What are some mixing tips that always work?

scotnewon96

New member
Hey,
just wondering if you have any examples of an effect or plugin that will improve the mix in the majority of situations.
For example:
  • EQing on every track is always good to ensure frequencies don't overlap too much. 192.168.0.1
  • Compressing the kick and snare will always help them cut through.
  • Rolling off the low-end (100hz and less) on each track except the kick and bass will leave room for the mix.
routerlogin Anymore examples where a plugin on a certain instrument will usually make the track sound better?
 
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CrowsofFritz

Flamingo!
I honestly can’t think of an example in which it will always sound good. Just dependent on what I need at the time.
 

rob aylestone

Well-known member
Well -
I never EQ every track - I only EQ tracks that it will improve, and some are fine exactly as they are.
Same with compression - looking at the last two tracks completed - the bass got some compression and so did the electric piano - Kick and snare went through uncompressed because they did not need it.
I might roll off the piano left hand a bit if it's similar to the bass, but again - I only do it if there is a need.

I don't think I'm good with rules. friends have huge cubase templates with pre-picked inserts and EQs. I don't use a template at all - every track starts totally empty, and get added as required.
 

Gtoboy

Active member
One rule: take breaks to maintain decent hearing response. One recommendation: use reference tracks to check your hearing while mixing to know when you definitely need a break.
 

VomitHatSteve

Hat STYLE. Not contents.
One rule: take breaks to maintain decent hearing response.
This is the only one so far that's really absolute

I've always found those general EQ tips from the first post make my mixes sound thin and weak.

Oh, I have one! Use some reverb, but probably less than you think you need. Most of the time, the best reverb is the one you don't consciously notice.
 
A touch of warm tape saturation on your digital recordings always works.

Smashing your sub 170hz-200hz with a compressor on a bass guitar always works. and is necessary. (not always necessary to smash it, but compressions a good idea)

the SSL buss compressor on master finds it's way onto every mix I do no matter the genre, it just always works! I'm sure one day it won't but it's used with the exact same settings everytime. slowest atk/auto rlease/4:1/1-2db of GR
 

Massive Master

www.massivemastering.com
  • EQing on every track is always good to ensure frequencies don't overlap too much.
  • Compressing the kick and snare will always help them cut through.
  • Rolling off the low-end (100hz and less) on each track except the kick and bass will leave room for the mix.
Anymore examples where a plugin on a certain instrument will usually make the track sound better?
Echoing Rob to some extent here -- EQ'ing... You EQ what needs to be EQ'd to best serve the mix (and the way it needs to be EQ'd to best serve the mix which in many cases, isn't what seems natural to the source). Compressing the kick and snare can *stop them* from cutting through -- You're - be definition - compressing the dynamic range. You're *removing* the dynamics that make it cut through in the first place. Again, if it best serves the mix and makes it seem like it's cutting through better, that's fine. And rolling off the lows is fine for things that need the lows rolled off, but if those lows best serve the mix, leave 'em alone.

Back to something that works basically every time -- Do what best serves the mix. I've done fusion metal with absolutely no processing on any track during mixing (and barely anything during tracking for that matter). I've done acoustic / percussion mixes that have fairly radical processing going on just to make it sound like there's no processing going on.

Going to disagree at least somewhat with JamEZ also - Maybe a touch of tape saturation works for him but for all digital recordings? If I found myself doing that with regularity, I'd be using different preamps at the source. Always compressing a frequency range on a bass guitar - again, if it's *his* bass guitar and that guitar needs that sort of treatment, that's fine. But as a rule of thumb - only if it best serves the mix. Now the compressor thing.... Personal choice. No doubt, I have a "this is where I start" on my buss compressor (Neve MBP) and rarely ever change anything - HOWEVER - the only reason I don't change anything on it is because it's there from the start and all of the decisions I'm making are based on how that unit is reacting. For me, 4:1 would be very heavy-handed (the only reason my trusty ol' SSL compressor usually sits collecting dust is because it only goes down to 2:1, which for me, is still sort of heavy-handed for a main buss compressor). But again, if he's making decisions based on having that unit in the chain from the start and it works for him, there you go.
 

JasminB

New member
Here are my thoughts on this, I'm new on this forum but I've been mixing for awhile, although more live than in the studio.
I would say first thing, never say "always" (or never, as Justin Bieber would have it)... there are simply no hard rules of what to do and what not to do when it comes to mixing.
So there are a couple things bugging me in that list :
"EQing every track" - you should only EQ what you really need to, unless you use EQ as an effect. Then that is totally subjective. But get it right at the source first always, and think of how the instrument are going to overlap each other as you're recording. If you're not recording yourself, well, deal with what you have on hands... or course there is going to some degree of overlap, but a good engineer will keep this to a minimum.
For FOH, it's a bit different, as you often to EQ for the room. However, I never EQ'd my master bus personally.

"Compressing the kick and snare will always make them cut through" No, not necessarily. Compression brings the quieter elements of the sound up in perceived loudness, but the overall transient is lowered. This make for a more homogenous sound. You're basically reducing the dynamic range of the sound and you make it "tighter". By doing so, that sound, if placed in the right spot on the frequency spectrum, will appear to cut through more, because it is less dispersed across the spectrum. But you don't have to do it as a rule. My dad have over 40 years of experience in studios starting with one of the first 24 channel board ever made, and he never used a compressor on drums (or anything else, for that matters). But then again he is an expert field recordist as well, not much a producer/engineer.

If you want a tip to make anything cut through : EQ it in reverse. If you want the bass to cut through, don't EQ the lower frequency of this instrument which is already on the lower spectrum. That's like adding black to a dark red in order to make more bright on a painting. It doesn't work -it works to intensify the feeling, but it won't make it cut-through. This is true especially for bass frequencies which are naturally perceived as lower in volume than higher ones. Some hip-hop engineers will go as far as to boost the 6k range on 808 kicks, pretty crazy, but it works!

"Rolling of the low-end on everything else but bass and kick at 100 Hz"
Hold on right here : 100Hz is a pretty damn steep lowcut filter. A very low male voice fundamental is slightly below 100Hz, believe it or not! There are plenty of other instruments with a lot of content below that frequency as well.
In a live setting? If needed to keep the rumble down, I will cut to 120Hz, even at the PA.
Those sounds overall like general live mixing guidelines, and as such, I agree. In a studio setting, however, you have much more flexibility and the luxury to go record the sounds as purely as possible, or you can choose to mess around as much as you want. There are no creative limits so I encourage you to not think of the tips you mentioned as hard rules, because they're simply not.

The only advice I know works every time is the one my dad gave me :
"When in doubt, close your eyes... and LISTEN."
Perception bias is a b*tch, especially for audio!
 

rob aylestone

Well-known member
What is absolutely certain is that one person’s rule for doing something every time, is only their rule. I have never, ever added tape saturation, in honesty, I was so glad to get rid of it for real, the idea of adding it back just makes me laugh. I’d also question why I’d want to smash a small part of the bass spectrum with a compressor? If I plug my bass in, I want it intact. If I want some kind of weird punchy bass, I’ve tons of synths, but for me, EDM and metal music, wont be on my production list, so I don’t think blanket rules work. Over the years, the only rule that stays constant is use your ears first, then your judgement. I occasionally get Cubase projects in from a colleague who uses templates. Something I don’t do. Loading one of his projects reveals piles of plugins, often with loads enabled. First thing after an initial listening is to switch them all off. Rarely does it not improve big time. I then put back good ones that are positive to the track. I get the impression he would add something, like 75% of what it does but then he’d add another to try to cure the 25% left. This cured that and introduced other artefacts which another plugin was trying to fix. Madness!

I just completed a piece with just two tracks. I couldn’t improve on the reverb one of the sounds had, and the other featured the sound of the instrument played at a very low velocity and I just popped the Cubase dynamics plugin on it and made up the gain there. No rules at all. It pays for the groceries. My music is all melody and harmony. Even if I created rules, they only work for me.
 

grimtraveller

If only for a moment.....
Hey,
just wondering if you have any examples of an effect or plugin that will improve the mix in the majority of situations.
This is the only fixed rule that will improve every mix, will never fail you and pretty much works every time and then some ~ don't let grimtraveller mix for you !
You'll be a legend on the home mixing circuit.
 
Ah! no saturation wouldnt be needed if I recorded using a tube pre, or tape or whatever (because there would already be plenty of that), I was talking about recordings straight into your IO with a cheaper condenser mic (or even mid priced ones?) which I'm going to assume is most people, that's what I meant by saying (Digital recording) sorry I wasn't clearer. I just always found there was a spiky, piercing quality to those kiind of recordings. I'm in no way some kind of Analogue nut. I just want to find ways to make a mix easier and to sound more professional.

That SSL Buss comp with those settings is what I see Warren Huart doing on pretty much every mix. I'm an active part of that community and watch many mix breakdowns. I'll use that compressor as standard and bypass or find that during my mix I am not even making the needle twitch because I'm only going for 1-2dbs of GR and it's easy to keep tweaking my mixes balance and either hit the compressor too hard or not at all. But resetting the threshold so i'm hitting a maximum of 2dbs does seem to always ... ugh.... glue the mix together. But I will probably not want to use it on many of my future mixes. i agree. I would never be so foolish to say that you should use it on every mix, but I don't particularly think it would hurt if you did, your mixes may just have a different flavour while still being an incredibe mix.

To be honest I struggled to think of anything to say to original poster, that's the best I could do. but i wanted to give something, that would never at least Damage* a mix in my opinion.

Rob: Compression is imo essential for bass. And if we are talking sub bass (below 60hz) then it's even more so, and I will smash it with 2 heavy hitting compressors on the highest ratio, fastest atk/rel then limit to catch the final strays. This is not even to correct a bad performance. it is to keep the bass present as you go higher up the neck, to further help with this adding some Rbass pre compressor will really hold that bass present and nice and steady throughout the entire mix.... which is important!

but yeah... if you're a bass player like me then i'll probably compress the upper bass a fair bit too, it also corrects a crappy performance. To me.. this rule applies every time. But I'm still learning myself and may change my mind one day... but unlikely I think.

Saturation, just a light touch, barely even noticeable (only for me as I have the means to A/B it) is really important. It's a pre-mix decision, it does make the rest of the job easier.

I'm no great mixer... one day I'm hoping to be. I'm enjoying people disagree with me because it's making me think more about this.

Edit: I need to clarify, I don't want to confuse anybody reading this. Don't just compress the sub bass, unless you choose the bass guitar to be present in the sub bass region over the kick if there is one. If you choose the kick to be below the bass which I do most of the time, even in heavier styles, not just pop/rock then high passing the bass (but still compressing below 170-200hz!) at the fundamental of the kick is a given.... oh hey! look there is another (rule) that always works.

One trick I did yesterday that I just kinda went for having no clue if it would work or not was similar to this. Its a rhythm/Lead acoustic arrangement(no kick). My Rhythm (strummy) guitar is highpassed at 80hz, and my bass wasn't really adding much to the mix, it was actually distracting me, so instead of throw it out. I low passed at 60-80hz then smashed it with compression with the intention of extending the acoustic strummy guitar. This won't be the last time I use this technique. So point being I still do things to the low end to keep it steady even in very mellow sparse acoustic tracks. I just have to work out how to get my 2 lead guitars to sit right now heh.

Again, I'm well aware my post above is a bit chaotic. I'm on day 4 of a water fast and not thinking all too clearly.
I edited this probably 10x aswel to correct spelling mistakes and add further potential insights. But now I'm out of here.
 
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LazerBeakShiek

Active member
Rob: Compression is imo essential for bass. And if we are talking sub bass (below 60hz) then it's even more so, and I will smash it with 2 heavy hitting compressors on the highest ratio, fastest atk/rel then limit to catch the final strays. This is not even to correct a bad performance. it is to keep the bass present as you go higher up the neck, to further help with this adding some Rbass pre compressor will really hold that bass present and nice and steady throughout the entire mix.... which is important!
Wow , that is like, infinity times infinity. Can music handle that?

That is what I'm afraid of. Weird shit like this. Probably sounds great though, I'll look into it.
 
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