Try Something New In Your Mix Or Production: 7 Great Unconventional Tips

You may have read many tutorials on production and mixing and you have ┬áprobably used conventional techniques in your productions and mixes. Usually, it’s a good idea to follow conventional thought (clean up the mud across channels with a low cut eq, start with mixing the drums first, compress your room mics, etc). But sometimes, don’t be afraid to try out something different. Here are a few things you might want to try on your next production

1. Use A Different Microphone Or Preamp For Background Vocals

Let’s say for your lead vocals you are using your most expensive, bright condenser microphone. Why not use a different microphone or preamp for the background vocals, maybe something darker or warmer. Often, you can get a richer mix with more depth to your vocals this way without having to resort to using aggressive eq and stacks of plugins to create density.

2. Old Tape

Do you have an old cassette deck lying around, or maybe an old VCR machine? Connect it to your sound card, print a loop, pad section or synth to your tape machine, then import it back into your daw. A bit of hiss and saturation from your tape deck can help add some atmosphere to your recording, especially to hip hop/R&B tracks.

3. Add Noise/Samples

If you are programming your own beats, try to get creative. Take a sample of an air conditioning noise, pitch it down, filter out the highs and drop it into your beat, it could add cool dirt to your track. Maybe you can record whitenoise off your TV and then run it through a combination of filter and wacky delay plugins. Take a rooster sample, pitch it down, reverse it, fiddle with the attack, etc, then layer it with a kick or snare drum. Experiment with weird things like this and you might come across something very unique and cool for a specific track.

(use common sound and foley effects in an unconventional way, mangle the samples up, time stretch them, pitch them and filter them for interesting effects)

Audio sample library

4. Sample Your Own Instruments

Do you have an old guitar or ukulele lying around? Why not sample one clean note, pitch it an octave up or down, add a lush reverb or delay to it and play it like a piano on your keyboard. Now your have a unique instrument to experiment with. You can do the same thing with your voice. Try sampling an ah, ooh or any odd sound you can come up with. Drop it into a software synth, add an arpeggitator, add a distortion and reverb plugin and you’ve got something totally cool and unique.

Record your own guitar samples

5. Unconventional Effects

Don’t always do what everyone else is doing. Why not try running a synth patch through a guitar amp and recording it back to your daw? Maybe you could run a vocal through a stomp box distortion pedal? Or let’s get really weird, why not try detuning your guitar and then running it through Autotune on an aggressive setting? Think outside of the box and you never know what you will come up with. Some of the coolest musical ideas I’ve come up with over the years were strictly by accident by experimenting and using gear as it was not meant to be used.

6. Vocal Stacks/Harmonies

If you are recording all your own vocal doubles and harmonies, you can try a few creative ideas to help you get a unique, richer sound. Let’s say you have just doubled or tripled the main chorus vocals. For an additional take (probably a good idea to open a new session), pitch shift the song a full step up or down and record the new vocal. Them import that vocal back into your regular session and pitch it up or down to match your regular vocal (with your daw pitch shifter). Although the vocal itself may sound a little bit artificial, when it’s in he mix with your regular background vocals it can make that particular part sound as if it was performed by a different vocalist, therefore adding a different depth and texture to your mix. You can try this with vocal harmonies too.

Edit your own wav samples

7. Unconventional Patching

If you are like many producers/mixers, chances are that you have a template to work off in your daw. You probably have your effect sends set up for delays, reverbs, chorus and other conventional effects in your mixer. If you want to really get creative, why not try stacking plugins as you normally would never do. Try putting a harmonizer or distortion plugin on one of your reverb return channels and run vocals or an instrument channel through it to see what that would sound like. Maybe you can crank auto tune on a delay return channel that is used for your main vocal.  Maybe you can try putting an exciter plugin on a reverb or chorus effects return. With instruments, you can do the same thing. Try recording a guitar as you would play a bass then put a lower pitch shift plugin, distortion, tube saturation and filter plugin on it. Then you can layer this part over top of your synth bass track and you now have a more dynamic, thicker and livelier track in your mix.

(Reason 7 comes with a great selection of plugins. It’s patching system allows you to create very unique effects, easily and quickly. If you don’t like what you hear, undo it and stack a few more plugins or rack extensions.)

Reason 7 rack view

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