Audio mixing has the potential to totally transform your music and your sound, giving you a lot more control over the finished results but also providing you with some serious creative flexibility to come up with something 100% unique that sets you apart from all other artists right away.
At the same time, learning how to mix is never quite as simple or as straightforward as just diving headfirst into the fray, fiddling with different settings when it comes to EQ, compression, or reverb, and sort of hoping for the best.
If you’re serious about learning how to better go about mixing audio (for your own music or for other artists that you’d like to help moving forward) you’ll want to check out all of the inside information we highlight below.
This is game-changing stuff, the kind of information that can help you take your sound to new levels without a lot of headaches, without a lot of hassle, and without a lot of extra energy or efforts when you’ve mastered of audio mixing.
Starting with the Basics
Right out of the box you’ll want to understand that the whole idea behind mixing music is to find a way to better adjust individual levels, just panning and time-based audio effects, and sort of sculpt individual components of your music that elevate the finished product across the board.
Mixing is going to involve multi-track recordings by its very nature. Each individual track that you are adding to your mix board is sometimes called a “stem” and there can be anywhere from two stems to a million stems depending on what you’re looking to accomplish and what you are adding to your mix.
The finished product (which can take a little while to finally be happy with) is called the mix down, and it’s the last step ahead of mastering your music and actually sending it out for publishing.
Sometimes people are going to be mixing from different microphones, from different preamps, or even using samples from other songs and other artists. The idea here is to really take full control and ownership over your art and your sound, mixing audio elements together to produce something that you can really be proud of.
Software is Key
It used to be that anyone serious about music mixing had to spend a small fortune on specifically designed hardware and equipment, the kind of stuff you only ever see and legitimate studios and musical production facilities.
Today, however, thanks in large part to major leaps forward in the world of musical technology and software nothing could be further from the truth.
There’s a flood of Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) solutions out there to pick and choose from, software setups that can run on pretty much any device imaginable – including laptops and mobile devices – to give you the kind of control and mixing capabilities you never would have had access to just a few decades ago.
You will want to make sure that you choose the right DAW software to get started with, though.
The learning curve on these kinds of tools can be pretty steep. The last thing you want to do is invest a lot of time and energy into learning a software set up only to discover that it handicaps your creativity in the future and you have to learn something different all over again.
As a general rule, look to take advantage of the most advanced DAW you can find with the most features and the most flexibility that fits your budget. This guarantees that the investment not only of your money but your time learning the mixing audio system will be as future proof as possible.
Systemize Your Workflow
There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach to mixing, but there are some fundamental elements that you’ll want to focus on to make sure that you are getting the best possible results you can.
For starters, you’re going to want to run some of the basic DAW “templates” for mixing music the first few times that you are actually tackling this project.
Think of these templates as training wheels to help you better understand the software and the capabilities of the system, but also think of them as building the foundation for your music mixing workflow that you use from here on out.
By systemizing your workflow you’ll be able to move through different mixing projects a lot faster, too. You’ll know that you need to start mixing essential elements at the beginning (drums, bass, guitar, voice and audio tracks, reverb return, delay return, etc.) before building out the rest of your elements as your creativity and competence with your DAW expand.
It’s also important that you start building out each audio mix from a rock-solid foundation. Music promotion should
A lot of artists like to mix before they mix, so to speak, working to push original recordings just as far as humanly possible – without a lot of extra processing – to get things as close to their idealized version as possible.
Secondly, top artists and producers like to keep things as simple and as straightforward as they can without adding any extra flair or sound unnecessary.
There’s always going to be a temptation to throw everything in the kitchen sink into a song when mixing audio, really do your level best to strip out everything and anything that doesn’t add to your vision and you’ll have better results for sure.
Lastly, you really want to zero in on balanced levels and panning before you send your final mixdown off to be mastered.
Levels are going to be unique on every single track and your panning is going to have to be balanced in connection with those levels when you are mixing music. This is something that you’ll learn as you go along, and something that your perfect as you train your ear and unlock your creativity, but you’ll definitely want to focus on these fundamentals when music mixing.
Simplify Naming Protocols
Another pro tip you’ll want to keep in mind when learning to mix is establishing and maintaining a consistent and easy to remember naming protocol for each and every one of your individual files.
This sounds a little basic and a little common sense but you’d be surprised at the number of artists (some of them professionals) that have unmanageable libraries of files just because everything is named “Audio Track #XXX” without any identifying information that makes it easy to find and even easier to use.
Keep things in well-organized files, name things intelligently so that you can use them moving forward, and stick to a consistent naming format and language and you’ll have a lot less to worry about.
Fall in Love with Your Equalizer
All music (all sound, really) is made up of different frequencies and you’re going to want to find a way to balance, boost, and cut the individual frequencies of each stem that you are mixing to match perfectly with the sound that you are looking to create in your final product.
This part of mixing audio elements really comes down to mastering your EQ, finding a way to hit that perfect sweet spot between your high sounds, your mid sounds, and your lows. These frequencies are going to impact how your music is experienced and the kind of energy it brings to the table and all of that can be manipulated with your EQ tools.
Don’t be shy about taking advantage of EQ filters to clean things up without wasting a lot of time, energy, or effort in audio mixing, either. The shortcuts are designed by top-tier professionals to help streamline your efforts and you’ll want to lean on them whenever possible.
Drop-In Some Dynamics
The individual spaces between the loudest stems or parts of your audio mix and the quietest parts are called dynamics (or the dynamic range) and there’s a lot of opportunities here to change the way your music sounds just by messing with different dynamic elements and dynamic ranges.
Like with a lot of audio mixing elements, this isn’t something that is cut and dry, simple, or straightforward but is instead something that you are going to have to hear as you go through the mixing process to find the sweet spot for your sound and your specific track.
Different dynamic swings can add a lot of emotion and energy to music, but it can also kind of make different elements of your song hard to blend together and seem sort of disjointed.
You’ll want to be diligent with the way that you use dynamic range and audio compression for sure, but at the end of the day if you aren’t adding in these kinds of elements the odds are good that you will be happy with your finished results from music mixing.
You’ll also want to focus on reverb (the reflection of each individual sound) and the way that it impacts the end result.
It’s always a good idea to have as much of an idea about how you want everything to come together from the start and then sort of reverse engineer that with your mixing, though reverb is usually the last bit of “place” you add to your song before you send it off to the mixdown and mastering.