Quick Tips for a Better Studio Mix
The Concept of Mixing
Ultimately, mixing is just putting elements together in a manner that is pleasant to listen to. It’s a simple concept, so why does it seem so hard to master? There’s much more that goes into a mix than what meets the eye (or ear). Here are just a few tips on how to get your mix sounding better.
Get it right at the source (Garbage In, Garbage Out)!
With all the advancements in recording technology, the idea of “studio magic” or “fixing it in the mix” has become hardwired in the minds of many producers and engineers. Although there is a nugget of truth to this, the hard reality is this: You can’t make treasure out of trash.
Have bad sounding drums? You will have a bad sounding drum recording. Have a bad sounding guitar? You will have a bad sounding guitar recording. Do you see a theme unfolding here?
Every decision made during the tracking process will ultimately affect the sound of the final mix. Did you put fresh heads on the drums before tracking? Did you change the strings on that guitar before every song? Was the guitar professionally set up before recording? Is the intonation of the guitar correct? Can the person playing actually perform the song correctly?
All these things that may seem “obsessive” can determine how the mix turns out.
Keep it simple!
Levels, Panning, EQ, and Compression: these are the foundational tools for creating a great mix. Before you check out complex mixing techniques such as parallel compression, or MS processing, you need to get your basics down. You can make a great mix only using those 4 elements. They are your bread and butter. Before you reach for that sub-harmonic generator side chained to multi-band exciter on the parallel drum bus, make sure you’ve got a good mix using just the ‘Big Four’.
A place for everything and everything in its place
Realizing that every instrument has a full range of frequencies is the first step to understanding that those instruments don’t need all those frequencies all of the time. Does it seem like your kick can never be loud and punchy enough? Maybe there are frequencies in the bass and guitar that are stepping all over your fundamental kick frequency. Do the vocals seem to disappear when adding them to the mix? Maybe there’s too much midrange in your guitars. Understanding that every instrument has frequency points associated with them is the first step to “carving” out spaces so each instrument has a home where it lives. And above all else, learn to trust your own ears.