Panning When mixing, many elements tend to fight for centre. In most cases EQ can help make space however this may only take you so far. Try panning your elements towards the left or right and you may find that you use less processing to hep elements have their own space in the mix. This works especially well with mid to top range mono sounds which have a simular tone, such as two hi hats. You should get great results: just watch out for tipping the tonal balance too far one side.

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Phase start

Phase start Change the tone of your synth patches or samples by adjusting the start time (phase) of the oscillators or audio. With this technique you can get the sound more snappy (if at a peak, for example) or smooth (if at a zero crossing, for example). This particularly works well to get tight bass lines or when you want to align percussion. By contrast, on some instruments you can also randomise start time with modulation to get different accents: this is particularly useful to make drum samples such as hi hats, to sound more humanised.

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Plugin output level

Plugin output level When processing sounds with plugins it can be easy to end up with long plugin chains with levels all over the place.  In some scenarios you can get some great sounding tones this way, however in a lot of cases you may actually be degrading the quality of the source sound or introducing artefacts such as clipping.  When processing make sure you adjust the output level of the plugin so that it matches the bypassed level.  This way you can A/B to hear if the plugin is actually making an improvement rather than just making…

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Remixing loops

Remixing loops Get the most out of your loop samples by remixing the elements. Take your time splicing the separate hits, place them on individual channels such as kick, snare, hats and percussion and process them to taste. Lastly re arrange, layer and/or switch out the newly processed sounds to give your own signature vibe and groove. 

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Reverb tone

Reverb tone When setting up a reverb send it can be tricky to find a vibe that suits the source material. Use the inbuilt tone controls on the reverb to tailer the ambience or if this still isn’t sufficient add a dedicated equaliser to shape the reverb channel. This can be particularly useful to cut any unwanted rumble or clashing tones. Sometimes a subtle boost in the mids or tops can also help the reverb cut through the mix if you want it very present. 

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Sampling virtual instruments

Sampling virtual instruments Sampling isn’t just limited to hardware. Why not record your virtual instruments and import the waveforms into a sampler.  I like to sample the oscillator of a synth and put the waveform in a sampler for example: by adding filters and envelopes you can create a new instrument.  Apart from new filter types and envelope shapes being available, another added bonus may be precision. A sampler tends to have better timing than a synth for when you want snappy percussive sounds.

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Shelving EQ

Shelving EQ Many producers are quick to add cuts or surgical style eq edits to their sounds.  Whilst, if done well, can be crucial for a great mix other curve types often get overlooked.  Sometimes working in broad strokes with a shelf EQ can sound more natural for example. Try using a low shelf cut in the lower frequencies: this in turn will help open up the top end (don’t forget to compensate with level). Or why not a broad high shelf to bring out the general upper harmonics? Some of my favourite plugins for this task are…

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Snare noise layer

Snare noise layer Recording or selecting a snare sample that you like the character of can be fairly straight forward however getting it to cut through the mix can be really challenging.  I find that if you layer it with white noise it can really help it stand out.  The trick is to shape the white noise amp envelope to suit the transient of the original snare and then balance the level to sit just under and fill in the frequencies.  Later you can always add further processing such as EQ but by this point you should find…

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Mono to stereo with delay

Mono to stereo with delay You can use a delay plugin to widen a sound. Find a stereo delay where you can adjust both left and right sides, increase wet amount by 100%, disengage any filters, set no feedback and lastly shift the timing of one side out by a few milliseconds. This technique works similarly to double tracking and you should notice the sound spread.

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Streaming headroom

Streaming headroom Streaming sites encode music at lower quality for playback. If you don’t provide enough headroom, your music may clip and sound compressed. Find out the limitations of the playback codec and provide a suitable file. Soundcloud, for example, recommends 16bit 48khz wav files with around -0.5 to -1dbFS headroom to prevent artefacts such as clipping. You can test this yourself by exporting a WAV as a low quality mp3 and you will see that you will get intersample peaks after the process (unless you are giving sufficient headroom before hand). If in any doubt I can…

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