Creating a clean mix is probably the hardest thing when you first start producing. To make things easier: this blog will cover the top 4 things for you to focus on.
Table of Contents:
1 - The big picture
Don't just go in and randomly EQ frequencies. Especially when you're working on different elements like chords, bass, and leads. Make sure to always check in the context of the whole mix. Everything affects everything. For example, if you turn down the bass, the drums could suddenly sound brighter and more present. When you think you need to turn up an element, you could actually have to turn down an element that's on the other side of the EQ spectrum.
Another thing I learned later is that mixing is not that important if you're really just starting. Try to learn how different elements work together at first. That's a thing I learned from a masterclass. I expected to learn a lot about mixing but actually, the producer just showed his workflow and in the end, he said: "That sounds great, the next step would be sending everything to my mixing engineer". At this time he just cut sub frequencies on most of the instruments. This opened my eyes back then, that mixing is "less" important if you learn to choose the right sounds as a beginner.
2 - Be honest
Being honest with yourself is another thing you have to learn. Often you have to decide if the compressor for example really has a positive impact on the sound or not. Turn the compressor, or any other plugin, on and off, close your eyes and decide which one sounds better. Closing your eyes may sound funny but it's super important. I find myself sometimes thinking that a compressor for example has a good impact but when I close my eyes I just can hear a super small difference that sometimes isn't even needed. Our brain gets tricked by stuff like this super fast, especially when you're mixing visually.
3 - Mix at low volume
Loud doesn't mean something is good. Something is good when it has power even on low volumes. It's important to understand this because if a song sounds awesome and punchy on low volume, it will sound incredible if you turn the speakers up! Your ears will thank you too! When you're having long mixing sessions at loud volume, you can damage your ears.
4 - Reverb
Be careful with reverb. Of course, reverb is important to create an atmosphere and fill up the mix. But on the other hand, you need dry elements. Dry elements are important to create punch and they will give the song its body. If everything is drowned in reverb your song will sound washed out. In the first place this probably sounds like an obvious tip, but if you struggle with mixes that are not punchy or clear enough, check your reverbs and decide if you maybe use less or even remove some! Also check if reverb is building up. Make sure the decay is set right so the reverbs don't overlap.
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