Let’s face it, many globally renowned superstars did not become famous on the backs of their voices alone. They get help from hero’s behind the scenes such as record producers and mixing engineers to make them sound the way they do! No matter where you are in your journey in music, getting better sounding mixes for your productions will always help. Here are some mixing tips that will make your music sound better, so you do too!
Know your frequency cheat sheet
When it comes to mixing vocals, you should know where certain sounds in the human voice live and how they affect vocals. This will ensure that you make precise adjustments rather than just guessing. There are five frequencies that you should experiment with and see how they affect your mix. These are 120 Hz for Fullness, 5 kHz for Presence, 240 Hz for Boominess, 10 to 15 kHz for the Air and sheen, and 4 to 7 kHz for Sibilance. While playing around with these different frequencies to fix any sounds, always listen to what sounds best.
Saturate, saturate and saturate some more!
The term “Saturation” often refers to plugins and analog gear that add rich overtones and harmonics with a little distortion, so that a vocal or instrument has more thickness and sounds exciting in the process. With more saturation, you can push an element to be more in-your-face, which gives it more edge if you want it to stand out among dense music. If you are going to enhance a dull sound, play with the saturation settings while mixing, and have some fun.
A de-esser can control sibilant frequencies, which is the hissing “s” sound that naturally occurs with the human voice. In recordings, the sibilance sounds harsh, and a 4 to 7 kHz frequency cut done intelligently can do wonders. The right plugin can produce clarity by boosting the top end of the EQ and controlling it with a de-esser to reduce the “s” sound.
Panning out the drum-kit is an essential way to expand the stereo spectrum because you do not want all tracks fighting for attention. This is necessary if you are working with many instruments and various elements. There needs to be a place for them all in the stereo spectrum, which is why you need to pan everything around until you strike a harmonious balance. Make sure not to tip the instrumental balance too much to the right or left. Find an equilibrium that sounds good and create a little separation.
Equalization is the most powerful tool after panning and leveling a mix. This enhances the sonic colors of instruments so that you can hear them with more clarity. It cuts and repairs unwanted frequencies while boosting the fundamental characteristics of a mix. Use a resonant boost and low-pass filters, especially for guitars, to filter the highs to the high-mids. Keep your boosts minimal and raise the volume if you cut more to boost the remaining frequencies. It also helps to group instruments together and then EQ’ing them, which means less work on separate tracks.
Try a low 2:1 ratio when it comes to simple vocal compression. This will tighten the vocals without pushing it so that it remains dynamic and breathable. Mix the loudest part of the song and loop it by using all your limiters and compressors until it sounds heavenly. The quieter verses do not need more compression, and you can simply automate those phrases with a higher volume.
Apart from panning from left to right, elements need to be positioned from back to front as well to create space in a mix. You can use effects like delay, chorus, and reverb, which will create more depth. This way, you will not have to suffer listening to a two-dimensional sound because you will have more diversity of exciting audio effects.
Did these mixing tips help? Let us know if they did, and if you want to take your Mixing game to the next level, check out our Mixing for Movement Workshop with mixing engineer Gaurav Chintamani!