Music production is something you will never master. It’s an ever-growing art that requires constant learning and innovation. Every recording engineer had to start somewhere, though. There are a lot of common mistakes that just about every engineer makes at the beginning.

Here are 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Recording

1. Poor Gain Staging

You don’t want too little gain because then you’ll miss out on extra headroom, little nuances in the recording that you might like, and extra punch. You also don’t want too much gain, because your signal will become distorted and noisy.

So how do you find the sweet spot?

Well, that’s a tough question as it very seriously depends on the source of the sound, the microphone being used, and what kind of interface or preamp it’s going into.

The biggest tip I can give here is to not overlook this step of your process. Don’t use a preset amount of gain for everything you do, and don’t rush through setting up your input levels. You’ll be happy you took the time to find the sweet spot when you’re trying to mix, and all of your signals have the right amount of gain to punch through without sounding like crap.

2. Mixing Too Loud

This one is super common. I think just about everyone is guilty of this one. We tend to want to mix loudly. Music sounds better louder, doesn’t it? That’s exactly the problem. We don’t want it to “sound better”. We want it to sound correct!

The louder sound gets, the more our ears naturally compress the sound (some monitors even do this as a protective measure to the speakers). The problem is that everything in your mix will tend to sound more glued together than it actually is. When this happens, you may miss out on things such as snare hits that stick out a bit too much, or vocal layers that are too far ahead of everything. Not to mention, the louder the sound gets, the more fatiguing it is to your ears.

On the contrary, many monitors lack bass response at lower volumes. This can cause a problem when getting your mix to have a big bottom-end. What I usually do to combat this is to mix at a low volume, then I will occasionally turn up to check on my low end and make sure it’s where I want it to be.

3. Too Many Plugins

These plugins are designed to make my tracks sound better, so I can just use a whole bunch of them and it will sound amazing, right?! WRONG!

I was at a friend’s home studio one time and this guy had like 20 plugins (including 3 compressors, 4 eqs, harmonic exciters,etc.) on his vocal chain and 2 busses; One for Sidechain Compression, and one for a Reverb Bus. My question to him was: Why?

This is one that I’m guilty of quite often and I have to stop myself from doing it. Loading up your tracks with plugins can get out of hand really fast.

Everything you do to a track should have a purpose. If it doesn’t, you very well could be adding unwanted sonic characteristics to your tracks. To be fair, you might add sonic characteristics that you do in fact want, but as a rule of thumb: Have a purpose for everything you do.

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4. Improper Use of Compression

Compression is an extremely important tool in mixing, arguably the most important (maybe after an EQ). The problem is that if you just jump into using a compressor without learning the basics of how they operate, it is likely that you can do more damage than good to your mix!

Overcompressing can cause a real lack of dynamics, destroy the low-end, and really kill the harmonic content of a mix. Compressing just enough can accentuate low-end, make your mix punchier, glue everything together, and more!

Rather than writing another guide on using a compressor, I will just urge you to read our Compressor Basics article as well as our tutorial on Dialing in a Compressor.

5. Ignoring Your Sources

The most important part of your recording is your recording! If you get it right at the source, the rest will come with ease. If it sounds bad at the source, then well, good luck…

This applies to everything that’s being recorded, for example:

Guitars: Please make sure your guitars are set up properly. Head over to our Guitar Intonation Guide and learn how to do that. You’ll get better takes with less effort if your guitars sound good!

Make sure the guitarist gets good takes! If they have to play a riff 50 times to get it right, then make them play the riff 50 times. Nothing kills a mix like out of phase guitars or poorly played riffs.

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Vocals: See Mistake #1! If your gain staging is done poorly, you’ll find that your vocal performances are lacking.

Also, make sure you get good takes on vocals as well! “Fixing it later” with pitch correction and time adjustments can add a lot of extra work and sometimes doesn’t always fix a poor take. Tools such as pitch correction are wonderful for fine-tuning, but take your time and don’t rush for a better end product.

We hope you enjoyed this article! If you did, make sure to check out more, because we upload new reviews, technical articles, lessons, and more daily!

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This article was written by Zac Buras, our editor located in Louisiana

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