Be sure to check out the links at the bottom of the this post! These are in-depth articles or videos on the subjects.
One: Try not to mix with anything on your master/mix buss until you are (almost) done mixing. It might not even be necessary. Mastering processors/compressors/effects can create a false sense of what your mix really sounds like (e.g. over compressing, extreme equalisation). Just keep it simple and make it sound good without trying to get steps ahead of yourself too quickly. There are several approaches on building your mix, check the links below.
Two: Stop touching your monitoring level all the time. It’s annoying. You will totally lose sense of loudness and volume this way. Need more impact? Lock your monitoring level at a normal, reasonable volume. Don’t just make it louder. Keep it this way and remember on what volume it is. You need to get used to this. If your sounds need more impact you know you got some more work to do.
Three: Don’t always boost stuff when, for instance, it doesn’t sound bright enough. Try the reverse instead. By dipping/removing some low-mid ends and compensating the volume loss it may have the same effect. Or sound even better. Magic! Try some more out of the box thinking and try to let go of your self-created methods if you are repeatedly stuck in your process.
Four: Properly gain your sounds. You’ll have way more control of your mix. If your sounds aren’t loud enough, gain your clips or regions to a ‘normal’ volume on your fader depending on about how loud its going to be in your mix. You could also use a trim/gain plugin at the start of your plugin chain. Try to create a rough mix with all faders on 0 dB without any inserts yet. This way you will have proper controls of for example a compressor treshold and prevents you from having a headache trying to automate that way to low volume.
Five: Compensate volume boosts/loss caused by inserts. Again; many times an increase of volume can give a false sense of what really happens when you insert an plugin. Compensating it to the same volume you started with before using the insert lets you really hear the difference and let you keep control of your mix.
Six: Try using some hardware effects, stompboxes, dynamics and other weird stuff! Most modern DAW’s have the ability to insert external hardware and automatically compensate the delay. It will help you get creative in another way and create sounds in a way that you probably won’t achieve so quickly by using only software plugins. It’s the inconsistency and quirkiness that makes things unique.
Seven: Bored of staring at the screen trying to tweak those small digital knobs? Get a controller, or even better; a small analog mixing desk. They don’t have to be expensive (anymore) these days. This way you can turn off that damn screen and use your ears to create your mix! YAll you need is an interface with enough outputs or a seperate DA converter. It will definitely help you in getting that sound you may be looking for.
Eight: You don’t need that many plugins, do you? You probably only use 20% of them frequently and might not even know how to use these properly. Read the manuals!. It will only take a little bit of your precious time but it might give you a better view of the plugins (of hardware’s) capability. Once in a while check what plugins you are really using and what not. Deleting those will also keep your system fresh and your software running stable.
Nine: Try your shit, then buy your shit. (If you can afford it.) Every plugin manufacturer has demo versions available on their website to try out. Probably enough time to find out it will be a valuable addition to your mixing/production workflow (or not). Spare yourself some frustrations by just buying the plugins instead of breaking your balls over a sudden unauthorised plugin you needed so badly for that mixes you just did… Oh and by the way, mark black friday in your busy schedules!
Ten: Last but least; Never stop learning! Next to all the crap on YouTube there are also tons of great free tutorials by people who are one (or way more) steps ahead of you. Get over it. It’s free and no one will ever blame you for using their methods. Don’t be too stubborn and try another DAW some day, it might open up a whole new world for you!
- That’s about it for now! (And yes, these are also notes to myself… It’s tricky sometimes.. I know.)
- Great articles (numbers correspond with tips) :
- 1: The Art Of Top Down Mixing by The Recording Revolution
- 2: How to calibrate your studio Monitors by Presonus
- 4/5: Gain Staging, the bank account of your mix by Marc Mozart and Gain staging in your DAW software by SOS
- 6: How to use hardware inserts in your DAW by Music Radar and Presonus Studio One Pipeline Demo video
- 9: SOS black friday deal guide (Sound On Sound’s 2014. It’s outdated but all the listed software manufacturers will probably come up with new deals for ’15/16
- 10: Pensado’s Into The Lair YouTube Channel and E Home Recording best DAW Software Guide
- Some other cool websites/blogs on mixing/producing:
- Feel free to send me a comment, message or question at any time!
- Cheers ,
- Gijs Knol – Music Producer / Audio Engineer