Beat mixing techniques: Part 2:
WEDNESDAY 10 JUNE, 2009
By Simon Rudd
Thereʼs many other things that can be done to give your productions the best overall sound that they deserve. Below is a few tips and techniques that will have your mixes bouncing and sounding like the pros in no time!
With most R&B and Hip Hop applications you want the optimize the punch of your kicks, snare, hihats, bass and any percussion. The most important thing you must remember when adding compression is to not have your tracks ʻbreatheʼ. ʻBreathingʼ is where you hear the compressor reducing the gain of the audio signal and it gives an amateur sound to your mixes.
Ratio Settings Revealed - In most cases the general ratio settings are anything between 4:1 and 8:1. Although, Higher settings can be used to achieve a soft limiting effect.
Threshold Settings Revealed - Industry producers try to achieve anything from 8dB to 15dB of gain reduction. This is usually applied to instruments such as kicks, snares, hi-hats, bass, piano, percussion and guitar. Remember what might sound great at a solo track, might sound out of place within the mix, so remember to keep comparing the sound when mixed.
Attack Time Settings Revealed - Achieving a nice punch to your tracks, while avoiding the ʻbreathingʼ effect is very important. Each track needs a separate compression setting! If you use presets and templates you will not be getting the correct compression needed to optimize your mixes and make them sound professional. The best technique that can be used for attack settings is simply to trust your ears. Set the attack time to the slowest possible setting, then slowly increase the attack speed until the timbre / sound of the instrument seems to dull or weaken. You then decrease the attack time to bring the instrument sound back to a stronger signal. Use this technique for any other tracks that you want. Remember, the settings you use on a kick drum, will not be the settings you will need for a guitar, or bass track. Donʼt take the short route and take your time perfecting each track.
Release Time Settings Revealed - This uses the same method as the attack settings. In this case we will use a snare as an example. You will need to set the release time to the fastest setting, and then slowly decrease the release time until the compressor recovers the snares volume. It helps if the compressor youʼre using has a visual display of the gain reduction being applied to the snare.
EQ - Drums, Bass & Other Instruments
Drums are one of the most important aspects of a great mix. Here are some great tips that will help your drums sound more clean and professional. Please note: Add compression after your EQ.
Make sure that when applying equalization to your drum tracks that you must be selective in the frequencies that you cut and boost. Frequency accumulation is one of the quickest ways to ruin a mix. Many amateur producers never obtain great mixes and think theyʼre doing everything right.
This can come down to poor frequency selection when using an EQ. The low end frequency will muddy up your drums, so make sure never to add an overall EQ to all your drums. Assign each track itʼs own EQ settings.
When it comes to kicks and low end toms, cutting frequencies in the 200 - 600Hz range will give the tracks, that are too ʻfatʼ and muddy in the mix a much cleaner timbre. Also boosting the 200Hz - 400Hz range will give a punchy crisp sound to your snares. To avoid accumulating frequencies, when boosting 90Hz on your kick track by 2dB, make sure to cut 2dB from your tom tracks in the same frequency!
If you mix sounds a little ʻunder waterʼ or ʻmuddyʼ then try boosting high frequency tracks. You could boost 10 khz - 12 khz on your hi-hat, cymbal and possibly some piano / synth tracks to ad clarity and brilliance. Remember, where you boost you must cut. Where you cut, you must boost,
using this simple technique will stop any accumulated frequency effects and also keep your mixes well balanced.
When it comes to applying EQ to your bass tracks, understand that they can control the overall output and volume of the master mix. Itʼs very important never to pan your bass tracks away from the centre. Itʼs important to do the opposite on your bass track that you do with your kick track, and vice versa. Otherwise youʼll end up having some horrible distortion, or a muddy sounding mix. If you boost 80Hz on your kick drum track, then cut 80Hz from you bass track (Although this isnʼt always necessary). One thing that can quickly ruin a mix is to boost the same frequencies. If
boosting 2Db at 70Hz on your kick, then boost around 100 - 120Hz on your bass guitar track.
Becoming a master at Equalization on the low end spectrum of your mix will give them a solid foundation and make your mixes hotter than ever before!
Panning & Frequency Spectrum:
Placing your instruments all in the centre of your speakers will give your mixes a boring, mono sound. By learning how to pan and place your instruments within the frequency spectrum will allow your productions to sound wider, and more professional. Make sure that you use a unique and individual pan and place for each track. By panning instruments you will find that you are able to hear your instruments more clearly and ʻun-mudifyʼ the mix, so to speak.
Also then applying a stereo spreader to either the master channel or individual instruments can
really turn your boring mono mix, in to a stereo experience.
You need to stop having too many high ear-piercing instruments, or too many muddy lows that arenʼt EQʼd correctly. By making sure you fill the spectrum and EQ tracks professional and with care you can achieve that professional, industry and radio ready sound that youʼve been hoping