Listen Stop making music with your eyes. Fancy looking interfaces, advanced analysers and colourful DAW’s can distract you from making great sounding music. Even when adjusting parameters don’t get in the habits of using a partiulcar percentage or amount; listen for how you’re really effecting the sound and set it where it feels right. Music is about feeling and no analyser can tell you what frequency shape works for situation.

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Ambient contrast

Ambient contrast Some producers set up one or two reverb sends for the whole track which may be efficient but on the downside may end up sounding congested or washed out. By setting sup various types you can create a lot of contrast and depth to your sound.  Set up various reverbs to tailor for different instrument groups/spaces and take the time to tailor the reverb settings to your needs. A preset may help as a starting point but reference along with your source material and carve accordingly.  Some bright plate style short reverbs may work to help…

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High and low EQ cuts

High and low EQ cuts A lot of producers get rid of unwanted low end to help clear up a mix but often overlook the top end.  Take the time to cut high frequencies too, as treble can often build up creating a bright yet crowded mix. From around 10khz upwards is mainly hiss/noise which can be reserved for the very brightest of elements such as hi hats, for example. Other sounds such as guitars and synths don't need all that top end detail in most scenarios and can ironically sound cleaner with hi end cuts. In turn…

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Compressor or EQ first?

Compressor or EQ first? I almost always EQ after compression but I find it very helpful to have an EQ before the compressor in the signal chain too.  Even if you’re happy with the original tone an EQ can be used as a tool to drive the compressor in different ways.  Or on the contrary if you feel the compressor is squashing a particular frequency too much, you can use the EQ to cut this area to help the compressor to work on the rest of the spectrum. Some compressors such as the FabFilter Pro-C 2 have this…

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De-esser uses

De-esser uses De-esser plugins are often used just to control sharp resonances in vocals. Try rot think of them as dynamic EQ’s instead of just a vocal tool.  You can use them to tame sibilance with all sources whether it be harsh cymbals, a peaking acid synth or even a percussion loop with some sharp tambourines for example. The benefit of this is that it can sound more natural as it only affects the tone when the harsh peak breaches a threshold rather than a constant eq cut of the harsh frequency which will make the rest of…

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Mixdown headroom

Mixing headroom When learning how to mix it can be tricky to manage levels of various tracks without clipping the master output. Instead of using limiters or bringing the master fader down , set your loudest track to -12db, such as a kick drum if dance music or a vocal in other genres for example, and work around that. By the time you finish your mix you should find that you will have around -6db headroom, which is ideal for mastering. Another technique to achieve this is to use an analyser, such as Voxengo Span, and change the…

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Taming harshness

Taming harshness Taming harsh frequencies is a common practise for producers however i find that many tend to go straight for hi cuts rather than finding the offending frequency.  Instead of taking away top end listen a bit lower in the frequency spectrum for example between 4kHz  to 9kHz and use a bell shaped cut.  From about 9kHz upwards is detail which if taken away can make your sound feel lofi. Great for this task but for removing harshness you risk having dull sounding mixes. 

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Matching kick and bass level

Matching kick and bass level It can be tricky to accurately hear bottom end in near field environments. Whilst transients are clear they can often be misleading as to what’s really going on. Whilst it’s always good to use your ears and go with feeling it doesn’t hurt to use meters to help guide you. In this instance I would recommend using RMS to balance the levels in conjunction with a scope to view the waveform in realtime. This way you can visually match the body of the kick drum with the bass line. Measuring in RMS also…

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Studio monitor basics

Studio monitor basics Studio monitors are one of the most important pieces of gear in your studio so it’s important that they are working to their full potential.Use high quality cables at the shortest length possible, isolate them off surfaces using dedicated stands or pads, position them so you’re sat within the sweet spot (listening triangle) and connect them to clean power using a power conditioner.Even high end monitors can sound bad if positioned incorrectly, without proper support and poor connections whereas average or even some budget monitors can excel if you pay attention to the way they're…

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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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