I honestly didn't understand what to listen for in a mix so I kept randomly putting plug-ins on tracks, tweaking presets that didn't fit, and selecting inappropriate effects that weren't suitable for the song.
15 years later, after countless hours in the studio, I've created a fool-proof process for creating pro mixes.
And once I figured it out, mixing became easy!
With simple EQ and compression tricks, I knew how to create separation and balance as well as what buttons to push to make my mixes tight and loud.
I started using reverb and delay to create space and depth for that professional feel.
My vocals sounded better than ever because I knew how to recognize and eliminate problematic frequencies, adding some secret sauce with saturation and blending the vocals into the mix so they wouldn't feel stuck on top.
Throughout my learning process I realized that the plug-ins I kept coming back to when I needed to make the mix sound open and dynamic were these five processors.