when should you listen in context?
Do you solo out tracks and mix them by themselves? What does it mean to keep things in context?
The most important tools are your ears and your mind. Use them, trust them. If it sounds good it sounds good. but remember the context. From your sound in the space it's in, to the interaction of frequencies in your mix.
listening in context
Reference mixes can help you understand how your track is sounding compared to other songs. If you're listening to a playlist, and one song is drastically quieter than the one before it, thats no good. Reference mixes can help you avoid that.
using ducking. if you hear a displeasing sound in your guitar track, a useful trick (if it is supported by your hardware) is called ducking (or listening in place.) This is basically just turning down everything, and keeping the track that has your attention at the forefront. imagine it like a lens through which you can still seee what's happening in the rest of the song as you're doing surgery on that guitar track.
the mix-engineer's skill-set
Trust your ears
If it feels right, it probably is. I've seen many an indie go way overboard with mixing each individual track to perfection, only to to turn off solo and have to do it again. They end up to their necks in audio problems they barely understand.
striking a balance between tracks vs tracks, & tracks just sounding good on their own.
Solo out that track and it sounds fine alone but in the mix it sounds wrong. What is actually happening and why? Which interaction of instruments/tracks is causing that? Use solo to find that. Remember that sounds interact with other sounds. Just because one track is a vocal and another is a guitar doesn't mean frequencies are not competing for space. The sound is combined and played back through your sound system, and if you're not mixing in headphones, they're interacting with your room too.
why it matters
Saving time - repeated steps - do-overs
So how to conclude this article, and mix it right. If you're having to solo out a track, tweak it to get it sounding perfect, and then start over again to get it sounding good in context, You're doing it twice. You don't have to. Don't worry, these skills are like learning a new instrument. they come with time and practice. Luckily we live in an age where people are sharing their years of skills and experience for free on the internet. Need some tips? Let me google that for you...
Gene Media Productions
Cody Gene is an Independent Record Producer from BC
Music Methodology & Creative Lifestyle