Mixing is a complex subject and it’s one that involves a lot of techniques and practices. Today, I’m going to share with you one of the most important parts of mixing that will give you a better mix instantly.
The Magic Trick:
Bounce to Audio
When you finish composing a new song, whether it’s recorded in audio form, made with midi or using both, bounce your final tracks down to audio. Audio is not only a lot more stable than midi but it also makes you commit to your decisions. By working with audio you know that the audio is what you have to work with and you won’t waste time trying to change midi parts mid way through a mix.
Once you have your tracks bounced to audio, start a new fresh project and call it “song name – mix 1” or something along those lines. Now import those bounced audio tracks into the new project. Do all your standard mix preparation(naming tracks, coloring tracks etc…) and once that is complete, give your track a few listens. This time though, try to make notes about the sections in your track. For example, a epic trailer track using consists of 3 layers of intensity. You have the beginning which is a little more simple, the middle where it’s more energetic and the end where you throw everything plus the kitchen sink at it! If you can, use markers in your DAW to label all these changes. Once you have that, put all your faders down.
Avoid a Simple Danger
Before I continue, I’d like to explain something real quick. When you watch YouTube videos of pro mixers in the studio doing all these crazy techniques, you may sometimes see someone just balance a mix without putting their faders all the way down but rather moving faders up and down as they go with every instrument in the mix still playing. I’d really like to emphasize that these mix engineers have so many years of experience that their ears may have adapted to hear things this way. For the most of us, this isn’t the best way to approach mixing because it’s not the most “objective” way, meaning you can easily get lost. Try to take these videos with a pinch of salt, it’s great to watch and learn from pro’s but try not to just copy what they are doing and apply it to your mixes, what they are doing comes from evolved experience and knowledge and is heavily dependent on the music they are mixing.
Beginning a Balance
Ok, back to the task at hand! Now that you have your faders down, from your notes, start with the most important section(typically the end) and the most important instrument in that section. I usually like to start with the rhythmic instruments(drums, percussion, bass, synth arps etc…). Once you’ve found the most important instrument, slowly bring up the fader until your at a comfortable level on your monitoring system. Make sure this level is not clipping at all and bare in mind other instruments need to play at the same time, increasing the overall level so don’t go too hot. I think a good start point to aim for, depending on the source material is -12db to -6db, this gives you some head room.
Once you’ve found your fader level, go ahead and move on to the next important instrument. This time though, as you bring the fader up slowly, ask yourself “does this sound balanced?” in comparison to your last instrument. When your reach a level you can answer yes to, set the fader level here. Repeat this for all your instruments in order of importance. Once that section is done, move on to the next section and repeat the same process until all your sections of your track are complete, always asking yourself “does this sound balanced?”.
Once you’re finished, go back and compare this to your track before you balanced everything out. If done correctly you should be quite amazed at the clarity this has added to your track. Remember — balance is the most important task of mixing.
Balance is first and foremost the most important job of mixing. Using audio helps you keep a stable and effective workflow when mixing. Making notes from your track about sections and instrument importance gives you an idea of where to start the balance. Building your balance by introducing one instrument at a time gives you an objective and makes it easier to hear if something is balanced. By doing this technique, it will set a raw foundation for your track giving you a better mix instantly.…