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How You Mix Tells A Lot About You

MixerboardSince I’ve been getting a lot of new visitors to my new blog, I got my first question.

“How do you mix”.

I believe this to be a serious problem to everyone new to recording. It’s the hardest thing I’ve had to learn to do. I decided I’d make my answer in a post.

The way you do it may be different. But, I’ve had success with doing it like this. And that’s all I want to do in this post. To tell people having trouble with it the way I do it.


Here we go:

Mixing is serious business. Often times you have to turn something awfully complex into something simple. It’s hard to come up with tips for mixing. I know there are reams of information on the internet about, but I wanted to take a stab at it.

What I’m about to write isn’t a tip. It’s more of the way I’ve been doing it with success. It doesn’t work in all situations, and I’ll tell you more about that in a minute. This is how I usually sit down and mix:

What’s important to remember is that “all faders love to go up”

– The most dominant track is the vocals in most cases so I start at the vocal. Nothing else. I go up as much as humanly possible.

– If there’s a lot of dynamics, I’ll compress.

– Once I’m satisfied with the vocal, I’ll start with the bass drum. Because it’s usually the bass drum that’s the second most important track.

– I usually mix the bass drum, snare, and bass guitar at the same time to get a feel for what I’m doing. Bass drum usually needs a little compression. And I pan it off center a little bit. Same with the bass guitar, accept I go the other way. So Bass Drum is a little to the left and the bass guitar is a little to the right. That usually gives both definition. If I’ve mic’ed right.

– Then I go to the next most important track. Sit that in the mix. All the way to the least important. It is usually there that I “sit on it a couple of days” and come back to it.

If it’s muddy or anything else, I fix it then.

Back to what I said about it not working in all situations: It’s rarely a perfect situation with a drummer that’s at home with recording. They usually tune their drums for live performances. Not good for you. You either tell them you need to tune the drums differently (good luck). Or you use triggers as best as you can.

If they don’t care about the quality of their recordings, maybe they shouldn’t be recording. So you are on the same side. You just have to let him/her know that it needs to be tuned different if they want to sound good. Even if they’re ok with sounding shitty, you aren’t. You have a rep to maintain.

For Guitars

What I’ve been doing is going direct out to the board and sending it to their amp. When I get ready to mix, I used to mic my amps and route it back to the board. I don’t do that much now. I usually just use a plugin since plugins have gotten really good lately.

I’ve never had a guitarist who actually wanted to sound shitty. So they’ll usually go along with you (myself included. I’m a guitar player.)

For Bass Guitars

For bass guitar, if they’ve done any recording in the past, they’re open to going direct. That’s great for you. Use a plugin. I used to use DI boxes, but I have a Focusrite preamp that I love for basses.

A lot of times keyboards get in the bass’s way. So I pan it wherever the bass isn’t panned.

For Keyboards

This is what I do for keyboards. Keyboardists have developed the sound they want. Most are very smart. I go direct to the board. Then, when mixdown comes, I send it out to the loudspeakers and have two small diaphragm condensers in the xy pattern and then I mix that with the direct signal. This usually helps “open” it up stereophonically.

After the mix

I know bands don’t like to wait for their mixes to be done. But what I like to do is when I have the main mix done, I like to “sit on it” for an additional few days. Let other people hear it through their listening environments and give me feed back.

If I just don’t have enough time to do that, I do the best I can with the main mix. There’s usually not much to change anyway. But a little more time does help the mix.

Categories: Mixing
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