A SHort Guide to mixing music by Phat Suspekt
I am mixing my own beats for more than 15 years now. The learning curve was steady and slow. But in the last years i got in touch with many artists and this helped me to improve my mixing skills a lot. I put together some basic tips and tricks here which i consider important.
You can route all your signals straight to the master bus, but there are many advantages in using mix buses.
If you create buses for your drums, percussions, vocals and instrument groups, you will be faster in taking mixing decisions. Also, you can use processing like compression and EQ on certain parts of your song. This helps to get a dynamic and transparent mix.
To side chain a signal means to process one signal dependent to another signal. The best example is using side chain compression on the bass, triggered by the kick. In this case the compressor on the bass channel only levels down when the kick triggers. This will clear the low end of your mix and separate the bass from the kick.
You can also apply side chain compression to a delay bus, let's say for vocals. Now the compressor levels down the delay when the vocals are present and the delay comes up in the breaks. That's called a ducking delay.
Compressors are used to level down peaks and bring up the low parts of a signal. That's great to glue signals like drums together, but it reduces dynamics. To get fat drums with a lot of dynamics, parallel compression might help.
How does it work? Get your drums into an FX channel, as you would do it for a delay or a reverb bus. Now compress the hell out of it and mix it to the uncompressed drum channel.
Multiband compressors are used to compress certain frequency ranges of a signal. The best example for this is a Deesser. It levels down the harsh frequencies, but only when they exceed the treshold.
Another example is multiband limiting on your master bus. Only the frequencies exceeding the threshold are leveled down, not the whole signal.
If you have many signals, it's easy to get a wide panorama by spreading them in the stereo field. If you have only one signal to fill the room, you can use several techniques to get it bigger.
- Copy the signal and pan one hard left and the other hard right. Now you can play around with timing and level to get a stereo image. Then route both signals to a bus to process them.
- The subtle use of a ping pong delay can help to fill the stereo field.
- Tools like Stereo Spreaders, Dimension Expanders and Doubling Plugins.
Reverbs can make your mix sound full and lively, but too much of it will make it muddy and undifferentiated.
Don't use only one reverb for your mix. Experiment with different reverberation times, predelays and EQ settings. Pan your reverb according to the corresponding signals. Set the reverberation time according to the tempo of the beat.