Awesome music mixing can take a well recorded track and propel it to stardom. There are many aspects you need to keep in mind when putting together a mix, from levels, eq, compression and panning to automation, effects and feel.
There are many different styles of music mixing out there and many different types of genres within those styles.
Whether you are a rock fanatic who
likes his guitars to go crazy in a mix or a hip-hop mixer that likes
his rhythms to be tight and punchy, I hope that the information and
articles below will be of help to you.
The first order of business is usually getting a rough level of all the instruments in a track. This involves trying to level things so every element can be heard clearly without empowering other instruments or letting them jump out too abrasively.
For general articles on music mixing (my thoughts and suggestions), check out the articles below:
Doing it in steps, I usually listen to what needs to be equalized next. Equalization is a very broad subject and everybody seems to have their own take on what they think sounds good.
Look the through the audio equalizer page to see an in-depth view on the different equalizers that you can use in your audio production as well as some handy tips to use in your mixes.
Your mix is beginning to sound good, but it seems to need a bit more punch. Those drums aren't quite tight enough and those vocals seem to weave in and out of intelligibility.
That's when dynamics come in. The use of compressors and gates are invaluable when it comes to making your mix breathe. Handling the peaks of uncontrollable instruments or locking a tight driving drum sound are just examples of what compressors can do.
An audio compressor is not an uncommon sight in the mixing chain and it is absolutely critical to get to know the ins and outs of compression if you are aiming for a professionally sounding mix.
Gates do not only come in handy when you need to cut away excess bleed, but they’re also valuable in a creative way. A creative way to use gates is to use their side-chain to trigger tighter bass sounds.
For more low-end power to your bass drum, check out a how to guide to side-chaining a sine wave to the kick drum.
So now your mix is finally up and running. It's been leveled up, panned around, filtered out, pumped up, and just sounds good overall. Now you have to make the mix great and really let it shine. So what's a better way to let your mix shine than with cunning and (sometimes) the subtle use of effects?
Effects such as chorus, flanger, and delay all help to make your mix more dynamic, whether it’s through the heavy use of a chorused guitar or simple vocal delay lines.
The rule of the game is to keep things interesting and although the song may be great, a little touch of subtle effects and post-production always helps.
I wanted to put reverb in the effects category but I think it's such a diverse subject that it warranted a place of it's own on this page. Reverb is in everything – whether you like it or not – so careful consideration has to be taken when working with it.
That said, it is very enjoyable to hear otherwise dull elements come to life when you add the correct reverb. So here are some thoughts on the subject of the all-mighty reverb:
For me, mixing a song is incredibly enjoyable and something I
for hours on end, or until my ears stop working.
If you're overwhelmed with mixing, check out my ebook Mixing Strategies for a guide to plan your next perfect mix.
I can tweak and experiment with different EQ's, compression, and effects until I hopefully hear on my monitors what I hear in my head. Remember to take breaks in between sessions so your ears don't get too tired. Tired ears won't be able to hear a mix as accurately as well rested ears.
So when you feel your ears getting drowsy, take a break and read up on more of the articles on the site. That way, when you come back, you return to the mixing board with fresh ears and a head full of ideas.
Mixing Strategies is an ebook that focuses on the important subjective parts of mixing music. It teaches you the philosophies of mixing and how to approach your next mixing project for a successful outcome. Get your copy of this invaluable ebook now
Need to stay productive and organized in the studio?
Grab your copy of Audio Notes, the handy audio production notebook right here