5 Mixing Tipps that will take you from Amateur to PRO

Blog by BINDUrecords.com

For a good start we present you with these 5 tipps that can help you improve your sound mixing and mastering and make your songs sound PRO.

Spend more time on editing!

Right off the bat the probably least fun tip of them all but still valid nonetheless. Some people like to do it before mixing effects, some people after, or mix the process, but it needs to be done: Choppin up your takes and aligning them perfectly. This goes for drums, vocals, live instruments and anything, really. Being precise and having patience during the editing of your arrangement can turn your mix from Zero to Hero. Make sure doubles voices are exactly corresponding with the wavesforms. Remove breaths and noises from your takes and don't use noise gates where it doesn't sound good. Chop up vocal takes in lines, words and syllables, depending on how much movement is needed to make it sit on the beat. It is not unusual that bars have to be dragged around, because most singers are slightly off beat from time to time. Correcting all the ever so slight differences can make your song stand out and sound larger than life in the end.

Master Compressor-timing!

Make conscious adjustments to your compressor's attack and release time that are in tune with your tracks tempo and style. Pay special attention to the subliminal changes in sound. A longer release time on vocals will make them sound more ducked. Find the sweet spot where the vocals don't overpower the mix but still cut through. Don't be shy when compressing. These days many signals will run through 3 compressors or more just during the mixing stage. During mastering the whole thing will likely again be compressed and smashed with limiters. The better you set you attack and release times, the more gain reduction you will be able to make without flawing the sound. Especially in the digital domain multiple compressors doing 2-3 dB of gain reduction tend to work better than one doing a lot. More about this soon to come in our compression blog post. This topic leads us right to the next hot tip for mixing:

Use limiters to tame your mix!

There’s a myth that limiters are not to be used during the mixing process and are only to be applied at the very end of the master. That’s pretty far from the truth, because like explained in our mastering FAQ's, you will have to make your mix sound loud and not just rely on mastering for that. If your rap vocals are not sounding tough enough, you might need a hard limiter that takes away the peaks before running into the softer compressor you were using. You might be able to give your drums the punch they’ve been missing by using a limiter with slow attack times. You might need to tame your bassline with a soft limiter when a compressor isn’t doing the job. Even on singing vocals a peak limiter can make a compressor that comes after sound more natural, because it’s not being hit with strong peaks that make it work too much. The trick is to always keep your mind open and listen to what sounds best.

Sidechaining!?

Another topic that justifies for an entire blog entry. It may sound simple at first but the true value comes from knowing when and where exactly to use it. Sidechaining a compressor means, you are feeding two signals into it simultaneously, one which is being compressed, and one which is triggering the compressor. Figuratively speaking this means when you compress a bassline, you can trigger the compressor by feeding the kickdrum into the sidechain input. Now the compressor will compress the bass only when the kickdrum hits, giving it space in the low end frequency range and enabling both kick and bassline to stand out at the same time. Just like that a bus-compressor on an instrumental track can be triggered by a vocal track to make the beat and the vocals merge. Try to use a very slight ratio somewhere between 1:1.01 and 1:1.1. Most of the time I will find myself using a ratio somewhere around 1:1.03. If your compressor can not give you those low ratio settings it might not be suited for sidechaining an entire bus through it. You can still try to use it with minimal gain reduction. But more about that on our follow-up post on the perfect compression.

Mental Mastery

This is actually the most important tipp overall. Making music and mixing is a mental exercise before anything else. Our mind is like a muscle, meaning that it needs rest, otherwise it will adapt to frequency responses and give you an altered perception of reality. Because of that listening breaks of more than a few hours are crucial to asses the song with a fresh mind. If you are working on a mix for longer than one hour, chances are you are not making strong improvements any more and are rather pushing your song towards sounding thin and lifeless.

Just like working out your body, your mind also needs experience and training for being able to judge a mix objectively. Every change you make in a mix should be a conscious one and a clear improvement. Good sound is about letting the soul of the music stand out, not about what should be done in theory. Some engineers will remain technicians forever because they always follow the theory perfectly but never listen to the music with their heart. Don't be that guy, follow your heart and your ears when making music, don't be restricted to what you think you should be doing technically.