance Level And Panning – Balance the volume and stereo field of your tracks. You can get a long way in a mix just with volume and pan. Make sure to leave yourself enough headroom. -10dB is a good starting point to aim for
4. Process Tracks – Use EQ, compression, and saturation (etc..) to enhance the character and remove what is unnecessary. Sculp and refine your tracks and remove any masking frequencies.
5. Automation – Breath extra life into your mix with some automation. Create depth and increase the dynamic movement during transitions. Emphasize the key elements of every section.
6. Effects – Use delay, reverb, and any other special effects to add space, ambiance, and polish to your sounds.
7. Finalize – Listen to the song from front to back (without stopping) and take notes on what might need to be tweaked.
Does everything flow well? Does everything sound clear? Does it create an impactful experience?
Reference other tracks and speaker systems/headphones and make the final decision to call it done.
I hope that helps clarify some of the steps behind a solid mixdown.