Presentation on theme: "What it’s not… The 10 Minute Mixing School is not about learning how to mix a hit song in only 10 minutes. Mixing a song can take anywhere from several."— Presentation transcript:
What it’s not… The 10 Minute Mixing School is not about learning how to mix a hit song in only 10 minutes. Mixing a song can take anywhere from several hours to an entire day or longer! What it is… The 10 Minute Mixing School started as a blog that only took about 10 minutes to read. If you apply the information you learn here to your mixing, they will sound more polished. Kenn Crawford’s 10 Minute Mixing School Click Mouse to Advance Slide
“Your ten minute mixing course, if followed, has the potential to save time and frustration for the beginner as well as the more experienced home recordist. The Ten Minute Mixing School: concise, to the point, and with some humor thrown in. That combo works for me!” ~Farrell Jackson “There's so much that can be said about mixing. After a while, it gets to the point where it just strangles the process with nonsense, and you realize that it can all be said in a few short paragraphs more effectively. -Harry Baggs “Content and simple explanations are excellent. You have a very folksy style that will appeal to a broad audience.” -Doug Millaway “That's great Kenn! I can't think of a single thing I'd change about this.” -Greg Cain “I love the bathroom tip!” -Bill Heppe
“The actual producing, mixing, and mastering is hard work, harder than what I do.” ~ Mandy Moore Whether your mixer is hardware or software based you should start by putting your mixer in neutral and that will get you started on the right track. That means flatten all your EQ settings to zero as well as your AUX sends and drop all the faders. If you are like me, you probably prefer to listen to some EQ/Reverb on vocals and various instruments as you track new parts; kind of like mixing on the fly while we track. This is fine as long as you kill everything before you set out to work on your final mix. You recorded from scratch and you should start your mix the same way. Start at the beginning...
Subgroup the various sections of your mix - drum kits for example should be sub-grouped to a separate “mini-mix” so you only have to concern yourself with one fader if you need to increase or decrease the entire kit later on. Backing vocals, horn sections and the like should also be mixed to their own subgroups. As your mix evolves you will find that you need to raise or drop the level of a section just a hair…and what better way to lower the full drum kit that you so carefully mixed, than to be able to adjust the whole thing with 1 fader? Birds of a feather...
Ever hear someone yell your name but you didn’t know exactly where it was coming from? Mixing with tired ears is like that. You “think” you can hear things properly but in truth, your ears are playing their version of the optical illusion. Rest them before mixing (like a day or two after the recording session) and don’t forget to refer back to commercial recordings when you mix so you will have some form of reference. Are You Talking To Me?
Infected with FX Go easy on the effects! Don’t start twiddling knobs because you’re “supposed to” and don’t throw a wash of reverb over everything. The drier the sound the more up-front it will sound. Heavy reverb push the sound farther back in the mix. If the song calls for a big reverb on the lead vocals and that of course needs to be upfront, try adding some pre-delay to the reverb effect and adjust both the vocal level and the reverb level independently until the vocal sits comfortably over the backing tracks.
To Pan or Not to Pan? Kick drums and bass instruments do not need to be panned. They are high energy sounds and for the most part these bassy sounds contain little or no directional information anyway. Some bass sounds have harmonic overtones that can be more directional, but when setting up your initial mix pan the bass sounds dead center and worry about placement embellishments later.
Put on a Happy Face EQ the instrument to the mix, not just to itself. That perfect guitar sound or snare sound will sound different when everything else is added. Use EQ to clean up the soloed sound and then fine-tune the EQ with the rest of the mix playing. If you must use heavy EQ you should consider fixing it at the source and re-record that part if possible. If you are one of those people who thinks a graphic EQ HAS to look like a smiley face I will hunt you down and beat you with it Use your ears!
Less is More Fix problems by using EQ cut rather than boost. If the sound needs more bass try lowering the high end instead. Vocals need to be louder? Try lowering everything else. If you always raise EQ and track volumes you will have to start raising other faders to match, and the next thing you know, your mix is too loud and the musical elements are working against each other. Don’t kill the pleasing musical dynamics the artist worked so hard to create by having every track screaming out the speakers. Less really is more.
There was an old lady who lived in a shoe.. And, like her shoe, there’s only so much space available. In your mix, its sonic space. Having too many instruments competing for the same part of the audio spectrum will create a cluttered and unfocused mix. The mid-range is particularly vulnerable to space clutter. Use EQ to narrow the spectrum of the sound you're working. Rolling off some low end and taking out any excessive top end frequencies. A good example is the guitar: you can safely roll off the extreme lows without hurting the overall sound of the guitar. By EQ-ing out the mud the guitar produced in that low area it allows the kick and bass drum to really punch through.
Compress the Lead Vocal Compression makes the vocal sit all nice-nice in the mix. Always remember that compression raises the background noise so if your vocals suddenly sound too noisy you are over- compressing them. Too much compression squashes the dynamics out of the lead vocal, creating a lifeless and uninteresting mix. The rule of thumb I always use is that if I can hear the compressor working on the vocal it’s working too hard.
Because the other rule of thumb is background vocals should be heavily compressed to flatten out the dynamics. Background vocals are mixed lower than the lead vocal so the extra noise will not be as apparent, and by flattening the dynamics with compression they won’t jump out of the mix and overpower the lead. If you compress heavy and throw on a few gobs of reverb the background vocals will automatically sound, well… in the background. Some styles of music have the background vocals up front with the lead, so use your ears until it sounds just right. Good Thing I Have Two Thumbs!
Go Potty Think of the last time you were at a club and had to use the facilities. Remember how different the music sounded in there? You don’t actually have to go to the bathroom, but checking your mix by listening to it from outside the studio door or from down the hall will reveal things you might overlook when listening directly in front of your monitors. Don’t ask me why it works, it just does
Don’t Bang Your Drum Ear drum that is. Mixing too loudly for extended periods just tires your ears that much faster, and you can’t mix right if you can’t hear right. Listening to extremely loud mixes constantly can permanently damage your hearing. Can you think of any song worth losing your hearing over? Then turn it down and mix at a comfortable level. Its ok to mix loud for short periods, especially if you are mixing dance music, but mix these in short spurts and take frequent breaks to let your ears recover.
Check your mixes on headphones from time to time. The isolation of headphones gives you a better chance of picking up on those small distortions, clicks and other unwanted noise. But, don’t mix entirely under headphones because the stereo image is different than stereo speakers. The sound from your speakers are the sound of your speakers in your room. The sound in the headphones is pumped directly into your head so room sound has no effect, and the left-to-right separation is more noticeable than listening to speakers. Headphones can be unpredictable at low frequencies and often exaggerate it. Do They Still Call Them Cans?
The Dynamic See-Saw Creating dynamics with fader movement is great, but try to keep a relatively constant drum and bass level during the mix. Natural dynamics is one thing, but constantly moving the faders on these sounds will alter the listeners perception. Remember, everything in your mix should be reinforcing the lead elements and complementing everything else. Excessive fader movements will distract from the overall feel of the song and the message will get lost.
Hen, Rooster, Chicken… Duck mid-range instruments such as overdriven guitars and synth pads under the lead vocal so they don’t conflict with the vocal by fighting for sonic space. Whenever the vocals are present try dropping the conflicting sounds by two or three dBs to help improve the clarity of your mix. A compressor or a noise gate that has ducking features can be used with a fairly fast attack time. Shorter release times will cause more pumping. Like all things music, adjust by ear.
Peek-a-Boo! Close your eyes and listen to your mix. With your eyes closed you can’t see all the pretty flashing lights or see anything that is happening to your mix. By closing your eyes the only thing you can do is listen. So shut your eyes and open your ears.
Stop The Presses! Once you nail the perfect mix do NOT start making copies or burning CDs. Call it a day and get some sleep; you earned it! Tomorrow you can listen to your finished mix with fresh ears. Chances are your perception of your perfect mix is likely to change after resting your ears overnight. Check the mix on different sound systems to make sure it sounds good on all of them and don’t forget to give your mix the iPod and car test: Bounce it down to an MP3 and listen to it on your MP3 player and then burn a CD and go for a drive because these days, most people listen to music either on their iPod or in their car. Make sure your mix delivers!
I hope the 10 Minute Mixing School has opened your eyes, and ears, to mixing. If you have any comments or suggestions I would love to hear from you. Visit me at and don’t forget to subscribe to my blog Always remember: your mixes should be like your music… Independent and Uniquely You!