These are 5 tips that will help you improve your mixes without any plugin.
1. Mix at low volume
Mix around 50 db. Download a “SPL meter” on your phone. You can get that for free on the App Store or directly Google Play Android. Make sure that you monitor at around 50 db. This is going to give you much more realistic perspective of what’s going on in your mix. If you crank your system too high – the mix is going to sound way more punch here. Bringing everything down, you’ll be able to hear your entire mix in a more realistic way.
E.g. You’re listening at a low volume and you find that it’s hard to hear reverb or delay on a specific instrument, that probably means that it’s not loud enough. Taking most of your decisions while monitoring at a low volume is going to improve your mixes.
2. Try listening to your mix with the computer screen off
With today’s technology we have everything in front of us. We can follow the entire mix visually, but that can be very distractive! We can actually tend to focus just on what we see, opposed to what we hear. If we go back in the days of analog, all the mix engineers used to have only a mixing console in front of them. They were used to mix without having a computer screen. They had to rely on their ears. When you get near the end of your mix, shot your computer screen off. Sit down, close your eyes, turn off lights and just listen to the mix. If there’s something wrong with it – you’ll notice it immediately.
3. Reference your mix on more than one pair of speakers
If you don’t have more than one pair speakers, don’t worry. You can use studio headphones or
earbuds. When you get close to the end of your mix, you bounce your mix, put it on your phone and then just listen to it in your earbuds. If everything sounds good – you’re on the right path. You can do the same with your car system. If you used to listen to music in your car, that could be a very good environment for you to listen to your mixes. The same for your sound system in your living room. The goal is just to listen to more than your main monitoring system.
4. Compare your mix with reference tracks
Make a list of reference tracks. If you have a client, ask him for some mix references. Use these tracks to make sure that you stick to the same kind of tone, effects and the balance. That will improve your mixes in the long run. Get familiar with having some good reference tracks.
This is one important step in the mix. I mean, automation without any plugins. Faders, panning and mute button is very powerful. If your mix is too busy – automate a mute button e.g. for the verse. If you want to just remove one or two tracks on the verse, just mute them. Automate the mute button and then bring them back in the chorus.
The same thing is your faders. e.g. automate your snare. When you get into your verse – bring that down by 1-2 dbs and then bring it back up during the chorus. You can do the same with panning. Pan your guitars e.g. far right or far left only for certain part of the song. Do the same with vocals. A lot of stuff can be done with automation and this is only faders, panning and mute. Don’t be afraid to start your mix with balancing the mix and automation before adding plugins.
Avoid compressing stuff if you only lean on plugins. The danger can occur if you don’t know what you’re doing, you can end up over-compressing. It can be avoided by adding a good automation before ending up with all the plugins. Hopefully that is going to help! If you want to add anything else to this post, you can leave your comments and questions below
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Till next time!