Mixing Tips For Newbie Mixers And Producers, Part 1

So you want to produce and makes your own music. Well I have to tell you, mixing a song properly is an art form in itself. You can spend years and thousands of hours to master the art of mixing. If you are an up-and-coming producer and mixer let me help get you on the right track to success.

Monitoring

I can’t stress the importance of mixing in an accurate environment. A big mistake that many up-and-coming engineers encounter is setting up their studio monitors in an untreated room. Your bass is going to sound off, and you won’t be able to place the vocals and other instruments properly in the the mix.  I will suggest you search online for a few basic tutorials on how you can build your own bass traps and diffusers for about a couple of hundred dollars. If treating your room is not an option that I would suggest that you invest in proper mixing headphones. The key is to purchase the flattest sounding headphones that you can afford that are a semi open design which are great for mixing. On the high end of the spectrum you can invest in a set of sign Sennheiser HD 800 headphones or Beyerdynamic T1 headphones. On the lower end of the scale which are still a bit pricey  if you are on a budget are the Akai K701 or the Sennheiser HD 650′s.

If you absolutely insist on mixing in an untreated room, you should at the least, mix on small monitors, at low levels. This should minimize the damage of audio waves bouncing all around your room affecting what you hear in the mix.

The Mix

Many new engineers begin attacking their sounds with too much compression and too much eq. If you are not experienced, you are going to get a small, brittle and harsh mix if you go this route. If you are just starting out, start with the basics. I’m going to show you how to get a decent sounding mix without compression and just by adding a low cut filter eq (or high pass filter eq, same thing), adjusting levels and panning. This is just for practising purposes. If you can master this technique, then you could move on to more advanced methods. But if this is the first time your are mixing a song, you should really practice this.

Let’s assume we have a very basic song consisting of a kick, snare, hi hat, bass, 1 synth, 1 guitar and a lead vocal. Let’s start with the kick sound.

(this is a screenshot of Cubase. But what ever DAW you are working with, just select a low cut filter plugin)

Low cut filter eq

Solo the kick and try filtering everything below 40 HZ.That usually starts to clean the sound a little bit. Now introduce the bass, and do the same thing. Balance the 2 with levels. Solo the hi hat, and filter everything below 100 HZ  and work your way up. Listen to see how much you can cut without negatively affecting the sound. Now begin to introduce a new sound, let’s say a synthesizer. Once again, solo it and apply a low cut filter. You can try filtering everything below 100 HZ and start going as high as 500 HZ. Use your ears, is it thinning out the sound too much? In that case, slide the filter lower to a point where it just cleans the sound. Now unsolo the sound and bring it into the mix. Bring the fader down, and slowly bring it up to an acceptable level in relation to the kick and drums. Now introduce another sound, let’s say a guitar. Do the same thing, filter everything below 100HZ and work your way up to where you cleaned up the sound, but didn’t thin it out in a bad way. Now bring up the lead vocals, and once again filter everything below 100 HZ and put it in the mix. Listen to your mix, and think about panning decisions. Your kick, snare and lead vocals should be in the centre. With other sounds (percussion, synths, pads, pianos, guitars), try playing around with pan position. You might want to pan a guitar part full to the right, or 3/4ths to the right and balance that sound with a synth sound slightly to the left. You should strive for a full, balanced mix.

Cubase mixer

Once you have mastered this very basic technique, then you can move on and really practice the art of mixing.

Stay tuned for advanced mixing techniques in my next post.

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