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A Few Basic Rules to Understand the Dark Art of Studio Mixing

We know the word and mostly knows what it means, yet we are all quite frightened by the thought. The thought of mixing music.

It’s true, music takes hard work, money, and effort. Yet when it comes down to mixing, it pushes people away because of the mysticism of it. When I say mixing I am talking about the kind of mixing done in the studio, rather than DJ mixing, more accurately referred to as audio engineering.

However despite the many Youtube videos we watch, most of us will never realize how confusing it can be. This owes itself namely to the fact that every song is different and experience will always win over knowledge. This all being said, there are some ground rules that can lend themselves to almost every mixing session.

1. Parallels

As we venture into mixing a song, parallel compression is one of the first things we can do to tighten up a song. Parallel compression makes processing easy by heavily squashing the track in question and duplicating the track without any compression and mixing them with each other. This way, whenever compression needs to be changed on a track we have to touch just one control instead of four to six of them! This parallel processing can be done with almost anything else but oftentimes makes the most sense with compression. Here is a quick video showing parallel compression on an EDM style track.

2. Delay and Verb

Obviously, every track needs reverb and delay. Although it is essential, it is often used incorrectly. Most experts say that reverb should be panned. This makes sure that the space occupied by the large reverb is not combatting for the same space as the medium reverb.This then opens up the spot for the shortest delay time to be close to the large reverb with pre-delay and not get too muddy. There are a plethora of tips and tricks that can be applied to using reverb and delay; this one, though, is one that is often missed. Here is a video that shows how to get full interesting reverbs by panning them!

3. Automation

This is probably the biggest tip that has helped my personal mixes. Automation is essential to a track that is full of attention to detail obviously. However, automation is always moving. Usually, this automation mainly talks to subtle volume automation, but it is not the only way. Basic automation is used to bring certain elements further from the mix so that the main idea can come in and still have room to breathe. Detailed automation though can be utilized to bring the whole track under control at all times. Changes in volume of a live track can be cut down by the simple use of fast detailed automation mixed with compression. Here is a fantastic video from Warren Huart about automation and processing vocals.

Mixing is not a skill that is mastered in a single day, but considering these elements in your next studio mix can help tighten your sound making your track more desirable for label releases.

Are there other tips and tricks you'd like us to share in the future? Give us a shout in the comments!