Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A List of things to consider when mixing.

Here is a list of things to do when mixing:

1. Before you start soloing tracks and tweaking, get a decent mix with what you have. Then when you want to start tweaking individual tracks, start with the worst sounding, most troublesome element.

2. Don't get too caught up in details. Look at the big picture. Keep going back to your highs and your lows. Are they balanced? Can you hear the lead vocal? If it makes you want to tap your foot and sing along then you're half way there.

3. Cleaner and clearer aren't the ultimate goals. You can tweak the vibe right out of a song. The overall purpose of the record is to evoke and emotional response from the listener. Not to impress them. Keep that in mind.

4. Take frequent breaks and leave the room.
Maybe pop into another room and listen to the TV for a minute. It re-tunes your ears and when you walk back in that room you'll hear what you've been missing.

5. Listen to your mix from the hall.
This is good because it takes the stereo aspect right out of it. All the sounds get smashed up together before it gets out to the hallway. And frankly I think this is more how your average listener hears music anyway.

6. Compare your mix with songs you think sound great.
You can do this by running a cd at the same time as your mix and A/Bing them. I have a post in the archives that gets more detailed into this.

7. Mix at low volumes 75% of the time.
I mean LOW volume. You should be able to carry on a conversation over it. If you can make the mix sound balanced and exciting at a low volume it'll sound good at any volume. It doesn't seem to work the other way around.

8. If the mix sounds messed up and you can't figure out what is the problem, start taking out elements. Start with all the drums. Then try the guitars. Then try keys and so on.

9. Listen without looking at the computer screen. Listen in the dark.

10. If something sounds really bad, and everything you do to make it sound better doesn't work, then flip it and try to make it sound worse. You might be surprised where it'll take you.

11. When tweaking, be bold. If the vocals are too quiet, instead of turning them up in tiny increments and spending hours pondering if it is right, try turning them up too loud and move backwards instead.

12. Don't be afraid to pan far left or right. It makes things interesting and can be easier to fit other sounds into the mix. People used to pan whole drum kits to one side and we all thought it sounded fine. However, I advise to keep lower frequency sounds more centered.

13. Use 2 sets of speakers and alternate between them. Even if one pair is your home stereo speakers. It gives you something to compare to.

14. Use distortion. A little bit can really help on vocals and drums. A LOT can help bass, especially on rock stuff.

15. Please please don't use auto tune. Dear God please. If you need to tune any vocals try Melodyne instead.

I'll probably think of a few more things to add later, so check back.....


Anonymous said...

"Thank You So Much" for all the valuable information Billy... it is truly appreciated.

I will definitely refer to your advice often... in my quest... to become one of the best.

"Thanks Again"

F.L. Freeman, Audio Engineer
111 Entertainment LLC
Detroit MI

DAVID said...

Thx for the insight. I'm needing help with eq settings. I have pro tools and a 512c pre and blue kiwi mic. I can't seem to find that crispy high end with enough body to it. Is there a eq you recommend or any frequency settings you recommend for just standard hip hop vocals. If so hit me back at thx man your a legend

Billy Hume said...

@David - Check out this other blog I wrote concerning vocal EQ. Let me know if it helps:

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