After spending hours and hours on your musical compositions, you will want to be able to at least rough mix your work so potential artist can best capture the sonic picture you’re trying to paint. These small tips will help get your work in the arena without having to be a mixing master.
I bring to you, 11 Ways To Improve Your Mix Instantly:
1. Proper Gain Staging
Gain Staging is a crucial element often overlooked in the mixing process. It is important to make sure you have all tracks and instruments at an optimal level in order to save headroom on the track faders. Optimal peak for each instrument should be no greater than -6db. Every DAW on the market should have some utility to accomplish this within the DAW itself.
For example, in Pro Tools, I like to use the clip gain feature to make every sound peak at -6db. This will bring some quieter sounds up to optimal level and some louder sounds down. This will save you headroom and stop you from jacking up the fader all the way to the top when you have a sound that’s way too quiet and vice versa with louder sounds. Overall this will help save you time and effort as you get into the mix down the road.
- Eliminating Unnecessary Frequencies
Just because you can hear or see certain frequencies on high and low frequency instruments, doesn’t mean that they aren’t there. Get in the habit of eliminating unneeded frequencies that can cloudy or muddy up your mix. For example, in a female vocal it is common to low cut all the way up to 120 Hz.
Though the vocal does contain these frequencies, they aren’t necessary for the function of the sound. The same goes for low bass instruments like 808s. Getting rid of some of the top end is needed in order for it not to interfere with other instruments that may need to take up that frequency range. When doing these tasks be careful however, cutting out too much can make some instruments sound too brittle and thin.
- Slotting And Feathering
In order to get things to pop and add clarity, it is important to make sure every instrument has it own respective space in the mix. Knowing the functional and fundamental frequencies of the instruments you are using can be dire especially in the mix. In essence, you want to make sure that two or more instruments are not fighting for the same frequencies and masking each other.
This creates mud and cloudiness, not allowing the true beauty of your sounds to shine through and eliminates the clarity you want. Another technique to accomplish this space and separation would be a process called feathering. This is where you have two or more instruments taking up the same frequency range so you split the difference. Give one instrument some of the range and the other instrument the rest; thereby, giving each instrument its own respective space in the competing ranges.
- Adding Depth and Dimension
In order to complete a sonic vision, it is important to make sure your mix doesn’t sound 2 dimensional. You have volume, which is giving you one dimension vertically. The other dimension is panning which is giving you horizontal perception. Another dimension often left out is depth giving you front to back perception. Some great ways to create this perception is using reverb and delay in the right way.
Whether it’s a Room, Chamber, Hall or Plate, reverb effectively creates the illusion of depth and makes instrumentals sound a lot more interesting and real. This is because we are used to hearing certain sounds with natural reverb and reflections. This absence of this to the listener can make some instruments sound unnatural or out of place. Another key is to make sure your reverb and delay times are in time with the track you’re creating. This will make your overall track sound a lot cleaner and tighter.
- Avoid Over Compression
Compression can be a great tool for getting sounds to have punch and feel thicker but too much compression can ruin a mix. Knowing when and when not to compress is crucial to this ideal. Even more critical knows what you are trying accomplish with compression.
Is it leveling compression you want to accomplish? Or maybe it’s envelope compression you are after? Knowing when you’ve compressed too much can be hard to tell initially. With ear training however you can train your ear to listen for the tall tell signs of over compression. For example, when sounds start to sound like they are “pumping” it is a good sign you’ve over compressed.