When is the right time to start mixing the track?

Mixing is the most fundamental part of the production process – the stage at which the producer dictates what the listeners will actually hear. And it can make or break a track. After all, the best vocal in the world is useless if you can't hear it!

The secret to mixing is balance. If your bass is full, your track needs corresponding top end and a strong kick drum. But balanced doesn't mean flat. Mixes need stand-out elements, and the trick is learning which to accentuate – either by enhancing them, or by creating more space for them to breathe. Of course, once you have the balance, it's essential to give your mix that extra special something too, which is where clever processing comes in. At the risk of taking ourselves too seriously, we like to compare a great mix to a city skyline. Whether London, Paris or New York, skylines are generally level, with the mal occasional highlight. Show somebody a cityscape without highlights and it's just another skyline, but throw In the Empire State Building, London Eye or Eiffel Tower and it takes on a whole new persona. If every building was a hundred stories tall or some bizarre shape, though, you'd just be left with an unintelligible mess. And with mixing, if you try to make every element prominent nothing will stand out. Instead, make a comfortable bed on which to place a variety of distinct sounds and volumes, creating an interesting and compelling soundscape.

All of this sounds easy, and it is actually much simpler than most people realise – little things can make a huge difference, but they're often far from intuitive.

When's the right time to mix?

The question of when to tackle a mixdown is a difficult one. In big pro studios it's usually left until last, often by a specialist mix engineer. But when you're creatfng your own tracks, especially electronic music, things aren't so simple.

Some producers mix as they go, others wait until the end, but there's no right or wrong. We personally usually mix and add effects as we go, resetting all the levels every so often and then again at the end.

Electronic music is often very production-heavy with processing fundamental to the track, so effects must be added as you go – just don't get too bogged down in them and be sure to figure out what works best for you. If you're prone to wasting time instead of getting on with writing, then stop. If resetting the levels keeps you fresh and interested, then it's five minutes well spent.

The trick is, no matter when you choose to set your levels definitively, don't be afraid to reset them all from zero. Having the luxury of total recall should give you the confidence to do this the first time, but once you start doing it more regularly, we bet you'll never actually reach for that ‚Revert to saved‘ option.