Mixing music used to be something artists rarely had to think about. In the days before Electronic Music, an artist could go their entire career without any more than a rudimentary understanding of engineering or mixing. When making a record, typically an artist would hire a studio (using money from a record label) which would be staffed with recording engineers, studio assistants, mixing engineers, mastering engineers and probably someone to make the coffee.
With the emergence of digital recording, laptops and DAWs like Ableton, the process of making a record has been flattened out. Every tool you could need to make a record is available on your computer. Now you can do it all yourself! This means you no longer need the big dollars to pay for the studio time, but it leaves us producers with another issue… how do we wear all of those hats at once? You might be a gun keyboard player, but if you’re doing everything yourself, you also need to be a gun mix engineer.
This is why a key component of our courses focus on Mixing and Mastering. In order to make your music stand out from the pack you need to know how to create a professional sounding mix. Our Mixing and Mastering courses are run by some of the most highly regarded names in the industry, with a swag of gold records and awards between them.
Tim has been at the helm of some of the some of the biggest Australian records of the last decade. He has worked with artists like Flume, Angus and Julia Stone, Golden Features, Crooked Colours and Hermitude.
- Try minimising your master bus. Focus on balance at the track level. – Tim Watt
- When you start a mix introduce one element at a time, using the faders to balance the levels of each element as you go. This will allow you to fix a bunch of spectral and dynamic problems in your mix before you even reach for an EQ or compressor. Make sure you export a version of the song before you start so you can compare the re-balanced version and make sure you’re going in the right direction. – George Nicholas
- Don’t worry about mixing while you’re still writing the track – when the track is done, take a break, make a new copy and start mixing. From this point, don’t write anything new- just mix. – Dylan Martin
- If you want to make complex bass sounds, try cross fading between different sounds rather than layering. Do this in audio (using the ‘freeze’ function) so you can see what’s happening. – Dylan Martin
- Less is more. Don’t process merely for the sake of processing. There are no rules for mixing so you don’t NEED to put a compressor on a vocal or reverb on the snare drum. Only do so if it helps the song or fixes a problem. – George Nicholas
- Try making initial level balance decisions at low volume on mid-range focused speakers. – Tim Watt
- For depth, dimension and openness of a mix, aim to achieve the desired sound with the least amount of processing. The surest way to ruin it is by overprocessing – Tim Watt
- Don’t worry about LUFS ( or other metering specifications) when mixing – just make it sound great. Although Spotify asks for audio at -14 LUFS, most mastered tracks are not this quiet. – Dylan Martin
- Your ability to create separation between the elements in your mix (in a 3-dimensional sense) will allow you to create clarity, whereas positioning two or more sounds so they occupy a similar region can help create cohesion and glue. To achieve this, try to think of the sounds in your track as discrete sound objects within a 3-dimensional space and move them around this space using tools like EQ, level, reverb, panning, saturation. etc. When first developing your ability to approach your mix in three dimensions, think of Height as frequency related, Width is the stereo image and Depth is the apparent distance of a sound from the listener – George Nicholas
Whether you’re an absolute beginner or a career artist with multiple releases, if you want to take your productions to the next level our hands-on courses are open for applications now. The courses can be done online or in-person at our Sydney classroom studios. Mixing and Mastering can be taken stand-alone, or as a core component of our complete artist-development program Produce Music.