• Phil McDonald

A few quick mixing tips

Last week we looked at making better home recordings so as a natural follow on, this week I'm talking about mixing. You spend a lot of time working on your material and making a great home recording but a bad mix can ruin the project. However, a great mix really brings a song to life and is the icing on the cake.


So what is mixing? It's basically a balancing act with all the indiviual tracks you've recorded. For example, you might have a few guitar tracks, some bass and percussion plus lead and backing vocals. Mixing is the art of balancing all of the tracks perfectly with each other to make a great overall sound. Like many things in music it's not an exact science and it's easy to make errors. It's also a great learning process and something you can get good at in a relatively short space of time. So here are a few tips to help you along the way.


Firstly, be organised. The best way to approach a mix is to be set up to make the job as simple as possible. Group your instrument tracks together and colour them accordingly in your DAW. Find a system that works for you and stick to it. That way you can approach every mix the same way and you'l always know where to find your guitar tracks for example. This is especially inportant if you're working with a lot of tracks.


Secondly, don't mix too loud! Bring the volume down overall and work at a quieter level. Although it's tempting to crank everything up, when listening to a loud mix it'll sound good and once you listen at a lower level the mix probably won't translate. Get a great mix at a lower volume and it will sound great when you listen loud.


Before you get into the mix fully, create a good static mix. This is where you don't have any plugins on any channels, just pull the faders down and then gradually set them to where you can hear everything at roughly the right volume and where everything sits niceley with everything else. Once you've got a good static mix it makes it much easier to create a great final mix.


The next point is to be creative when using plugins. Experiment as to what sounds good and don't be afraid to try different things. Also use the presets that most plugins come with. You don't have to use this as your final setting but it can be a good place to start and with a little bit of tweaking you can get the sound you're lookng for. Remember to save any settings you like to use on future mixes. This will save you considerable time.


Lastly, use automation. All DAWs allow you to automate levels and panning for example. Use them to mix things up, to draw the listeners ear to something you want to enhance. In the old analogue days all of this had to be done manually but with a good DAW you can automate lots of features making for a great mix as well as making your job easier.


So those are just a few tips to help you with your mixes. I would also advise you don't record and mix on the same day, your ears have had a bashing and it's hard to maintain an objective viewpoint if you're trying to mix when tired and overloaded. Have a break for a day or two and come back with fresh ears. Your mix will thank you for it.


I talk abou this in greater detail on this week's podcast which you can listen to here or via your favoured podcast app.


Thanks for reading.


Phil




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