Last updated on June 4, 2020 by

Have you spent hours learning about mixing, but feel like you’re not getting anywhere?

If you feel overwhelmed right now, and aren’t sure where you’re going wrong, watch now, because you’re about to learn the only 16 mixing tips you’ll ever need.

After teaching almost a million musicians about mixing, I can tell you from experience that with just these 16 mixing tips, you can start making music at home that sounds professional and radio-ready.

Have you spent hours learning about mixing, but feel like you're not getting anywhere? If you feel overwhelmed right now, and aren't sure where you're going wrong, watch now, because you're about to learn the only 16 mixing tips you'll ever need. After teaching almost a million musicians about mixin

 

Spent hours learning about mixing but feel like you are not getting anywhere? If you feel overwhelmed right now and you are not really sure where you are going wrong, keep watching, because in this video, you are going to learn the only 16 mixing tips that you’ll ever need. After teaching almost a million musicians about mixing, I can tell you from experience that with just these 16 mixing tips you can produce music at home that sounds professional and radio ready. But first be sure to grab the free mixing cheat sheet that will help you to remember and implement these 16 tips, because the key is in the execution. So if you truly want your music to sound professional, be sure to grab that free cheat sheet, there’s a link in the description below or on screen now.

Okay, let’s dive right in.

Tip number 1: Get it right at the source. Now, you’ve probably heard this before, don’t fix it in the mix, make sure you get good sound in the recording phase. I really can’t stress the importance of this enough. Technically, this isn’t a mixing trick, but we need to think about this for a second. A good track is 80% recording and 20% mixing, it’s like a good meal – start with bad ingredients that are rotting and disgusting and horrible, and no matter how good of a chef you are, the end result isn’t going to taste good. Ugh! So if you are recording and mixing the same track, make sure you’ve got good ingredients, spend loads of time on the recording phase, put all of your effort there and then mixing will be easy.

Mixing tip number 2 is to get the balance right first. In the same way that 80% of the quality and the final track comes from the recording phase, about 80% of the mix comes from the volume balance. You need to get this right, you need to set a solid foundation and spend 10, 20, 30 minutes on the volume balance alone. And then it’s something you are constantly readdressing throughout the mixing process and using automation, because you can never get a perfect balance for the whole song. You need to use automation, because in some sections maybe that guitar is a little too loud, you need to bring it down a bit. So make sure you get a solid balance before you even think about EQ or compression or anything else.

Mixing tip number 3: Time is of the essence. Mixing is a race against the clock. Every second you are mixing, you are losing objectivity, you are losing perspective of what the mix really is, and you also are succumbing to ear fatigue, especially if you are mixing at volumes that are too high. And we will come back to that in a second. So make the most of every second, spend plenty of time preparing the mix, I spend probably two hours just preparing the mix before I even start mixing and that allows you to mix fast and efficiently.

Mixing tip number 4: Focus on the key elements. Don’t spend an hour EQing, compressing a [inaudible 00:02:44] like a tambourine in the background at low end of the mix. Spend most of your time and energy on the overall mix as a whole. One thing is like mix bus processing, group processing, and then spend loads of time and energy on the vocals, the lead guitar, the snare, the stuff that matters, the stuff that drives the song forward and the stuff that the listeners focus on.

Mixing tip number 5 is to loop the loudest section of the song. This is how I start every mix. So when you are doing that initial volume balance, go to the chorus or the climax, maybe it’s not the chorus, maybe it’s a bridge, just go to the climax of the song, loop that section and mix that first; because if you start with a verse or an intro, you can never build from that; if you make the intro sound huge, you can’t get any bigger; whereas if you mix the climax of the song, loop that, you get your volume balance, you do most of your EQ, your compression, everything, while you are looping out the section, then it’s easy to go back to the other sections, add volume automation, check that everything is working, but it builds up to that climax where you’ve mixed it. And then you can even use automation to make those earlier sections sound a bit less impressive, a bit quieter or a bit narrower, so that it really explodes into that climax.

Mixing tip number 6 is to start with the bigger picture. Most people start the mix by EQing or compressing a kick drum or a bass guitar and they spend loads of time and energy there. Then they start bringing things in one by one, and then you get towards the end and you’ve got everything, and suddenly that kick just doesn’t work. You didn’t have the context, you EQed it, you compressed it; and now that you’ve got the context in the mix, maybe it’s really fighting the bass guitar or maybe it’s interfering with something else in the mix, and you don’t know that unless you have the context. So, instead, I highly recommend you start mixing with the bigger picture in mind first, so you start with things like mix bus processing, big broad sweeps like group processing, the volume balance – really important there, start with the bigger picture and focus on those finer details towards the end of the mix instead.

Mixing tip number 7: Avoid the solo button. This button can [inaudible 00:04:44] your mixes. This goes back to that same idea that if you are making decisions without the context of the mix, you’re probably making bad decisions because you need that context. The listener is never going to hear anything in solo so don’t use that button. And if you struggle to make changes, EQ, compression, without soloing a channel, just turn that channel up by 5, 10 db; make your changes but you still have that context of the mix and then drop it back down to where it was before. Now, a common complaint here is, well, I just really struggle, I can’t do it unless I solo the channel, but if you don’t practice this, if you don’t try, then you will never develop that skill, this is a great way to develop your hearing. so avoid the solo button; if you are struggling, just turn the channel up instead, because then you can still hear what you are doing, make the decision, but with the context of the mix.

Mixing tip number 8 is to have an intention behind every single move. Never do something just for the sake of it. This is an easy trap to fall into. I see people doing this a lot. Don’t just apply compression because you feel you should. Don’t just EQ something in a certain way because you saw someone else do it. Have an intention first. The need should come before the action you should fix. You should be a problem-solver, you should notice an issue with the mix. Let’s say this kick drum, it’s not sticking out enough, then you go into the EQ and you find the kick and you find the beater and you emphasize that so that’s really punching through the mix. You don’t go about it the other way. If the kick is already cutting through the mix, it doesn’t need EQ, you don’t need to emphasize that beater in the upper mid range, you just leave it. So here are three ways to help you with this: what, why, how. Go through that process every time you make a decision as a way of practicing this form of intentional mixing. What are you trying to achieve? Are you trying to boost the upper mid range on a vocal? Think about the specifics of that first and then think about why you are trying to do that. Well, to help it cut through the mix a bit more, to help it sound a bit more emotional, maybe the vocal sounds a bit dull and you want to make it a bit more exciting, so you are going to boost the upper mid. And then you think how. It’s like, okay, well, first I need to find an area in the upper mid that sounds sweet, boost that, move it around a bit, find a sweet spot for that, and then adjust the boost. There you go, what, why, how. And sometimes you don’t need what and why, you just need to have one or the other, so remember that.

Mixing tip number 9 is to check your moves. So every time you apply a plug-in, every time you do something, volume [inaudible 00:07:11] so just the volume, say that it’s the same volume coming out, it’s going in, and hit that bypass button a few times. So bypass, check the volume, bring it back in, bypass, check the volume – once you got the same volume, just click that bypass button a few times and refocus, shut your eyes and just listen, okay, does this sound better. And sometimes what I like to do is trick myself. I click it, shut my eyes, click it, lose the time until I can’t remember if it’s bypassed or engaged, and then I decide on what sounds better, because then you are really using your ears and you need to check every single move you make.

Mixing tip number 10 is to use good reference tracks. I really can’t emphasize the importance of referencing enough. If you use reference tracks, and this is just the act of pulling in a professional mix into your DAW or just checking on Spotify, Google Play, comparing your mix to a professional release, so you can see where you are going wrong, what you need to do, and when you are doing this, make sure you use three or four different tracks, you don’t want to just use one, because then it feels like you are trying to copy it, use a few in a similar genre and just listen to specific areas of your mix, focus on the low end – does my mix have too much low end or not? Okay, adjust. Top end, does it have too much top end? How loud should the snare be? Let’s listen to the references. How should I put space around the vocals? Should it be more reverb and more delay? Check your references. It’s the shortcut, it’s almost like cheating. If you are not doing this already, start doing it right away.

Mixing tip number 11 is to mix in mono for the majority of your mix. And what this helps you to do is really create separation with volume balancing and EQ and automation, rather than relying on panning. So you have to create space for the vocal in the mix, you have to create space for the kick and the bass, you have to get that relationship really working, you have to make sure there’s the snare sticking through, about fighting the guitars, all of this stuff you have to do with volume and EQ. And then at the end, towards the end of the mix, once you are pretty much finished and you are getting to the point where it [inaudible 00:09:05] and you just start applying effects, checking the other sections, applying automation, that’s when you start panning. And then it just opens up the whole mix because it’s already sounding really clear and separate, and then when you add panning, and use LCR panning or 50-50 panning where you are doing hard left, central hard right, and maybe in-between, then it really opens up the mix. Now, to do this, there’s normally a plug-in in every DAW that has a mono switch on it that you can put on your master fader, on your stereo output, your mix bus. In logic, it’s the gain plug-in, it’s got a mono switch on it, most DAWs have a kind of plug-in like that, you can just put on your master fader and engage it to go to mono, and then bypass it to go back to stereo.

Mixing tip number 12 is to listen back on multiple speakers and headphones. Switching speakers or headphones during the mixing process is an easy way to kind of reset your ears as well as checking your mix on different speaker systems. So different speakers will sound different, you can check it on your apply headphones, your mixing headphones, then your monitors, and then your computer speakers, and then you are getting a wide range of playback systems and you can adjust to get a good balance between all of those, and that’s going to really help with translation, but also every time you switch, you are kind of resetting your ears, you are giving yourself a bit of a fresh perspective on the mix. In the same way that it’s really important to take regular breaks, I also think it’s important to constantly be switching your listening system, maybe every half hour or so, just checking on a few different speakers, flick to a whole different speaker for half hour, whatever you’ve got to do, just remember to switch it up.

Mixing tip number 13 is to mix at a low volume. This is such a common problem. You need to be mixing at around conversational level, around speaking volume. If you can speak in your studio and someone on the other side of the room could hear you, then your monitors are at good level. Or if you can speak and clearly hear yourself, what you are saying, again, it’s probably a good level. But, any louder than that is too loud. Now, you can use the volume knob as a tool; sometimes you want to go loud, so you can really hear the low end, sometimes you want to turn it down, so you can focus more on the vocals or see what sticks out at lower volumes. But normally, you want to be mixing at a very low conversational level.

And then mixing tip number 14 is to take regular breaks. We’ve already touched on this slightly but make sure you set a timer that goes off every half hour or so, just to take a quick 5-10 minute break. That time spent away from the mix is going to allow you to come back with fresh ears, you are going to reduce ear fatigue which is a physical thing, but it’s also going to help you to maintain objectivity which is more of a mental thing, it can help you to come back to the mix with a fresh perspective again and again and again.

Mixing tip number 15 is assume that volume automation is needed. And we touched on this earlier when we were talking about the importance of balance, but I really want to drill this into you, because you can never get a perfect balance without volume automation, I’ve never been able to do it. If you can do it, then good for you, but I don’t think your balance is perfect, it could be better because there’s always going to be sections in a song where the guitar suddenly becomes too quiet or too loud, the vocal drops too quiet and you can’t hear the lyrics or there’s a bass part that you want to make a bit louder in the chorus and increase the impact in the chorus. There’s so much you can do with volume automation alone, and this is without going into the world of effects automation and panning automation. So assume that you will need some kind of volume automation to get a good balance throughout the song. It doesn’t mean you have to go through and automate every channel, it just means you need to pay attention to that. When you are going through the different sections, to check the volume balance, just listen out for things that are sticking out or too quiet, and then just reduce the whole section. It should only take 5 or 10 minutes.

And finally, mixing tip number 16 is that you don’t need expensive plug-ins. You don’t even need to buy any plug-ins to get a great mix. Every DAW has good stock plug-ins and they are just getting better and better and better. So use stock plug-ins. If you are not happy with your mixes and you are blaming plug-ins, then you are not ready to progress yet. But when you get to a point where your mixes sound awesome with stock plug-ins and you are looking to get that final 10% of quality, then you can start to think about premium plug-ins. But even then, be very careful, because it’s an easy trap to fall into. You spend so much time, so much money on plug-ins – and time is the big one here, the time researching what plug-in to get, actually downloading and installing plug-ins is quite a laborious process sometimes. Then you got to learn the plug-in, and then if you’ve got 10 different plug-ins, in the mixing process, you don’t know which to use. So, try and keep it to a minimum, be simplistic about it, have a go-to plug-in for every type, so go to EQ, go to compressor, and that’s normally what you need. You might have your other stuff that’s more creative or you use your go-to 80% of the time, but you need to have a [inaudible 00:13:47] plug-in. And you don’t need to spend a fortune either. Affordable plug-ins from Waves, from Slate Digital sound incredible now, they sound just like expensive outboard, analog equipment that used to cost thousands and thousands just years ago.

So there you go, the only 16 mixing tips you will ever need. Now, this is a lot to remember. You are not going to be able to remember all of this just from watching this video. So, I’ve put together a free cheat sheet, a free PDF that you can download, and you can print it, stick it on the wall in your studio or just read through it before your next few mixing sessions to really internalize your stuff, because if you want your mixes to sound professional, you want your mixes to sound like the music you hear on the radio, you really need to be practicing the stuff and implementing it in every single mix. So, download that cheat sheet, it’s completely free, there’s a link in the description or on the screen now.

And now I want to hear from you. What’s your biggest mixing tip, a trick that you learned that’s your favorite trick to use while mixing, that improved your mixes? Share in the comments below, because I am interested to see if I missed anything and we can probably help each other out a bit by sharing our best, our favorite mixing tips. So, that’s all for me, I will see you next week. And remember, create regardless.

UPDATE: We released a video recently that shows you 15 tips for faster mixes:

Have you spent hours learning about mixing, but feel like you're not getting anywhere? If you feel overwhelmed right now, and aren't sure where you're going wrong, watch now, because you're about to learn the only 16 mixing tips you'll ever need. After teaching almost a million musicians about mixin

 

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