Are you sure you're ready to mix that song?
Don't depend on the mixing process to create a musical masterpiece from music, productions or recordings which don't satisfy you. On the most basic level; composition, arrangement and performance are the core elements that sell a record to a listener. Everything that follows; recording, mixing and mastering, is the application and presentation of these key elements. While you shouldn't undervalue the efforts put into a good mix, it can be detrimental to hold the process in higher regard than the essential ingredient. Your music.
What forms good music? Melody, harmony, rhythm, tone and most importantly, taste.
Now here is where the circumstances pivot; YOU ARE satisfied with the musical integrity and makeup of the recordings. The notion of the mixing process turning over a masterpiece is much more attainable, yet more sensitive than ever. As easy as it may be mixing good quality recordings with sensible musicality and arrangement, it's equally as easy to miss-represent them in a mix that isn't as tasteful as the music intends.
So back to the title topic, "Are you sure you're ready to mix that song?"
And in asking that, "How do you now you're ready to mix that song?".
I'm going to split the answer into two parts; musical and technical.
The key ingredient to the success of your mix is the music. So what aspects of the music and it's own production translate into good sounding mixes?
The primary dimension of the music that translates favourably into the mix is the arrangement, both harmonically and rhythmically. Chord voicings, melodic relationships, rhythmic relationships and instrumentation, are the ingredients when presenting a great melody/music piece.
E.g If you have many chords between instruments jarring the same register over the same tonic, it will be hard to delineate the separate instruments in a mix. If you give them complimentary voicings, they can play in the same register and hold their own distinguishable presence in the music.
The second dimension of the music that is convenient to be attended to in production/recordings is the TONE of your instruments. While the sound may develop and take on new forms through mixing, establishing an approximate tone of your instrumentation for the mixing engineer or yourself will remove the guessing work from the picture when trying to balance and process the mix's overall sound.
The professional quality and integrity of the material you present for mixing affects workflow and flexibility during the session. So the following is a short list of technical aspects to sort out in your production before starting the mix.
- Exporting the stems, Mono/stereo
- Artefacts clicks pops and hums
- Making sure there is no clipping on the individual stems pre-mix
- Deleting silence between phrases/long phrases
- Labelling the files correctly
- Consolidating files in a .wav format so they all align from start to end.