When people check out your music, you want them to be shocked. “You produced this? No WAY!” In a perfect world, we all would be able to create our songs and music exactly the way we hear them in our head or on paper. This skill takes time to hone and practice, so read on if you want to learn a few tips to mix your music how YOU want it to sound.
When I first started writing music and learning about mixing, I learned advanced techniques first. Everyone on Youtube was creating advanced tutorials on frequency related side chain compression, time based delay effects and other high-tech crap you don’t need in the beginning. In fact, many say it is better to learn the basics before moving on to more advanced theory. In my humble opinion, one may want to start by learning;
1. Gain Structure:
Music in the 60’s and early 70’s was not made digitally or recorded digitally for that matter. Sound engineers became familiar with how they wanted the music to sound, then they would mix all the instruments in a pleasing arrangement. Gain Structure is the first part of your journey in mixing great music. When Mixing music, I will mute everything except for the drum track and mix those instruments to about -6 dB. When I mix these drums “quietly,” I can then boost the entire track’s level later without anything clipping or distorting and getting a great clean sound. After adjusting each individual drum’s volume, I will reference the drums to another song in the same genre to see that they fit with the style. What I mean by this is to listen to the drums I’ve written, then play another song that sounds like something I want to make, and try to match the drum’s volumes artistically. After that, I can move on to each individual instrument and mix these to a pleasing volume. Once you finish mixing each individual track, building off of one another, the whole track should sound much more balanced.
Practice makes perfect, and don’t be afraid to research the many many ways to create your gain structure.
Gates clean up all the noise around your instruments, drums, and sounds by cutting off any sounds under a certain volume level. This is used to control noise, extra unneccessary sounds, or to artistically shape the transients (or beginning) of each sound. I like to softly gate my vocals, which will cut out a lot of breaths and similar noise from the vocals. I also like to add a gate on my drums, particularly the snare, to give it some sharp transient shaping action. Experiment and be creative with your gate placement to create cleaner sounding instruments and to really clear up your mix.
Roll off everything below 60 hz (or more!)
Seriously, except for your bass and sub bass tracks, EQ the low end of the tracks and remove the muddy bass that collects in each instrument to clean up each sound.
Roll off the high end of many instruments and then accentuate the high hats for a nice bright sounding mix. Get familiar EQ’ing each instrument in your mix, and gently turning down the frequencies you don’t need. When you are comfortable with this, it is then possible to boost what you need, including a snare drum’s 240hz frequency, guitar’s 5khz bite, or a kick drum’s 60hz bump. Use EQ to clean each instrument in your mix, and you are on your way to a seriously impressive mix.
Effects used sparingly are intelligent. Effects used frequently are cool. Whichever your flavor, use effects like delay and reverb smartly to emphasize a certain feel, emotion, or idea in your tracks, and use them deliberately. You may feel your track needs a flanger, delay and reverb on each instrument, but listeners might not appreciate the acid drip sound you have just created. Instead, try using that for just one section of the song with a creative in and out transition to make for a neat bridge or break section. Don’t be afraid to experiment and do more research to find clever ways to use each effect how you please.
If you have any more Tips for a beginner, please share them below: