Here’s 22 quick tips to consider when mixing your tracks.
- Have a clear vision from the start. Try to picture in your head, where you want each element to sit.
- Have a few of your favourite (or similar sounding) well mixed tracks set up as a reference.
- Consider mixing your track in mono. It’s generally much harder than mixing in stereo due to the fact you can really only separate different instruments by using differences in their relative levels and spectral content. The results however, can work out a lot better as it becomes more important when using eq and getting the right balance.
- Use high pass and low pass filters to get rid of any unwanted frequencies before you start your mix.
- Start with the faders and pan pots to get everything balanced.
- If your not getting what you want from your faders, grab a compressor and fix those dynamics. You may have a huge difference in level between the low parts and high parts of a sound giving you an unsteady fader to work with.
- Bring in elements from the most important to least important.
- Consider starting with the kick and bass first as this will set the foundation for your mix.
- Give each element it’s own space in the mix.
- Work out what the main element in your track is and emphasize it.
- Always a/b. When adding effects like distortion, always check back to how it sounded before. Adding effects can often make things louder leading us to believe it sounds better, which is not always the case.
- When eq’ing, start with the most important element un-muting the rest one by one as you go.
- If you find that 2 instruments share the same frequencies, apply an eq cut to one of them to let the other poke through.
- Try using an eq with a sidechain function to duck certain frequencies out of the way of others instead of using a compressor. This allows you to really dial in on specific frequencies rather than the whole sound and can result in a tighter mix. I use the McDSP Ae400 for this.
- Take regular breaks and mix quietly. Will allow you to mix for longer periods.
- Always switch to mono to check that nothing disappears or becomes lost in the mix. You may have phase issues or masking problems. If you have a problem, try to fix it while still in mono. It’s then a case of going back and forth between the 2 till you find the sweet spot for your settings.
- Look up ‘K metering system’ by Bob Katz
- Above all, trust your ears. If it sounds right, it usually is.
- Try aiming for a minimum of -3dbfs headroom. I always try to aim for -6dbfs as this is what I’ve found most mastering engineers prefer.
- Always test your mix on a variety of different systems. Car, laptop, cheap headphones etc.
- Should we mix on headphones or monitors? All depends what you have available to you. I tend not to mix on headphones.
The reason I don’t mix on headphones is because it’s not a natural way of monitoring or listening. When mixing on monitors, you will hear things from the right, in your left ear and vice versa. With headphones this isn’t possible. For example; You don’t hear elements panned to the right, in your left ear.
Why is this important? Because in the real world we hear things through both ears whether it be coming from the left or the right. Our ears analyze the differences in frequency and timing between them to distinguish the direction of a sound. On headphones, this is not the case. The sound seems like it’s coming from inside your head rather than in front of you. Panned elements seem wider on headphones as well.
I use headphones to check for little artifacts in the audio that I may not hear on monitors, like clicks and pops. It’s also good to reference as well and sometimes you will notice a few other minor things you may need to change. Try to mix on monitors and use headphones for reference.
- Last but not least. Treatment of the room is as important as anything else you do. Make sure you study room acoustics and get your room treated. It makes a big difference. The bible of room acoustics. Thanks Klaus for that one http://www.johnlsayers.com/phpBB2/index.php
PINNA – Producer
Lee Pinner is a producer hailing from Manchester, England, but now lives in Cairns, Australia. He’s an admin in the Heavyweight Bass Producer Forum and loves furry pussy!