Here are a few simple mixing tips used by the pros. Make sure to try them out right now as they might bring your tracks one step closer to where you wanna be!
1 Automate volume on vocals
There are probably very few mixing sessions out there where the vocals remain at the same level during the whole track. In fact, when zooming into mixing sessions, you’d more than often be amazed to see how many volume change the mixing engineer automated. The reason being that voice is, per essence, a very dynamic “instrument”. The range between quiet and loud is huge. The variety of sounds that voice can produce is also quite something. Moreover, not all types of sounds or letters have the same energy. Compression can only bring you so far until you hear it too much. Very often, volume automation will enhance the presence of a single syllable because this one particular section might drown in the music and needs a bit of a push to sit on top.
2. Pick a reference song
It’s important to pick a reference track in the same genre as the song you’re trying to mix. Before deciding that a reference song sounds good enough for you or before you decide it sounds amazing, a listening session is often wise. Pick a moment separate from a session where you compose or do anything else. You need fresh ears for that exercise. Select a few songs that you really like in a similar genre. It doesn’t necessarily have to be about the sonic qualities. It can just be about a song that you genuinely like regardless of its mix or master qualities. The reason being that once you got a bunch of songs, you should import them all into a blank new session in your DAW and listen to each one of them. Skipping back and forth between the tracks every now and then to really get the sonic differences. You might be amazed to realize how some songs from big names can sometimes sound actually really bad when compared to other songs. A/B comparison is one of the greatest tools at your disposal. You can sometimes go without noticing that a song has been badly mixed because you’re not listening to it in a particular sonic quality context.
Radios have audio processing gear and software that are meant to work with as many different songs as possible, sometimes across various decades to make everything sound like a “whole”. And the listener needs to feel some kind of a comfortable sound all the way through their listening experience. It might appear in the future but as of now, the audio processing isn’t dynamic and doesn’t cater to each song. It’s fixed and it’s calibrated to sound as good as possible on as many different songs as possible, in as many different genres as possible.
Mixing for Streaming
Streaming platforms now require a certain amount of dB LUFS to make sure skipping from one song to another goes as smoothly as possible. Mixing for streaming is a different matter and should be approached slightly differently, but the first step to a mix that will please streaming platforms start with the main mix that you must come up with in the first place.
3. Use another pair of ears
There are many reasons why mixing engineers exist.
-Mixing is a skill that requires a ton of practice, trial, and error. Most mixing engineers are “ONLY” mixing engineers. They’re not mastering engineers, they’re not producers. Their only goal and task is to make a song sound as good as possible, as balanced as possible before it’s sent to a mastering engineer.
-By the time you’re done with composition, you’re usually way too familiar and attached to what you’ve come up with to be able to take the right decisions. A set of fresh ears is often a very good thing as this person will approach the song without any of the emotional aspects you have towards the song. By trying to do as much as possible yourself, you just end up being average in all areas and you’re not really “good” in any. Professional mixing is now more affordable than ever. You might need to go through a few different people to find the one that you’ll feel is perfect for you, but it’s really worth it in the end when you want to reach that pro level.
4. Lower all faders
Let’s not go all out in this loudness war. It’s here. Let’s just deal with it. To “compete” with other similar tracks, your song needs to have that loudness. And the key to achieving loudness is the headroom. We’ve reached an incredible signal/noise ratio with the latest iterations of every DAW out there. And the more bits you work with, the more you can afford to lower your faders without reaching the noise floor. A 24bit session means (6×24)+2 dB, meaning 146dB of signal/noise ratio and dynamic. In comparison, the human ear “only” has 120 dB of dynamic perception! The amount of bits determines the theoretical signal/noise ratio. Once you clip the master, it’s over. So make sure to lower all your faders relative to each other. This will maintain the same balance between the tracks while leaving some headroom on the master bus.
Read our FREE Essential Guide to Mixing to learn more pro tricks that will help you achieve better mixes today!
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