Better known as the 80/20 rule, the Pareto Principle is a theory maintaining that 80 percent of the output from a given situation or system is determined by 20 percent of the input. Apply this to your music and you’ll realize that 80% of the mix comes from 20% of your mix choices: EQ and compression.
I’ve always been a fan of audio engineering. Mostly because I’m a music head, but also because I’m a nerd and engineering is a form of physics. I wasn’t the best at it in high school, so applying this science to my career is a bit of validation that high school wasn’t a complete waste. (I kid, I kid.)
Most people who complain about mixing today choose to mix each song in a different way, using different plugins to try to do something different. Unless someone’s paying you to discover and analyze these plugins, you’re wasting time.
The fastest and easiest way to get the furthest along in your mix is to find one compressor and one EQ, and apply those to your channel tracks inside whatever recording system you’re working in.
Finding the sweet spot with these two will get your mix most of the way there.
What will also help you mix faster is presets. For example, I have a channel strip preset for my vocals that includes a EQ, compressor and DeEsser. Once I record my vocals, I apply this channel strip preset to my vocal tracks and 80% of my mixing work is already done. Granted, I have to tweak things here and there, but using this principle saves me tons of time.
Of course this is all my opinion and you can disregard everything that I say. I just know what works for me, and I can confidently say that my mixes are 80% done as soon as my vocals are recorded.
For a more in-depth discussion about applying The Pareto Principle in your music, check out this video from The Recording Revolution. A lot of what I know is self-taught, but it’s always good to find tutorials that validate what I’ve learned and/or teach me what I don’t know. If you want to grow in your mixing abilities and aren’t already actively following this blog, you should.