Quick Tip: Mixing With Your Eyes Closed

Hey readers. I’ve been doing a lot of mixing for my company, Sunscape Productions, and I’ve stumbled onto an approach that works really well for me, and that is: mixing with my eyes closed.

Yea, I know, that sounds kind of crazy, but it works! I’ve found that when I’ve got a song going in whatever DAW I’m using, and I have many tracks, level changes, panning, and effects, my eyes are distracted by all of the stuff going on. The important thing I realized is that this alters how you perceive things.

One day, I was simply listening to music in my computer’s standalone music player, which obviously doesn’t have any of that stuff (you just see the time bar sliding across), and I decided to try to bring this atmosphere into my mixing environment by just closing my eyes and listening to the mix. Surprisingly, I started to hear things differently than I had before; a guitar would be a bit too loud or too bright, my claps weren’t centered or the stereo field wasn’t balanced. This can be hindered even more when we work inside a program that makes it look like things are all cool, when in reality they aren’t. So, I kept doing this, and became more and more happy with my work!

One of the biggest problems I’ve had and have seen others have is applying unnecessary plug-ins to an instrument or doing random EQing just because you’ve heard it works, it’s a preset on your compressor/EQ, or it just looks nice to have a bunch of plug-ins running (feels professional right?).

To get into how I approach this, here are some of the things I’ve done to help keep myself in check and also make sure my ears are good/getting better.

Step 1

To remedy this, what I do is take one of my bands of EQ, for instance, and close my eyes while toggling it on and off a couple times so I don’t know what position it’s at. You can do this with any effect/plug-in that alters the sound or where it is perceived: reverb, delay, panning, chorus, etc. I suggest taking time to work with panning because you would be surprised at the difference sometimes between what the stereo levels show as balanced and what your ears tell you are balanced, so let them be the final judge!

Step 2

Then, I will play it with the mix, toggling the parameter back and forth to see which one I like better. Once I’ve found the one I like, I will open my eyes. I’m finding more and more that I am opening them with the EQ on, which is reassuring. Initially, however, it would be on only half of the time. This is a testament to how much my eyes thought the sound was better just because I was applying the EQ on this frequency with this amount of gain or something to that effect.

Step 3

Lather, rinse, and repeat as desired.

It is very important, however, to do this predominantly in reference to your mix and not always standalone, which can lead to unnecessary EQ, reverb, or effects changes when they aren’t necessary or when others are more applicable.

I find this technique really effective and time saving when you have a lot of things going on, especially nearing the end of a mix. This has helped me immensely to balance levels, panning, and EQing overall and individually. The panning aspect is nicely brought out when you close your eyes because you are visualizing where the instruments are exactly in your field of perception. When applying this concept, I have made improvements I most likely wouldn’t have otherwise.

So, just thought I would share a tip with you guys that has helped me and I imagine might help at least a couple people! Happy mixing.

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