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Mixing for beginners - Some thoughts

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Author: admin
Date: 01-May-09

When i teach i usualy say to beginners: dont use any effects or eq at first, just practice your levels.

People get so involved with EQ and processing they totally forget or ignore relative levels, but the root of mixing is the relative levels between tracks right?

When you mix, it doesnt matter of something is inaudible or not clear and defined, there's a point at which you raise the fader on the snare or hats and the track just grooves right (same with guitars or whatever)... at that point leave it alone! Stop fiddling & adjusting!

Somewhere you arrive at relative levels where everything moves & grooves just right, and that has got nothing to do with how clear or audible the individual components on the mix are - Push the snare slightly louder and suddenly the groove isnt quite right, lower the hats a tiny bit and again the groove suddenly isnt quite grooving...

So a good starter is to get your drum parts on the board and then start to bring in the individual drums one by one (starting with just 2 sounds) and at some point as you raise say the hats it just grooves right. STOP at that point and leave it, no matter if the hats aren't sounding as you though they might sound.

This emphasises why old engineers moan & complain about having to mix with the band present at the session - each band member wants their insgtrument to sound clear and the result after you pander to their criteria is a crap mix cos it's been mixed so that each instrument is as clear as possible... y'know?

Drummer: "Raise the hats please engineer cos i want to hear more of that wicked hi-hat slice I do coming out of bar 132!"

Y'know what i mean? Thats not a mix because you arent working on the whole entity, you are now working on individual things within the whole entity without regard to their relative realtionships.

i dunno, i think there's too much distractions if noobs pile in with FX and EQ straight away. if you can't mix levels then why even bother to add anything else into the equation?

This probably didn't exist in the old-school hardware days because beginners were forced to work with only the absolute basics because that is all they had to start with - Then, by the time they got more experienced they could also afford another processor and the whole learning/owning progression was linked & staged in steps and very organic.

Y'know? you might start with just a mixer and a basic cheap reverb or a single cheapo multifx for reverb/delay.. then a year later buy just one stereo compressor.. see what i mean?

Nowadays thanks to software, noobs can start as a total beginner with a 1000 effects and processors and a zillion eq plugins etc etc. No wonder they get confused.

Basically if you apprentice as a chef you spend the first year making sauces... that's all you do, starting with base sauces from which all sauces are made - but all you do is make sauces - Then you move on to vegetables or pastry or whatever.

So just stop, calm down & don't worry about all that fancy junk - just spend some time ONLY mixing levels - record/render those mixes & then compare those mixes over the weeks and see the changes subtle differences in relative levels make to the whole mix

When you have a handle on relative levels, try eq basics (with a basic eq unit/plugin, not something flashy) - get your kit and bassline only and just experiment using eq on the core basics - dont worry about what you 'should' be doing - ignore all that nonsense so-called 'rules' about "Only use subtle eq changes" etc, go mad with it!! break all the rules

Try cutting everything from the top end (1k and above) off one drum-sound (try the snare) and see how it works when you adjust that item's level so it is balanced again in the drum/bass mix (cutting all the top lowers the sounds presence/volume in the mix) - learn about what the low-mid or 'body' of things is doing... most noobs always have too harsh eq as they try to make sounds in the mix stand out at low volume, then it sounds ear-fryingly awful when it is really cranked loud in a club.

Then try cutting the bottom radicaly and again adjust that item's levels and see what radical bottom-end cut does when you really push it out.

Then when you have a handle on EQ perhaps add in ONE compressor and work on using that within the mix on ONE thing (bass or kick perhaps)

Take it bit by bit very gently - this is the roots of dub after all - levels and radical eq - Casual observers think echo-effect is the roots of dub, it's not. A reggea 'Version' starts with radical eq & levels alterations (including removing items completely)

Whatever, I'll admit it's not what noobs want to hear usualy cos it sounds boring to ignore all those fancy toys, but trust me - Lewis Hamilton & all the F1 guys started on go-carts



'Mixing for beginners - Some thoughts'

There are a total:  1  comments posted to this page.

Last added comment

Name:  Kevin Bicknell
Activity:  Hobby-ist
Date:  31-Jul-09

Hi I'm new to this, but pardon the pun "Sound Advice" we all want to run before we can walk and generally get smacked in the kisser when we fall over. You can always build on simple!

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