Often times, mixing basically comes down to making sure all your tracks sound great as one. How you achieve that result is up to you, but it needs to involve one main thing: shaping your sounds.
Instead of just making sure all your tracks sound great and your levels don’t reach the red, working on how every single track sounds is your best bet to a great mix. Here’s how.
Take Your Time And Isolate Each Track
The beauty of mixing is that you can really take your time to work on each track individually, as you should. Over the years, I have made the mistake of just trying to make all my tracks sound nice, but never really shaped each sound the way I should have.
Now it’s time to do it.
I recently saw a tutorial about Izotope’s Alloy 2 and it makes total sense to me – shape your sounds. In the case of Alloy 2, it’s a transient shaper, so you can do some nice stuff with it.
No matter what software you use, the first thing you will want to do is work on the EQ band. Each track needs to have the right band frequencies, otherwise your mix will end up sounding “muddy”.
Here is a guide as to what frequency certain instruments belong to:
- 50-60 Hz: kick drum, bass
- 100-200 Hz: snare, richness
- 200-500 Hz: guitar, piano, vocals, warmness
- 500-1000 Hz: nice tone to many instruments
- 2 kHz: clarity to guitar and vocals
- 5-10 kHz: clarty, give openness to snares
Once you go higher than 10 kHz, only superhumans can really hear it, so don’t worry too much. 🙂
Reverb And Compression Are Your Friends
We all know how it goes: too much reverb and it sounds like you’re on a mountaintop, too much compression and it sounds like it was processed on an assembly line.
Reverb is really, really, awesome. I once had the chance to play with an ASR-10 and it had a reverb setting on it that I would call “infinity” (I can’t remember the actual name), and it was like the reverb was endless. It sounded great on certain instruments like a snare drum, but I can see how a person can get carried away with it.
However, if done right – reverb sounds great. When I first started making beats I didn’t use any effects at all. I still don’t use much, but one trick that always make the snare drum sound better is to add just a touch of reverb to it.
Compression, on the other hand, is a great tool but is often overused. Every single time I read an article or watch a video about mixing, all I hear about is compression this and compression that, like as if compression is the end all of effects. The truth is, compression only needs to be used when actually needed, for example, on the master channel when adding effects to the entire mix.
Shaping Each Sound
It’s important to isolate each track and muting the others so you can give all your attention to just that single one. By setting the right EQ, then adding just enough reverb, or any other effect (if needed), each sound from each track will sound perfect.
But of course, you have to occasionally check in with your other tracks.
As you’re working on each track, go ahead every so often and unmute everything else so you can hear how the track sounds along with the rest. You could just work on each one right until the end, then surprise yourself by playing them all back together, but it’s best to check everything progressively.
There are two main goals that you want to achieve:
- Shape each sound.
- Make it sound great.
For example, if you have a Piano track, you could run it through a plug-in that will make it sound dirty or clean, and also EQ it so it will sit perfectly in the mix with everything else. There is no need to rush this process, it’s not a race. The entire mixing process could take days, if you want it to. Most producers will coast through their mix and not actually take the time to concentrate on each track.
But it makes a big difference.
When I get beat and song submissions, I delete the ones that were horribly mixed. For some, it’s not just the mix itself, but the actual recording – it’s just really bad. If the mix is on point though, then guess what? It sounds VERY professional, and I will definitely check it out and help promote it.
Track isolation is the key to having a great mix. Don’t rush through the mixing process because if you do, your mix will be subpar and could cost you beat sales. Good luck!