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Music mixing tips 

Mixing is where it all comes together whether you are a band or electronic musician - it is an important stage. As a band, you might mix during a separate session with some other band members or as an electronic musician you may well mix as you produce a track. In any event, some useful tips follow for getting an improved mix down.

1)Try and install, at the least some, minimal acoustic treatments. They will assist every mix you do and help you get better results. Side wall absorbers, a ceiling cloud and a few broadband bass traps will help neutralize your room acoustics. It need not be costly if you can do a little DIY.

2)Wherever possible, try to get your loudspeakers as far from the room corners as is possible to do so. This reduces bass tip up. (This is an artificial increase in bass loudness) It is especially prevalent with speakers with bass reflex ports on their back panel.

3)Isolate your speakers from whatever they are resting on. Use an acoustic tile to reduce vibrations and resonances transmitting into supports (desks/stands etc.) This will clear up the stereo image a little and improve clarity.

4)Tweak your mix and re-listen (read: finish) the following morning, try not to finalize mix downs late at night when you are most tired and least alert.

5)By all means, import a well mixed track into your DAW and compare and contrast with your own mix. Try and identify what can and cannot be improved in your track against the professionally mixed reference. As the track will have been mastered level, match the imported reference by bringing down the level so your mix and the track appear at the same volumes. This is a great way to judge bass levels when working on a monitoring system that is not familiar or completely accurate.

6)Back up your mix files frequently. Purchase a low cost USB 2.0 hard drive and simply drag and drop the audio files and mix session files at the end of each day. Hard drives break - it’s a matter of when not if so make this a regular habit.

7)Try bouncing your mix out and listen on other systems, car hi fi, small stereo and make a few notes. Then come back and consider any tweaks and double check them on your main studio speakers.

8)Try checking your mix down in mono fairly frequently. Ensure that bass levels remains the same and kick drum and snare remain punchy and up front. This will help make the mix sound bigger on compromised play back systems and of course those that are themselves mono. You can usually do this by panning both panners on the stereo bus centrally if you do not have a mono button on your monitor controller or software output bus.

9)Wherever possible, try and have your loudspeakers equidistant from your monitoring position. In most cases, an isosceles triangle created with your 2 monitors and head will give the best stereo imaging. Position so your ear is aligned with the tweeter of the speaker. (Small driver). Ideal Left - Right monitor spacing would be 6 feet.

10)If you have reflex loaded speakers, try blocking up the port for a different perspective on the balance of bass notes. Lower cost reflex loaded speakers can create an inaccuracy around the ports resonant frequency and by blocking the port you create a smoother bass roll off which should give a slightly more accurate representation. Although, the trade-off will be that there will be less perceived bass output from the loudspeaker. This technique can also be used if you are unable to get your speakers out of the room corners as it will reduce bass output countering the bass tip up highlighted in point 2.

Barry Gardner operates SafeandSound mastering an online based mastering studio working with all musical styles. mastering dance music

Low cost, high end analog audio mastering.

Reader Comments (7)

thanks for the tips barry! is it still the case that a lot of club soundsystems are in mono, or at least the final effect for the listeners is mono? i know for sure one bar that i play at, the stereo wiring is not a priority

January 5 | Unregistered Commentermr. tunes

Hi Mr Tunes, they can indeed be in mono along with some of the dance music pirate stations.
Mono compatibility should always be a standard check for mix down, many "in store" systems will be in mono as well. Of course the more push and well known big clubs in cities round the worlds are probably some form of stereo but better safe than a missing bass line or other elements of a mix. If you find aural phase checking difficult (which is a skill worth having) then you can get free ware plug ins that will give you phase metering such as this.

cheers and HNY.

thank you! what type of things should people be looking for when viewing that stereo scope? maybe is it seeing specks that are too wide?

January 6 | Unregistered CommenterMr. Tunes

Hi there, in the very first instance use your ears, metering can be distracting when assessing aural media, metering can be useful if you have a less than optimal monitoring arrangement (monitors/acoustics). Simply look at good professional mixes and there is a metering blueprint.

Listen to say 3 great mixes and note how the meters look, but always use your ears over your eyes.

I suggest learning how to identify what an out of phase signal sounds like to the ear.

Take a final stereo mix (any track will do) and pan the balance control hard left, ensure there is no signal emanating from the right channel, bounce this out as a mono file. Then pan the balance control hard right and bounce it out mono. Label them L and R when you name them in the bounce window.

Import those tracks into a DAW on 2 mono streams, pan one hard left (the left one) and one hard right. (the right one) then hit the phase flip button on 1 channel, 1 channel is now out of phase with the other, see how the stereo image sounds weird, move your head left to right, you will hear an unstable stereo image and comb filtering, get used to this sound. In a nutshell it sounds like overly wide stereo which makes instruments difficult to pin point in the stereo image.

Another thing to listen for is when you have a mix you have completed, mono the mix and listen for elements of the mix literally disappearing or dropping in level considerably. If any element does drop in level or vanish you are likely to have a phase issue with that sound source. Over use of stereo imagers or wideners can cause these problems as they often work by putting some left channel into the right and vice versa, often with a small time delay. I recommend steering clear of stereo image winders altogether with bass sounds especially. Always use them sparingly.

cheers I hope that helps.

January 16 | Unregistered Commentermusic mastering

You made some decent points there. I looked on the internet for the issue and found most individuals will go along with your website.

January 23 | Unregistered CommenterPortugal Jazz

A Great blog!!!

I find when mixing its a good idea to have some quality headphones to drill down into the mix.
I recently got the audio technica m50 they are amazing for mixing, when you come out and check the mix on your monitors they are very close to what you hear in headphones.

Cheers Gary

April 4 | Unregistered Commentergary

Some fantastic tips here.

One of the little things that I still do is to go into the next room whilst leaving the door open - it highlights any unbalanced volume levels straight away, especially vocals. In fact, when I first started doing this, the vocals were usually a little too high and had to be brought back down. I still do this quite often to double-check things.

May 13 | Unregistered CommenterRich

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