Sometimes you think you just finished a track, get super excited, but then compare it with a reference track. In comparison, your mix sounds flat, has no power, and just doesn't give you the groove like the reference track. If you experienced something like this before, your problem may very well be something called a thin mix. Luckily this is an easy thing to fix and here is how to do it!
Table of Contents:
Step 1: Find the problem
Like always when you have a certain problem, you should begin by finding its root. When you have a thin mix, usually there is a lack of a certain frequency area, and often somewhere in the low mids. To make sure we find and detect the right area, it's important to use a spectrum analyzer. SPAN is a great tool for this. It's a free VST and easy to use! Alright, now it's time to use it, put it on your master channel and analyze the spectrum. Don't worry if you don't know what this weird curve tells you, in the image below you can see what the curve should look like. Make sure you have a reference track ready so you can also take a look at the curve of a production that has a similar style as your track.
Basically, it should be a pretty smooth curve without many dips and peaks. But if you notice such a dip, this is where your problem is. In this area, your mix needs more elements or at least more power or maybe even some boosts.
Step 2: Fix the problem
Now that we've found the source of the problem, it's time to fix it and there are actually a lot of different tips that you might want to apply. If your mix is thin, you should have found a lack of energy in the area between 100-400Hz. That's exactly where we now want to apply the change. You shouldn't apply all of the following tips together, but try out what works best and maybe combine some of them.
The easiest but also kind of dangerous way is adding elements. Why is it dangerous? Because you might fix your thin mix but end up with a muddy mix instead. But if you do this, try to add a mid-bass, maybe some pads, and overall just some elements that have those warm, low mid-energy. What you need to pay attention to is that you don't add too many new elements because they will change the sound of your track and might even create new problems. So make sure you level them correctly and cut out some frequencies that are not necessary for those elements, like some highs.
The next way to fix your thin mix is to boost. We're going to boost elements in the area where you found your lack of frequencies. This works great because we are not actually adding new elements, instead we just boost certain frequencies, or remove cuts, in the elements that are most present in the problematic area. Do not just put an EQ on your master and boost this area, this won't fix your problem, it will create new ones instead. When we're talking about boosting you don't have to just focus on EQ: also remember about balancing. So also make some changes on the levels of low mid elements.
This tip goes hand in hand with the last tip, because applying too many low cuts can definitely result in a thin mix. Look out for pads, for example. Check what kind of EQ changes you applied and see if you might be applying too much low cut. Just open the low cut a bit so the pad can give more of those low mid frequencies back to the mix.
Lastly, overprocessing can also be a big problem. Especially too much compression can destroy your mix. The reason for this is that you kill the dynamic range of your track. This makes things sound lifeless, boring, and even thin. Make sure to check if any processing you did actually makes things sound worse. The best way to do this is by bypassing the plugins on your mixer tracks one by one and compare how it sounds with the effect and without the effect. Along the way you might find some plugins that are doing more harm than good. Removing those will not only make your mix sound better but also save some CPU load!
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