It has become much harder is recent times to determine where producing ends and mixing begins, with many of the same digital audio workstations (DAW) and plugins used in both processes.
Mixing as one goes is one of the more influential changes in the modern music workflow.
Channels are littered with plugins long before a song is done, in the quest to achieve a stream-ready sheen. In addition, decisions regarding levels, compression and panning are made while the instrument parts are still being written.
So, is mixing while producing a good idea?
Many electronic music producers mix to a certain extent while they produce. Some of the most commercially successful dance floor tracks favour sound design over melody, and many of the sounds you hear in them are only made possible by making heavy processing decisions early on in the production stage.
Electronic music, especially the more experimental side of the genre, is more open, than say pop music, to unconventional workflow and composition, as long as it goes off in the club.
It’s common for DJ producers to test their unfinished compositions on club sound systems during gigs, and then go back to the studio to make any necessary adjustments. This equates to a more natural back and forth between producing and mixing.
It’s true however that the creative process can be greatly hampered if too much time is spent mixing before a song is even finished. The limitless tweaking capabilities within a DAW can lead to a fixation on sound design, when in fact, it’s the arrangement and structure that need your attention.
This could be why so many music producers never finish their songs.
Output channels awash with plugins in order to achieve louder, faster results, in reality, hold very little value if the session doesn’t already sound great.
In my opinion, placing clear barriers between production and mixing and leaving the two processes separate can lead to some major benefits. This tends to be the preferred approach in pop music.
An interesting point to note is that the subsequent steps aren’t supposed to fix what came before it. Much in the same way as a producer is unlikely to edit lyrics, a mixing engineer isn’t going to adjust the song structure. By only starting the next stage once the previous one is complete, the quality of your music can greatly improve.
It goes without saying, however, that in today’s music production climate, there are no rules to the way a song is created.
Depending on what type of music you make, along with skill and budget, mixing music while you produce may just work for you, but if you have never treated these processes as separate, you may be missing out on opportunities to make a greater impact with your sound.