A big part of mixing your music is finding the best place for where to mix music where you live.
Many of us don’t think about this when we actually sit down to mix and go with however our workspace is already oriented without realizing how far back this can set you.
Let’s talk about where to mix music in your home and why it has a huge impact on your mixes.
Best Room Size for Mixing
If you are building a room from the ground up, ideally you would design it using the golden ratio.
Following this rule, the ideal dimensions for a room with a standard 8 foot ceiling would be 21 feet long by 13 feet wide.
Of course most of us don’t have the luxury of being able to design our mixing space from scratch.
Instead let’s approach it more generally.
Larger rooms which are more rectangular than square typically make for the ideal mixing environment by reducing reflections and better reproducing bass.
When facing the shorter wall in a rectangular room, this reduces early reflections and gives you a more realistic interpretation of the mix on playback.
Larger rooms in general will also have less reflections because of the greater time it takes for those sound waves to travel to the opposite wall(s) and return.
Now a lot of us mix in our bedrooms out of necessity. An average bedroom is roughly 11 feet by 12 feet. This smaller room yields itself to frequency resonance and increased reflections, so we’re essentially mixing with a false picture of what’s actually going on in the mix.
We may gut a particular frequency thinking it’s a problem only to wonder why the mix sounds empty in the when we play it back in a different environment.
We might also be surprised at how dry the mix sounds when you play it back later because of the reflections which were unique to the room you mixed in.
That’s why it’s so important to reference your mix in a variety of different environments to get a well rounded impression (incidentally this is one of my evergreen music mixing tips).
If you do work in a smaller room, sound dampening foam can be used to absorb sound, reducing reflections and resonance. It just tends to take A LOT to really make a palpable difference.
If your mixing environment is too reflective or even noisy, you might be better off mixing in headphones.
How to Set Up Studio Monitors
A lot of musicians when they’re just starting out think they can mix on earbuds whatever speakers came with their computers.
This typically means that their mixes end up being bass or top heavy because the frequency response from whatever output they’re using is lacking in playback. As a result, they’ll overcompensate and add in too much of something to make up for what they’re not hearing.
Always orient your desk and monitors against the shortest wall if possible, thus giving you the most distance to the opposite wall and reducing reflections.
The best setup for the monitors themselves is generally placing them equidistant between each other and yourself.
A good rule of thumb is 4-6 feet between each speaker and yourself to each speaker, creating a perfect triangle.
The tweeters which are located above the woofers are responsible for the mid and high range frequencies of your mix.
These should be at ear level and facing your ears (thus turning your monitors inwards 20-30°) when you’re seated to be most effective and give you the most accurate representation of your mix.
Setting Monitors on Their Sides
You’ll see this in some studios, monitors on their sides, typically as a second set of referencing monitors.
Unless the monitors are specifically designed for it, you typically want your monitors set vertically.
Having the monitors on their sides means the tweeter and woofer are at different horizontal positions. As you move left to right, these time differences lead to comb filtering and again give you inaccurate depictions of what’s going on in your mix.
When the two are in vertical alignment, you don’t have to worry about this.
Lastly, try to cut out as much ambient noise as possible when mixing. You obviously want a quiet room when you’re recording, but this extends to when you sit down to mix your audio, as well.
Having ambient noise like the hum of an air conditioner can be distracting at best or cause you to treat whatever frequency that hum is playing at differently in your mix than you would otherwise.
And as always, make sure you know how to use reference tracks in your mix.
Even if you don’t have the best environment for mixing, a reference track will remind you what a good mix sounds like in YOUR mixing environment. This will help you mix accordingly when you A/B that reference alongside your mix in realtime.
Where to Mix Music Tips
- Having a good environment for mixing means that you can get the most accurate representation of your mix when you play it back.
- Having a BAD environment for mixing leads to mistakes as you under-compensate for issues in your mix or over-compensate for things which aren’t really there; they’re just a product of what you’re hearing in your room.
- The golden ratio aside, a larger, more rectangular room is better for mixing as it reduces early reflections.
- A smaller room should be treated if possible to minimize reflections and resonance. If not, use mixing headphones.
- Set your monitors up vertically against the shorter wall (in a non-square room), set equidistant with one another and you, with the tweeters set at ear height and turning slightly to aim directly at your ears.
- Use reference tracks to get a good understanding of how a good mix sounds where you mix (and to A/B while mixing).