The Solo Button – Is it Your Friend or Your Enemy?

So what I’m going to preach today is something that I should have done for a long time but was very reluctant to listen to those wiser than me.

When I first started recording and mixing music, I would see a lot sound engineers talk about mixing in mono and using subtractive EQ but of course, I ignored their wisdom because to me it sounds silly. Now I look back and think of how immature I was.

Another thing I would hear is that you should never EQ something while it’s in solo. Of course, I would again think those people were crazy. How could all these SUPER talented guys know what they are talking about right? Plus how are you supposed to hear what you are EQing if you aren’t doing it in solo? Well, I was of course, wrong again.

The Reason The Solo Button Will Kick Your Butt

Let me just cut out the fluff and tell you straight. The solo button is not your friend. It is always lying to you. It does distract you from delivering a great mix. The reason why EQ is such a great tool is that it allows you to mold sounds to fit better together, in the mix. If you solo an EQ, then you have no idea how it sounds in regards to all the other tracks in the mix. This makes it difficult for you to try and get a clear mix.

If you spend most of your time in solo mode, then you are missing out on actually hearing how your tracks are fitting together in the mix. None of the fans that are going to be listening to the song will be listening to it in solo, so why would you? The solo button can serve a purpose: to help you listen for things to clean up like clicks, pops, and earphone bleed. But beyond that, treat the solo button as an enemy and not a friend.

Without The Solo Button, You Can Mix Faster

There is nothing more discouraging than listening to how perfect your snare drum sounds with all of your EQ work, only to realize that it sounds terrible once you unsolo it. You then go back to readjust things trying to get it to work. But you would finish your mixes faster if you avoided the solo button altogether.

When you EQ and tweak, in context with the rest of the tracks, you have a good understanding of what’s working and what’s not. You may not get a great sound right away, but you will get a great sound sooner than you would if you were only using the solo button.

Embrace the Frustrating Times

Mixing is like a big ball of frustration. You have a lot of hurdles to overcome while you are growing and learning. And as frustrating as it was for me when I was learning, it has honestly made me better. It forced me to listen to the song more, it trained my ears and helped me focus. Being forced to grow does make you better.

So try it on your next mix. Pretend that the solo function doesn’t even exist. I bet you will enjoy the process. Let me know how it works for you.

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