Mixing Your Tracks
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Balancing is tough!
I’ve seen so many questions on how to mix tracks and posts on having trouble getting a good mix that I’ve lost count a long time ago. It’s hard. As a beginner producer, getting a ‘clean mix’ is this elusive idea that everyone else is talking about, but you can’t quite achieve. Well I’m sad to say, there’s no easy magic formula to getting it right, it really comes down to practice. What I can do to help though, is show you the right way to do it, so you can practice the right way instead of fumbling around on your own until you figure it out.
Option 1 or Choice B
When it comes to mixing songs, there are two main ways to do it that I’ve seen. The first is to simply mix as you go. This means when you create a track, or add a loop or whatever, you set the level at that point, and adjust as needed throughout the process. Then at the end, you theoretically have a good mix, and don’t need to do anything else. I could never get that to work, so I prefer the second method. Mixing at the very end. With this method, I write and arrange the whole song, including any effects, and then I have a separate mixing session. No more writing or arranging or tweaking.
How to Mix
Now that you have the song all done and ready to be mixed, it’s actually very simple. We have three things to do here. Set the levels, EQ each track, and Pan the elements that need it. Start by bringing the volume of each track down all the way. Then loop a busy part of your song, like the chorus or drop. Now, start bringing each element in one by one so they’re set at a good level. I always start with the drums, since they’re my base and the kick needs to be heard over everything else. I bring my kick up to -6 db, and then go through the rest. Be sure to EQ each element before setting the final levels, as EQing will change the volume of that part. After you go through each element that’s playing, move your loop around to find the other parts you missed. Don’t leave any out!
Once I finish that step, I always like to give me whole song another listen through, just to make sure nothing weird happened or got missed during the mixing stage. If it all sounds good, it’s on to mastering!
Beginner – On your next song, try one of the two mixing methods listed above. Then on the next song after that, try the other one. Think about what aspects you liked/disliked about each one.
Advanced – If you haven’t tried both mixing methods, try them both out and decide which is the best fit for you. Next, when you finish your next song, try saving it to 3-4 different projects. Now go back and bring the levels all down on each channel and mix the song once a day, using a different project each day. At the end, compare all of the mixes and see how they differ. This will help you figure out if hear the same thing consistently, or if certain elements are much louder/softer than in other mixes. Your goal is to have them all sound the same, so pay attention to what sounds good.
Question: How do you approach mixing right now? Do you think it’s the best way for you? What part of mixing is the hardest for you?