How do you get better at mixing and producing?


#1

Hey guys and gals,

The last discussion I started regarding guitar-tones was really helpful for me (and hopefully to others as well) so here’s another thing that I would love to hear your thoughts on:
How to get better at mixing and make tracks that sound mind-blowingly-awesome? I’m really motivated to improve and would love some advice (@sunchannelmusic, @StudioMonkey,@KingLeo,@RedLionProduction,@soundroll,@BlueFoxMusic,@Stockwaves,@benjijackson ). By the way, if any of you guys don’t like me tagging you then please tell me and i’ll stop. .

Here are my two cents on the matter from my personal experience:

  • Listen carefully to music that sounds great and actively try and be aware of everything that’s going on in the mix- from the general balance between the instruments and the basic arrangement to the fine details.

  • Try to make tracks that have a similar arrangement and ‘feel’ as some of the best tracks out there. From my short experience, this step helps so so much.

  • Give a great emphasis to the musical composition. I’ve noticed that every song that I find great has a nice base (some great harmony/melody/groove…). Every time I spent a lot of time on the basics, the end result was miles and miles better.

Cheers,
Guy


#2

Hello! You answered your question yourself :grinning:


#3

Hi there guys! In my case list looks like this:

- Clearing out the clutter


It’s easy to get used to a mix with layer upon layer of sound, but unnecessarily busy tracks can be unlistenable. Often, this clutter exists in the low-mid or high frequencies from multiple instrument layers. Adjusting high- and low-pass filters on individual tracks to create more space, or revisiting arrangements, removing elements one by one to re-assess impact on the overall mix. Less is often more!

- Kick’n’Bass relationship


This vital aspect usually needs a final check. Listening to the balance between the two to assess whether either is too dominant, and if necessary, notching a space in bass sound for the kick, using an EQ and a spectrum analyzer to hunt the precise kick frequencies.

- Checking the sub’s


Following on from the previous point excess sub bass can be problematic on big systems, and it’s easy to unwittingly accrue when mixing on smaller nearfield monitors. When mixing I try to use all available tools to check sound - including headphones, bass heavy systems and do some spectrum analysis, comparing with other genre-related tracks.

- Listen to transitions


These are usually delivered naturally by live playing but can require more thought for programmed tracks. Sometimes transitions may be badle balanced or just missing. Adding a touch of long reverb helps smear transitions withous dominating the mix balance.

- Mono checking


If the mix balance changes a lot when played in mono (Phased-sound, Reverbs to dominant). Narrowing or rebalancing them so the mono and stereo mixes are consistent, ensuring a solid mix that’s compatible with mono playback systems.

-Limit


Output limiter are a key aspect of mastering and can highlight balance issues, particularly excess low and high frequencies.


#4

Haha, I suspect better answers are coming in :]


#5

Wow, awesome tips mate, Thanks!


#6

for me it’s practice. no matter how much books I read, I don’t get better at mixing before spending a lot of times on mixing.


#7

practice, practice, practice…and always have fresh ears when you start mixing


#8

@MarklarMusic you’re welcome! :slight_smile:

2All: In some case I guess all of you are right, but as you can see many forum\AJ authors keep making threads: Why reject? Hard reject? Check my mix… etc. So this thread may help some of them and I think it would be helpful for all of us sharing our experience with each other.

And as addition I’d like to add some producing tips. :wink:


- Chords

Involve breaking chords up in into their component notes and play these as short arpeggios. The technique doesn’t just add rhytmic interest, but it can be a great way of coming up with ideas for cool melodies that work naturally with the chord progression, since the notes you pick out are taken from the chords themselves.

- Animating chords

Moving the order of notes around within a chord can take a progression in new directions without changing the actual chords. This is easily done by selecting notes and shifting them up and down an octave.

- Bass note change

The notes a bass part plays can assume the role of root note for the chords played by parts above it. Sticking different bass notes underneath can radically alter the sound of a static chord sequence.

- Flavours with modes

If you’ve never encountered modes before, this one tip could change your musical outlook forever. Scales are a basic component of music theory - most people know one or two of the major scales, the most commonly known being Cmaj. But what if I told you that you could unlock a secret of evocative alternative scales simply by playing any scale from a different starting note? Try it by playing Cmaj in the conventional fashion, from C to C on a MIDI keyboard or synth. Now give your ears a few sec’s rest to forget the sound of it, but without starting on C and playing it from D or E.

- Monotony

Melody-writing can be tough, but sometimes, if the rhythm is hooky enough, sticking religiously to one note is all you need for a melody. Try using a monotone melody in a verse part, and slowly add small variations through the bridge section to build to a chorus hook. This approach also gives you an opportunity to focus on rhythm and sonic variety, rather than just melody alone, for adding interest.

- Layering chords

For an exotic sound, try combining regular major or minor triads together to form polychords. If you’re stuck for which chords to combine, go for ones that already have a note or two in common.

- Extending Chords

Extending regular major or minor triads by adding extra notes can radically transform your music item. For instance, in Cmaj, a Cmaj7 is made by adding the seventh degree of the Cmaj scale (B) to a Cmaj triad (CEG). If you extend the scale up the keyboard beyond the octave, we get into the extended range, where a ninth is essentially the scale’s second degree played up an octave. So an easy way to play a ninth chord is to play a root-position triad and add in the second degree between the root and the third.


#9

first of all ! you need to treat and lock the room you are workin in ! you have to find the bad frequences and correct them with treatment (diffusion-basstraps etc)!
2. you need decent monitors and headphones!
3. check some mix tutorials on youtube for the specific DAW you work with !
with lot of practice and patience you’ll have a nice mix soon !
Now the composin part its yours and only yours brother !


#10

Good question! =) We r making music along time ago, thats why me and my colleague got a lot of experience. All that we do is just - create a music, and then our ears and hands making mix by them selfs :smiley:

The most effective thing is to listen to reference tracks, songs, items (whatever) and try to make a sound that you like in your favorite examples.


#11

To find out bad frequencies you may use systems like IK Multimedia ARC System, to correct your output\input signal.


#12

Yep or bring an expert on room treatment :slight_smile:


#13

:wink:


#14

The key to becoming good is ofcourse not only practice but also
You need your sound system to appropriate produce all frequency range.
I mean nice sound system with subwoofer and proper midrange too.
Once you have a good soundsytem and good acoustically treated environment.
Then practice a lot by hearing how the pros are sounding and you will get there.
But if you have poor sound system and environment it is hard to almost impossible to go pro, and I mean in full frequency range. Your mids and highs might be good but if you don’t have subwoofer to hear the lows then nothing good can happen in my opinion.


#15

+1 on treating your room and having accurate monitors. Beyond that, I’m just a “do what sounds right” guy. I do like to clean up unneeded frequencies, especially in low-mid range. Some of the other responses are much more technical here, maybe I can learn something! I think finally there are no steadfast rules, just do what feels right.


#16

It took me several years before I even started to get a hang of mixing. I made all the beginner’s mistakes, i.e. using too many tracks, turning up the bass too much, too much high treble, too many effects, too much reverb, too much limiter gain. I still struggle with all these things from time to time. I guess it’s easy to think that to fix a mix you need to “add” something, but in reality when something doesn’t sound right it’s almost always better to “remove” something. I’ve found in general over the years I’ve moved my preference set from creating “artificial” mixes to trying to make all instruments sound as “natural” as possible. This is especially true for vocals, I used to have 5 or 6 fx plugins in a chain and then just as many EQ plugins after that just to get it to sound “normal” again :sunglasses:

Nowadays I mostly sit back and listen to things that sound unnatural or biased. Many times it’s also possible by just looking at the EQ curve for a track which frequencies resonate or stand out, just by bringing those down a notch and creating more evenness in the sound helps a lot.

Reverb… reverb is basically noise, right? Solo a reverb bus and ask yourself if you really want that in your track :wink: But yeah, I’m usually slapping on way too much reverb because I trick myself into thinking I need it. But here’s a good rule of thumb, if your mix doesn’t sound great without any reverb, why would adding noise to it make it better? Reverb is really only cool in “silent” parts of the track, like at the end of a vocal phrase or instrumental melody. Using a compressor with low threshold on the stereo bus can bring up a very quiet reverb only in the parts where it’s wanted.

In the stereo mix things can stack up, so before final bounce I do it again, bring down stuff that’s annoying. I usually compress a bit too much, but hey, the loudness wars aren’t over yet are they? :sunglasses: Then maybe as a last polish I use an exciter or just push up 10 kHz if necessary.

And yeah, as has been pointed out, if you want your track to sound like some else’s, just pull that track in and do an EQ match.

GOOD LUCK


#17

Try to cut more with EQ than boost. Read about subtractive EQ.
If you have a busy instrument mix, try side chaining an instrument off another to give more space.
Listen to your track a few hours later near the end of the day with a pen and paper and write down all the problems you can see. Change these first next time and keep doing that until you are happy with the track.
And my biggest problem…learn to know when a song is finished.


#18

Some great advice here, awesome.
I think I’ll read your comments during my next mix and try to implement as much as possible.

Regarding your comment on compressors, do you use different compressors for different instruments and different parts? I find myself mostly using one type and I wonder whether my ears are not trained enough to hear the difference between different compressors or whether the difference is actually really subtle.
By the way, I was inspired by some of your whistling tracks and working on one myself :slight_smile:

Thanks!


#19

Thanks @AzaTrendStudios,
Can you please expand on what you mean by side chaining in this context? You’re talking about doing things like triggering a bass-drum to compress synths in the background each time the base-drum plays? If your thinking of something else then I’ll love to hear it!


#20

Yes the same as that, instead though, for instance, if you had a guitar and a piano track that were cluttering up each other you could put a compressor on the piano and send the guitar to that compressors sidechain, or vice versa. That is if it is called for. In this instance the guitar can stand out a bit better over the piano.