What is the goal of mixing? Watch now to learn the two fundamental goals that I have in mind every single mix.
If you want your mixes to sound great, you gotta know what you’re actually trying to achieve.ARVE Error: src mismatch
src in org: https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/R6heNIvinN4?list=PLEEVAiK8zmk9muxr8Z72R6lHf22183PrS
src gen org: https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/R6heNIvinN4
What is the goal of mixing? You know what, that’s a great question.
Keep watching and I will tell you the two fundamental goals that I have in mind in every single mix, because if you want your mixes to sound great, you’ve got to know what you are actually trying to achieve.
But first download the free mixing cheat sheet that goes with this video if you want an easy way to actually apply this to your music.
Okay, let’s go.
All right guys, how is it going! Rob here from Musician on a Mission. And in this video, we are taking a step back to look at the bigger picture.
The two main goals that I personally have in mind when I am mixing are Balance and Emotion. There are lots of other smaller things that you are trying to do when you mix but it can be pretty much distilled down to these two core goals, at least that the way that I see it.
So first of all, what do those two terms mean? Let’s start with balance.
Generally, we can associate this idea of balance with the mix sounding good. There’s a good volume balance between the different instruments. There’s a good frequency balance where the low end isn’t too overpowering or the high end isn’t too overpowering.
There’s a good dynamic balance where the vocals stay at a similar level and we can hear them in the whole track, they don’t suddenly disappear.
This is the more objective side of mixing. We can analyze our mixes using spectrum analyzers and we can argue that the vocal should be the loudest thing. When we are talking about volume balance, it’s not just making everything the same but the vocals should be louder than the tambourine part for example.
Of course, there’s still much subjectivity that goes into this area of mixing but generally it’s more objective than the emotional side that I am going to talk about in a second.
When you are trying to achieve this goal, the main tools you are going to be using are EQ, compression, the volume fader, your bread and butter of mixing tools.
So before we move onto emotion, let me give you a quick demonstration of what I mean by this. Here we’ve got an unmixed track. This is going to sound pretty horrible because I haven’t done anything, I’ve just imported the tracks, and let’s hit play.
[Music Being Played 00:02:11]
So already you can hear what a lack of balance sounds like. We don’t have good volume balance. The vocals are actually pretty cool, they are right up front, but equally we are losing a lot of the [inaudible 00:02:22] everything sounds like it’s really on top of each other.
There’s no sense of space between the instruments. There’s no tonal balance right now. Everything again sounds very clumped up in that midrange area.
And there’s not enough dynamic balance. At certain points, the vocals were way too loud and then a second later really quiet, which is completely lacking all of that.
So in this video, I am going to walk you through the process of creating balance in this exact mix. If you want to download this so you can play around with it afterwards, you can get it completely free. I will make sure there’s a link in the description so you can actually do this with me if you want to.
We will come back to this in a minute. So now let’s talk about emotion.
This is the most subjective side. And in fact, this is the area that a lot of people just miss out on completely. This is how you take a mix from good to great, because if we had the perfect mix, there was a perfect volume balance and a perfect frequency balance, it’s sounding great everywhere, but the mix that hadn’t done anything to enhance the emotion of the track, then it’s going to be a good mix but it’s not going to be a great mix.
And really when it comes to the emotional side of mixing, it’s enhancing the emotion of the track, bringing out an exaggerating the artistic intent behind the music, making the track sound more interesting and pulling the listener in, holding their attention. And this is where we move away from the more objective realism of the balance part where you can hear everything and move more towards hyper realism.
When you are using automation, turning things up and down, using effects like reverb and delay and other crazy stuff to make the track sound hyper real, make it sound larger than life, to me it’s all about enhancing the original track and the meaning behind the track through the process and art of mixing.
What I am going to do now is just quickly walk you through this process with an unmixed track, and then we are also going to analyze a few mixes and look at how they achieve these two goals.
Going back to this track, let’s start by just creating a volume balance. So this is probably one of the biggest goals of mixing that’s so easy to overlook.
When we talk about balance, most of that comes from the volume balance, how we set these volume faders. Now, the way I approach this is just bring everything down to zero, start with the most important thing so the vocal, and then just kind of start bringing up other channels around it.
[Music Being Played 00:04:57]
So you get the rough idea I am just trying to bring things in an order of importance so that we start with the vocal, then the next most important thing is slightly quieter and so on and so forth. I am going to continue balancing this now but speed it up because I don’t want to make you sit here for 10 minutes watching me.
I’ve got a very rough volume balance going, so let’s just have a quick listen and straightaway you are going to notice the difference. Just with a bit of volume balancing, tiny bit of panning, we are really moving towards that first goal of balance.
[Music Being Played 00:05:42]
So we’ve still got a lot of work to do. We might have moved towards over volume balance but there’s still frequency imbalance, there’s lots of mess in the mid range. I am just going to spend a little bit longer on this before we move onto emotion.
And to do that, I am going to pull in some references to start comparing this to a professionally released track, to find out where the frequency and balance might lie. Do we have too much low end, not enough top end – those kind of questions. And an easy way to do that is to compare it to a professional release.
So I am using Magic A-B here just to pull in a few references, and we can just flick back and forth now between our track and these other tracks, listening out for any big imbalances in the low end, in the midrange, in that upper frequency spectrum.
[Music Being Played 00:06:54]
So already I am hearing lots of issues, there’s a really cloudy midrange that we need to address just by EQing the individual elements and cleaning up that space to give each thing its own kind of frequency range within that spectrum.
It also needs a lot more top end, maybe a bit more sub-bass energy as well. There’s not much seeing in, in that really sub-100 range. So lots of issues, and I could start addressing this just on the mix bus for example, so I can add some more top end by just loading up a plug-in, anything would do. And I am going to just dial in a bit more top end with a high shelf. And that’s already going to take me a big step towards that frequency balance.
[Music Being Played 00:08:01]
That’s a bit better but this is something that we are going to be constantly addressing throughout the mix, focusing on getting that good volume balance, that good frequency balance, and then using compression to try and get a good tonal balance.
So, on the vocal now, I could add some automation and I love to do this with just a plug-in like Waves Vocal Rider that’s going to manually automate those levels for me. Then, on top of that, we can add some compression to level out those dynamics, make sure it’s a more consistent volume.
[Music Being Played 00:08:53]
So already, they are just with a bit of automation on this Vocal Rider, bit of compression, the vocal is sounding way more consistent, it’s sitting in the same spot.
Just a few examples there. You are going to be coming back to this idea of balance throughout the mix.
Again, if you want to apply this to your own mixes, make sure you go and download that cheat sheet so you can reference it when you are mixing and look at these different areas of balance that you need to focus on.
To show you emotion, I am going to open up a different mix that’s a big further along that already has a good overall balance, because before we can think about adding emotion and enhancing the track, making it sound hyper real, you really have to get that balance down first.
So let me just open another project. Okay, so new project here, let’s just have a quick listen first.
[Music Being Played 00:09:42]
As you can hear, the mix is pretty much there, it’s got a good balance across the board. So now, I am just going to look for ways to actually enhance the emotion of this track and make it sound larger than life.
We’ve already got some reverb on there that’s given the vocal a really nice lush sound.
[Music Being Played 00:10:03]
But now I am going to use some more kind of tricks to enhance that emotion. The first one I am going to try here, that I use quite often is volume automation to bring out the most important part of the mix at different points, because this kind of helps the listener along with the track, which means they are going to be more interested, more engaged and that’s just going to enhance the emotion.
For example, let’s take a look at this line here, where the vocal stops and something comes in to fill the gap. So this is the vocal.
[Music Being Played 00:10:35]
So the vocal drops out and this guitar comes in. But at the moment, it’s kind of getting lost in the mix, it’s fine, but we can help that out a little bit. So first of all, we just have to find which time that is, so which electric guitar and I think it’s the same guitar, just two mics.
[Music Being Played 00:10:52]
So in that case, it makes more sense to actually do this on the bus, so I am just going to turn on automation because I’ve got both of those guitar channels going to this one guitar bus, as you can see here. So this is controlling both of those.
[Music Being Played 00:11:07]
I can hit A in Logic to bring up automation, and then I can just grab this section here and just turn up the volume.
[Music Being Played 00:11:18]
So we don’t really want that cord as much, so we can drag that along, and now listen in the context of the mix. As soon as that vocal drops out, the guitar just becomes more prominent than it already was to fill that gap.
[Music Being Played 00:11:39]
And then it sits back down. So I think that’s maybe a little bit loud or we can add a bit of a slope to that.
[Music Being Played 00:11:52]
So you can fine-tune this a bit, but the general idea is that. So that’s one way you can use volume automation. Another way is to automate the vocal and I love to do this. It’s just bringing up the very end of words because we tend to have quite a lot of emotion hidden there.
So I can go to volume, and let’s just listen to how this word trails off.
[Music Being Played 00:12:12]
Down… as the voice kind of breaks up. We can just pull that up so that it gets louder. And this is where we are getting into the [inaudible 00:12:20] because normally you would never hear those qualities of the vocal.
[Music Being Played 00:12:30]
And now in the context of the mix, let’s have a listen.
[Music Being Played 00:12:38]
That’s awesome. That’s something that was getting hidden before, getting lost in the mix, but now we’ve bought that out.
I tend to focus on the vocals a lot when I am thinking about emotions. So I am going to give you one more example there.
Later in this song we have this outer section which goes into a bit of a breakdown, and this is just the kind of last bit of the vocal.
[Music Being Played 00:13:02]
Then we go into this instrumental breakdown. To me, this is the perfect place in a mix for some vocal delay to create that high hyper realism. So I am just going to add the delay to this by looping the section here, tweaking the delay until I am happy with it, and I am going to go for kind of dub style echo and then I am going to automate it so that it only comes in on that last word.
So normally you just do stuff like this on a Send, so let’s do that and I am going to do this from the vocal bus instead of from this channel, because I’ve got all my processing going through a second bus on the vocal. You can see that’s all my vocal processing there.
So we create a new channel, so that’s a zero, and then our mix there, we now have this one, let’s call this the delay for vocal delay, give it a nice color.
So I am going to solo it for the time being, then load up one of my favorite delay plug-ins. You could use any delay plug-in for this, they all pretty much sound the same and you can then add saturation and weird stuff afterwards if you want.
I like this one from Waves because it has some cool stuff built-in. Let’s make sure we’ve got that last section looped and let’s just play around with this.
[Music Being Played 00:14:36]
So you can hear I’ve gone really over the top there with those effects, and that’s fine. When you are playing around with effects, you can really get creative with it. Let’s see how that sounds just in the context of a mix.
[Music Being Played 00:14:49]
So the timing is off, so let’s try and get that right whether we do a whole no or half no, we can also play around with that for a second.
[Music Being Played 00:15:05]
So I am just going to put this in millisecond mode and we will tweak it.
[Music Being Played 00:15:36]
So I am going for a car check at quarter note here, but also manually tuning it like this is going to put it slightly off time, which makes it just more obvious and apparent. So you can start to hear the kind of weird stuff that I am doing just to create some interest here to really lead into that next section and also just emphasize that last line.
So now I just need to automate the Send on here and make sure we are doing this on the bus itself. So we’ve got this vocal bus here, if we turn on automation, like so. And then we are just going to go to that Send, V delay and we can mute it. So for the whole track, if we drag this up, it will be muted. And then we just unmute it for that last word there.
[Music Being Played 00:16:48]
I think that works really well. It creates a nice transition, it enhances that last word. Those effects aren’t in anyway really adding balance to the mix, they are doing something else, they are enhancing the interest, the intrigue and ultimately the emotion of the mix.
And that’s your other job that most people forget, when you are mixing, you are trying to enhance the artistic intention of the track.
So, there you go, the two goals of mixing: Balance and Emotion. I know how confusing mixing can be and sometimes it feels like you are just tweaking random knobs for hours on end.
So hopefully that gives you some direction so you don’t spend as much time worrying about what to do next or wondering what you are even meant to be doing. Instead, you can just focus on those two things and it’s going to help give you some direction, and give you something to work towards.
So if you want to actually apply this in your mixes and you want to run through those different areas of balance and make sure you do have direction when you are mixing, then be sure to download the cheat sheet that goes with this video. And you can use that when you are mixing, reference it, it’s going to make it so much easier and ultimately that’s just going to help you to make better mixes, and it’s going to make it more fun to do so.
So it’s completely free, there’s a link in the description or on screen now. And if you are new here, don’t forget to subscribe and hit the notification bell.
So that’s all from me. I am Rob from Musician on a Mission and remember, Create Regardless!
Audio professional, musician and founder of Musician on a Mission.