Following on from yesterday’s piece, here’s Part 2 – Louder Mixes
- Stage 3 – The Mix
You have to address many issues if you want to achieve your goal of a mix with impact. Things you need to take into consideration are level balance, frequency range and content, dynamics and there control. These all have an important role to play in a good mix. But we also have to “fool” our ears and brain in how they interpret sound. What you need to remember is:
Every production is different, each with its own loudness potential. The end result from mastering is not only determined by the mastering process, but by track arrangement and production, recording quality and how good your final mix really is!
You need to have a focus point in your mix. You ears need to focus on what’s important, making sure you prioritze sounds. This will give you less clutter and help you achieve your goal of a mix with solid impact.
This is not going to be a full on mixing guide, just some pointers that will help you develop the right skills for the job. Some of these may seem obvious, but i want everyone to gain from this…Remember, “think before you mix!”
Following these basics will help you achieve greater impact in your mixes, thereby leading to louder finished tracks:
- Use EQ’s to remove unwanted frequencies that can take up headroom, e.g. the sub area. Work on each sound until its right – remember its how it sounds in the mix as a whole, not on its own that matters.
- Phase is important – you will need to pay attention to the way sounds work with each other as they play. Try nudging the timing of audio in samples or ms and switching the polarity. This could give you more headroom and punch.
- Use compression to get signals to a steady level, as well as shape a sound. Compression is great at adding and removing attack. Don’t restrict yourself to one compressor, try chaining several on your channels, each having its own specific purpose.
- Try using a brickwall limiter or clipper to control transient peaks. Be careful not to take away all the punch. Not every track will need it, but try sticking a limiter on you channel EFX or subgroup, at the very end of the chain.
- Try to work in groups on a bus and compress or limit things such as drums, leads, pads and vocals. Don’t send, route/output audio to a bus channel and process. This helps glue the various groups together. Also helps with headroom and loudness.
- In dance music there’s been a trend to use dramatic sidechain compression for its pumping effect, people have forgotten it’s original purpose. Using sidechain to subtly duck sounds will save you a few dB. Don’t restrict yourself to just kick and bass, try sidechain on percussion parts to tuck in the tail on hi hats, rides or shakers. Also try it on vocal delay effects, inserting the compressor on your delay bus, after the delay. This will help with clutter as well and give more clarity.
- Try adjusting your reverbs pre-delay. If its to fast it can obscure the sound, to long, and it can sound messy. Getting the pre-delay right will allow more of the original sound to punch through, and means you can use less reverb. This means less clutter, more clarity once again.
Stage 4 – Mastering
To many times i hear people saying, “I’ll fix that at mastering”. Real impact and loudness is achieved at the mixing stage and the above tips will definitely help you in that goal. Good mastering can enhance a track, but it’s very hard to give material a lot of impact if it was not there to start with…