A Quick Fix For Music Mixers

Anyone who makes or produces a lot of music will inevitably develop a preferred way of doing things, and they will tend to apply the same workflow processes to every mixing project. For example, I tend to automatically slap a compressor on the bass track before even listening to it – which works fine most of the time, as I can then tweak the various settings – such as attack, release and threshold – to suit the particular track. However, there are times when it might be better to take a step back, dump all the insert habits and build up a very basic mix without any effects or panning. This can be a particularly useful approach when you’re having a bad mix day and nothing seems to sound right…

What you need to do is start by resetting your mixing console – turn off all effects, set all pan pots to centre and bring all the faders down to zero. Then the best place to begin is with the kick drum – bring it up so that it’s a few dB below peak. Now you can bring up the snare so that it sits well with the kick, and then the hi-hat at a slightly lower level.

Now that there’s a simple rhythm track, you can bring in the bass to a level where it locks in with the kick. The two should be now complementing each other, but make sure to keep all levels away from the nasty clipping zone.

Mix It Some More – Careful With That Axe, Eugene

With the bed in place, try bringing in the guitars. Rhythm guitars do have quite a wide frequency spread and can take up a lot of the low- to mid-range bands, so be careful not to bring them up too loud. Lead guitar may occupy a higher range, which should prevent it fighting for room in the busier areas of the mix. As this is all in mono, getting the levels just right should be that bit easier (and more important).

Keyboards, synths and various electronic wheezings can also hog your bandwidth, and may clash with guitars and bass. Be careful not to overdo the levels on these, and this is where some judicious use of EQ may well be necessary at a later stage, depending on the track. However, if it sounds good at this stage then the hardest part is probably over, and you can bring in any extra percussion that might be left in the drum kit.

At this point, the vocal should be brought in, and at a level where it is clear and distinct. Depending on the vocalist, a compressor may be vital to catch those stray surges and transients that peak above the bulk of the vocals, but try to set the threshold as high as you can get away with here. Many engineers tend to boost vocals slightly at 5kHz to enhance presence, but you can often achieve the same result by cutting slightly at 250Hz.

Fix It In The Mix

Now, you should have a reasonably decent rough mono mix, which can be a starting point for picking out areas of weakness that need further work. You can now pan the percussion left and right as appropriate, and separate the guitars if required. Adding a little bit of reverb on the guitars might lend the mix a bit more space. Now, if the band are begging for something to listen to, this might keep them quiet for a few days and allow you to get to work identifying and fixing any problem areas.

Some good mixing tips can be found in this article at Hometracked.


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