What Separates a Demo from a Polished Mix ?
After hours of hard work, yes, we’ve all been there: that which we have mixed—which we have spent hours upon hours fixing up—sounds more like a demo than a record.
First of all, don’t be too hard on yourself. Demos are very good these days! In fact, some maintain there is no such thing as a demo anymore (what you send out is what gets heard, so you better make sure that it sounds like a record!). Home studios have also come a long away from four-tracks and flash-drive recorders; today’s average interface beats the heck out of those all-flattening, stereophonically sterile 002s and 003s of erstwhile epochs. Plus, tutorials are everywhere, so everyone is learning how to mix at a rapid clip. It stands to reason that today’s demos and rough mixes will force us to work that much harder.
I propose, then, that we stop for a moment and ask ourselves an essential question: what separates a demo from a polished mix?
Let’s take it further: if we can identify some key things, what can we do to transmute our mixes from demo-quality blandness into exciting, lovely vehicles for the music at hand?