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10 Things to Do in Every Mix

Transcript
Hello everybody. Hope you’re doing marvelously well. In this episode, we’re going to come up with ten things that the pros do in every single mix.

[music]

Please, as ever, subscribe, hit the notifications bell, and you’ll be notified when we have a new video. So number one, proper gain staging. The last thing we want to do is do something like this.

[piano, distorting]

Horrible, clipping, going to our master buss is not pretty. You do that on multiple outputs, and it’s going to sound horrible.

Number two, create busses. This will really help you quickly and creatively mix your song.

Okay, as you can see here, I’ll just demonstrate it, I have a piano buss. I also have strings. So there, for instance, we have multiple string outputs all going to one buss.

[strings]

So if I want to control that, it’s so much easier. Once I have my blend, same thing for drums, same thing for any instrument. Once you have your blend you love, buss them together, and then you’ll have overall control of that instrument.

So buss your drums, buss your bass, buss your keys, buss your acoustic guitars, your electric guitars, your programming, create busses. You’re then going to give yourself a lot of control and be able to move really quickly through the mixing process.

Three, use high pass filters properly. This is a big one. Using high pass properly. Gets rid of unwanted noises like AC and rumble. It’s particularly a problem in vocals, background vocals, percussion, and other such instruments. Use high passing properly and you’ll open up the low end to let the kick and the bass guitar and other instruments down there really breathe properly.

Here, for instance, I have an electric guitar, which has a gentle slope at 100.

[guitar]

If I bypass it, that just sounds thinner, because I’ve boosted the fundamentals but I high passed at 100, allowing — gently high pass there — allowing the bass guitar and the kick to breathe more. If you boost the fundamental low end in a signal and enhance that, you can get rid of the low rumble in the guitar and any other signal that you do this to will sound much fatter.

[guitars]

Here for instance, on the vocal…

[vocals]

Rolling off at 97, just gently getting rid of that. Unwant it, I’ll take it off.

[vocals]

Back on, audibly made absolutely no difference, but what it may do is just get rid of some super low frequencies that were in the way. I’m not expecting it to make a huge difference on its own, but on a track, the buildup of a lot of low frequency like that in tons of different instruments could cause a lot of problems.

Number four, focus and control your low end.

So for instance, the kick drum, maybe boost it at about 60Hz, the bass typically there’ll be a little boost at 80. There’s going to be a crossover area at about 100 and 110 which you want to pull out. You also might at around 60 on the bass just do a gentle slope to remove that. That will clear low end.

Having the bass and the kick drum overlap each other will not give you more low end, it will give you a lot of mud, and a lot of masking of frequencies, so proper low end control is fantastic.

So here, you see your kick, which illustrates everything we’re talking about.

[kick]

It’s actually high passed at 39, because there’s a super low kick here.

[low kick]

But there’s an 11dB cut — huge cut at 100Hz, because that is where the bass is living.

So here, we see the bass synth plugin. It’s gently high passed at 60Hz, out of the way of the kick drum, there’s still some crossover area here, and the kick drum has 110 pulled out of it.

Between those two things, they get out of each other’s way.

[bass synth and kick]

Simple management of the low end will really help your mix, and it’s something the professionals do really, really well.

Number five, compression. Use it in stages. Now, this is a big one, and I get asked about this all the time.

For instance, if you go to my vocal buss here, you’ll see there’s multiple instances of serial compression. That’s a compressor followed by another compressor. First of all, we have a Waves Renaissance compressor.

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[vocals, compression]

Which is giving us about three to four dB of compression. Next, we have a Renaissance Vox, also by Waves, which is giving us, again…

[vocals, compressed]

Probably about another three to four dB of compression. Now, we use this because each compressor has a different characteristic.

Next up, we have another R-Comp on the actual vocal compression buss.

[vocal buss]

None of these individual compressors is doing more than three, possibly four dB. In fact, this last one was doing more like two dB. What they are each doing is providing gradual amounts of compression, pushing the vocal forward without choking it. A single compressor trying to do eight or 10dBs worth of gain reduction will probably choke it, and with only one set of attack and release times set, won’t work in every single situation.

That’s the other thing about using serial compression is you can use different attack and release times. The compressors come in at different times and release them. So in this blend of drums, which is electronic, and some real elements, there’s a drum sub here.

[drum sub]

So individual channels are processed with compression, but the drum sub itself, all the drums grouped together, has another set of compression going. Then, at the very end, on the master buss, there’s a separate set of compression. So you can use small amounts of compression very often. You can use it in series on your channel, and you can run it into a buss, and then that buss sends to the master buss.

Small amounts of compression used often will really get the track to feel like its got a ton of energy.

Number six, use plugins not only for the purpose they were intended, IE, compression and EQ, but also use them for their sonic characteristics. If you look at the mix for instance that we’ve got going here, you can see that I’ve got an API EQ, a very famous EQ. It has its own sonic characteristic, but also, there’s many, many others. These EQs and compressors each have their own sonic characteristic. Many of you have watched tutorials with professional mixers, and you’ve seen them open up plugins and do one dB of gain reduction.

It causes a lot of consternation, and quite often, joke videos. The reality is is that it might only do one dB of gain reduction, or two dB, or it might only boost a dB or two here and there, but also what it’s doing is adding another sonic characteristic. You might be adding additional saturation. These are all things that will take your mix to another level.

Number seven, don’t be afraid to use parallel compression. Parallel compression is your friend. The secret to use parallel compression is to not necessarily have it that loud.

If you take your drum mix and then duplicate the sub, you can squash the sub really dramatically, and then pull it up very lightly underneath, and it will add so much energy to your drums. People will do this on their 2buss. You can do this on your 2buss mix and duplicate it so your whole mix is returning on a master fader, and there’s a duplicate of that master fader which has parallel compression on it. Really heavy parallel compression, destroying the mix when turned up, but brought down really lightly can add some extra energy, glue, and just excitement to the mix.

One of my personal favorite uses of parallel compression is on acoustic guitars when playing arpeggios. Arpeggios, when played lightly, are very uneven. So, if you parallel compress the acoustic guitar very heavily, and then introduce it underneath, it will add energy to every single individual picked note, as it’s being played, giving it more articulation.

So use parallel compression where you can. Experiment on it everywhere that you want, because in a low level situation, it can do amazing things.

Number eight, pan your instruments to create space and width in your mixes.

One of the biggest secrets that professional mixers do is utilize width in the chorus, and then narrow the verses. It seems very simplistic to explain, but it’s very straightforward. You can just take your verse guitars and go 50%, and then when the chorus comes up, go full 100, and suddenly, you’re using the full stereo width.

Panning is your friend. It’s not only there to do things like help those choruses stand out from the verses, but it’s also there for other reasons, such as giving a defined center.

So if you pan your instruments around your kick, your snare, your vocal, and your bass guitar, all things that traditionally and most of the time work really well in the center, you’re creating space in the center for those instruments, and that vocal to sit.

So get into panning to create space. Having a mix that stays completely stationary in the panning can be good, but there’s nothing more exciting than hearing things move wide to create extra dynamics and excitement in a mix.

Nine, use reverbs and delays to create additional space and depth. You’ll find very, very often that many professionals will use tons and tons of reverbs and delays, however, they may have three or four reverbs and/or delays on the vocals at all time, but they’re using them in different levels. They’ll push up the reverb in a chorus where it gets denser, but in a verse, it will come down. The secret to using reverbs and delays is to not only create a cavernous effect, which is very obvious to make something sound dated, you know, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s style recording, it is there to create space and depth.

Spatial depth. Just the right amount of reverbs and delays can really help place your instrument or your vocal in a mix. A lot of the times, those reverbs and delays are barely audible until they’re muted. There will be times, as I was explaining earlier, where you want a retro sounding track, and so you’ll have a lot of reverbs that sound super 30’s or 40’s or 50’s, but other times, the effect is just there to create some separation and help the instrument or the vocal feel like it’s inhabiting its own space.

Number ten, and possibly the most important thing, professionals use automation.

Automation really is the secret key to taking your mix to the next level. Just EQ and compressing your track really, really super flat is great. You can go in there and you can add more instruments to create dynamics, however, pushing your kick and snare up in the choruses when it gets denser is a straightforward thing to do with automation. However, it can be even more than that.

As a separate guitar part maybe comes in and out and weeds through your mix, the snare might be covered by that, so you’re going to have to get there and automate a snare up here and there.

Not everything is solved by using compressors. Making everything as loud as each other using compression and limiting is not going to make your mix sound incredibly professional. It’ll make it sound like a big blob and a big square wave, but you want to get in there and automate and create interest. That’s a big, big deal. Creating interest. Making things come and go, so get in there at the end of your mix, and spend some time doing some automation. Finding out things that are covered that still need to be audible, pushing them up, deciding when something needs to be featured, like a guitar part needs to come up like a riff in the middle of a main guitar part needs to be featured, and then the opposite.

Finding when a rhythm guitar shouldn’t be featured, should maybe just be supportive of a piano part. That’s all things that come with automation.

So have a great time recording and mixing, and remember, one of the most important things if you really want to mix professionally is make sure you’re mixing the right things.

Record everything the way you want to hear it. Record the parts so that when you come to mix, they make sense. Now, obviously, if you’re mixing somebody else’s work, don’t be afraid to mute.

Quite often, I’ll get something to mix, which has five different guitar parts on each side, and they’re playing conflicting parts. They might be in tune and the parts might fit together, but my ear doesn’t know where to go, so sometimes, automation can also mean muting.

So if it’s your own production, think that way, if you’re mixing somebody else’s stuff, and you want to give them the best results, sometimes muting is the key to a great mix.

Thank you ever so much for watching. I really appreciate it. Please download the cheat sheet. It’s got all of the things we’ve just talked about in great detail. So go and download that. Have a marvelous time recording and mixing, I will see you again very soon.

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Warren Huart

Warren Huart

Warren Huart is an English record producer/musician/composer and recording engineer based in Los Angeles, California. Learn more at producelikeapro.com.

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