Some Mixing Maxims

These are some ideas i’m pretty keen on when it comes to mixing. If you’re a beginner this may help you out. Also, it is good as a tool to organize and review some of my thoughts on the subject.  Just throwing some tips out there. Most of this is based on my experience with working with electronic music.

Kill it with fire!
Anything above 16khz using eq, strict lowpass filter (I like the “Engineers Filter” simply because it makes a notable spectral difference on waveforms its also free!) the majority of the audience cant hear over this anyway. I also like doing a lowshelf cutoff at roughly 30hz, excessive gunk frequencies i.e. useless cant feel it, just excess baggage.

What are the best tools for mixing? Ears.

You have two ears! take advantage!!
It’s almost like cheating but using light reverb and panning your instruments can lead to more space, thereby leaving you with more headroom and chance to have more things going on if desired.
I like getting plenty of head. No sicko, mixing head room. I usually mix and go, but I usually have everything leaving the master at roughly -3 to -4 db, to later use some sort of “Mastering tool” to enhance.

Crouching Decibels, Hidden Pads
Keep pads around -20 db at first, mix to taste and find that soul sweet spot. Anything near -3db is overkill, unless it’s deliberately wanting to sound over and ahead everything in the mix.

Select the frequency.
What do you want from your sounds, however you describe it, you can probably find a more suitable sound to realize your sound.

Find your frequency pockets
and your levels pockets. I like drums in my face Kick at 0db. Snare at -2 to -3db minimal panning (nothing over 3%) hi-hats panned 10% left/right. Bassline usually coming out of a thresheld -10 to -5db depending on what the track needs.

I pump base like that jack.
If you have a subwoofer on your monitor system, turn it off to see where your kick sounds with out it. Does it sound weak? Whip out the eq, using peaking bands from 110-250, to give tha extra smack. And some slight peaking around 2khz. In the same light, snares can function the same way how just be sure that these two are not on the same bands of frequencies. (“pockets”)

Look mom no eyes!
Mix with your eyes closed. I rarely do much of this, but it is great for beginners, to enhancing the features of sound by the use of your ears!

Interesting fun fact about the ears:

Creative people more likely to hold phone to left ear, study finds

If you are comparing loudness levels, rest assured not to only use DB meters, use some EBU spectific meters, they are the best in accurately displaying the loudness of tracks. Don’t complicate your life, an  amazing EBU Meter I use: ” MLoudnessAnalyzer is an EBU R128 and ITU-R BS 1770-1 compliant loudness meter. It contains a peak meter, momentary, short-term and integrated”. I find a decent mix is satisfying with good dynamics, not neccesarily loud at all times but punchy. I think a decent upper range volume is +16db on EBU reading. In many analysis I find the producer Skrillex seems to have a lot of  his sound up to +20 db on the EBU meter as one of the loudest productions, apart from the breaks in the song, there is little headroom (levels are consistently kissing 0db 🙂  )

Skrillex – Bangarang

I actually don’t have any qualms about it, but it is interesting to look at different dynamics in each style, it is fun to compare. I also think this works for dubstep style of music in some instances, where the music doesn’t sound entirely too busy.

Another freqy tool
I am also fond of the Voxengo Span, for spectral analysis but at this point it is just preference because there are so many tools. Spectral Analysis is essential in anyones mixing arsenal, because sometimes your ears are LIARS!

Odin guide our ships!
Look mom no ears! Look at the spectral graph. Grab a more commercially mastered track and do an A|B comparison. What is different from theirs? Then yours? Can it be helped? What parts are weak? What parts can be lowered etc.

En la Mañana
It’s best to mix the next morning if you have some mixing fatigue (ie. When you start hearing and identifying frequencies from your music in everyday sounds such as faucets, wind, cars whizzing by with loud engines etc.)

Remember you mixologists, everything has a pocket, everything in its right place. (A pleasing example of mixing.)

If you have any tips to add, drop something in the comments! Thanks everyone!

Other Related Links: 

The Feels, The Chords
Transcendental Musical Spaces + Beethoven Challenge
Persistence of Memory – Nova Spire Sound Art Installation

4 thoughts on “Some Mixing Maxims

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s