Let us say that you have finished your recording and pre-mixing processes, and you are entirely satisfied with the results. Now it is the right time to dive deeper into the mixing part, which is the core of a good sounding track. You can record your instruments with the best possible equipment, but if these instruments are not properly processed, the effort may be futile. Sometimes, the mixing process can be exhausting. Without the proper starting points, it can span through hours and hours of work without making any significant progress. The key is that you need to have a plan. In other words, a starting point from which you will, more or less, always commence the process of mixing.
The next five tips will firstly improve your mixing skills and secondly save your time.
Sorting of group and bus tracks
Make sure to sort your channels into the project. Color each channel with a different color. Send percussion tracks to a group channel, which you will name “Drums, “ for example. Channels that contain rhythm and solo guitars to a group named “Guitars“ and so on. You can then sort those group channels. Starting from Drums, Bass, Guitars, Synths, FX… In case guitars are sounding too loud in the mix, you can quickly bring their volume down using the fader from a group track on which they are assigned to.
Adjusting the volume: The core of the mixing process
Before using any equalizer, panning, compressor on any channel, just play with the volume faders. This tip will save you time. You should be able to hear all the instruments properly, in order not to have something masking or swallowing the other. Everything in the song should coexist in harmony. After you are done with this, make sure that nothing is clipping. Leaving the headroom is another essential aspect. If you want everything to be louder, that will be taken care of during the mastering process.
EQ for distinctness
The most important aspect of using an equalizer is its ability to cut or boost the frequencies of two or more instruments that are heard in the same part of the frequency spectrum. For example, bass and rhythm guitar are often in the lower midsection of the spectrum. Therefore you should attenuate one or other instruments in the mentioned frequency range for them not to clash.
Use reverb to create dimension and space
Most of us are working in home studios or semi-professional environments, which makes it sometimes difficult to estimate what instrument should have more space than the other. Using reverb can be a tricky task, so be sure to use it less on the instruments and sounds that are occurring more often like a snare drum, for example. You can safely use it more on a crash cymbal. Using the high-pass filter on the reverb can be beneficial in order to avoid muddiness in the lower part of the frequency spectrum.
Use panning to create the stereo image
After all these steps, it is time to pay attention to panning in order to create a wider stereo image. Some elements in the mix like the Kick drum, Bass and Snare drum should stay mono, so they don’t lose the impact that is making a core of the track. You could also automate some channels panning during the arrangement to make things more interesting.