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How To Mix Music (Part 1):


Fundamentals
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guide-becoming-music-mixing-mastering-professional-fundamentals/#comments)

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ood mixing can make a good track sound great. It can create a

G huge difference in how a piece of music is perceived. It creates


clarity in the sound. Gives it room to breathe. And creates
definition that makes the individual elements stand out. Having your music
mixed and mastered by a professional, or doing it yourself (with the right
approach), can truly make a world of difference.

If you are about to release music or landed on this article because you were
curious about how to mix music in general, or how to better mix your song or
album, you have come to the right place.
In this series, I will share our years of experience and insight on mixing and
mastering, our best mixing tips, mastering tricks, and music production
strategies. Covering the necessary preparations, tools, underlying physics
and insider tips and tricks to achieve the perfect mix and master.

We have been responsible for the majority of music released on Heroic, our
sublabels, our artists and also for major labels such as Monstercat and
Armada.

With this first article, we will talk about setting yourself up to become a great
engineer.

Before you continue reading, make sure you get this free PDF. In this free

 PDF are 7 simple slides that make it super easy to understand how to mix
 music yourself and explain it to others:




Mixing Fundamentals
Monitoring
In order to become good at mixing, you need to set yourself up to be able to
hear all the details in the music.

Ideally, you want to have listening equipment that reflects the full frequency
range that we (humans) can hear (20Hz 20kHz) in detail. The best scenario
would be having an isolated studio with proper monitors, however there are
very good headphones on the market too. The Sennheiser HD600 and Shure
SRH940 MKII headphones are examples of great low-budget options.

When you have acquired a new listening source, it will take you some time to
be fully accustomed to the sound and details that they reflect. A good way to
 get used to the specific sound reflection of your source is to listen to music

that you are very familiar with, frequently.


By listening to these signature tracks over and over, you will get used to how


these are displayed and in turn these can be used as reference material for the
music that you are going to mix.

Therefore its smart to listen to tracks that you could use to potentially
reference the music with that you intend to mix or master. Preferably, you
pick a perfectly mixed song of the same musical genre as yours, and compare
these constantly (also called to as A/B-ing).

Through referencing you can better determine what you need to improve in
your own mix, by spotting the differences to the tracks you chose for the
perfect comparison.

DAW & Plugins


People love to discuss which digital audio workstation (DAW) is better,
whether you are working in FL Studio (Fruity Loops) (https://www.image-
line.com/flstudio/), Logic (https://www.apple.com/nl/logic-pro/), Ableton
(https://www.ableton.com/), Pro Tools (http://www.avid.com/US/products
/family/pro-tools), Reason (https://www.propellerheads.se/reason), Cubase
(http://www.steinberg.net/en/products/cubase/start.html), Bitwig
(https://www.bitwig.com/en/bitwig-studio.html) or others.

In terms of sound quality it does not matter. The difference is in the lay-out
and work-flow of these tools and is mostly a matter of preference. You should
work with whatever you are most comfortable with.

BEFO RE YOU D IVE IN, DOWNLOAD THE MUSIC MIXING FRAMEWORK.



 At the end of the day it is about the results you can produce with the DAW.

Some people are better with Fruity Loops, others with Ableton. One thing we

will say though, is that from a live-performance perspective, Ableton Live is

typically the safer bet, as it will allow you to effectively use your projects live
(for shows).

What does however influence results dramatically, is what plugins (or virtual
studio technology (VSTs)) you use, and how. Most DAWs come equipped
with a selection of standard plugins, which are OK however rarely
outstanding.

We recommend that you expand your toolkit.

Our audio engineers love to use the following (affordable) plugins to improve
their mixes:

Equalizer: Fabfilter Pro-Q 2 (http://www.fabfilter.com/products/pro-q-


2-equalizer-plug-in)
Compressor: Unique Recording Software Strip Pro
(http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/mar08/articles/ccspro.htm),
Fabfilter Pro C (http://www.fabfilter.com/products/pro-c-compressor-
plug-in)
Delay: Fabfilter Timeless 2 (http://www.fabfilter.com/products/timeless-
2-stereo-tape-delay-plug-in)
Reverb: 2C Audio Breeze (http://www.2caudio.com/products
/breeze#_overview), 112dB Redline Reverb (https://www.112db.com
/redline/reverb/)

Composition

At the core of creating a perfect sounding track, is an understanding of the

 frequency spectrum.

 This allows you to think ahead, to craft the composition of a song in such a
 way that you perfectly utilize the frequency spectrum so that you can later

achieve the perfect mix.

The frequency spectrum is the audible frequency range, that spans


from the lowest frequency of 20 Hz to the highest frequency 20 kHz. In the
image below, the lower frequencies are displayed on the left, whereas the
higher ones are on the right.

A good mix starts in the composition of a song. Choosing elements that fill
the frequency spectrum the right way.

You should save space in the low frequencies for the bassline and the kick
drum, by not adding too many other elements that contain low frequencies.
The same applies to high frequencies for the hi-hats, the crashes and the
high-end of vocals.
BEFO RE YOU D IVE IN, DOWNLOAD THE MUSIC MIXING FRAMEWORK.

Another important aspect is utilizing the stereo image, which


concerns the spatial placement of sounds. In other words, whether
sounds are coming from the left, right, back or front. A well configured stereo
image creates definition.

Many VSTs have stereo knobs or direction faders that allow you to adjust the
width of an element.

An essential tip is to place the elements with low frequencies in the center of
 your stereo image, and to make the ones with higher frequencies more wide.
 This creates a sense of depth.

 Whilst mixing, an effective way to make the lows centered is by making them

mono. You can make specific stems wider by panning them wider in the mix.

Then down the line when mastering, you can also center or widen specific
frequency ranges, as you can see in the image below.

In this mastering plugin, I have solo-ed the lower frequencies and have
centered their stereo width. You can see by the vectorscope that the lows are
in the centre of the spectrum.

In this mastering plugin, I have solo-ed the higher frequency range, which
has a wide frequency rage (as displayed in the vectorscope).

(https://heroic.academy/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/HA-Mixing-Article-
Stereo-Image-High-Frequencies1.png)

For making your whole mix blend together better, we have learned an
effective trick from professional musicians. That is to put your drums and
effects in the same key (tonic note) as the rest of your track.

Just like live players, whom tune their instruments to match the specific song
they are going to play, you should be doing this too as an engineer. If your
samples or stems are not already in the same key, use other samples that are,
or use pitch shifting to transform them until they fully blend in.

Preparing stems
Before we proceed with the actual mixing, you need to make sure that your
individual stems are well prepared. Create clarity in the mix by removing the
standard reverbs and delays added by the VSTs.


It is better to send the signal to a reverb and/or delay bus after equalizing and

compressing the sound, as the simultaneous use of multiple reverb spaces

 causes the mix to sound cluttered More about this in a later post.



BEFO RE YOU D IVE IN, DOWNLOAD THE MUSIC MIXING FRAMEWORK.

Make sure that each stem has enough headroom (at least -6 dB) and that
there is no moment of clipping in either the VST, the plugins or on the
channel.

If you like distortion, for the best results plugins such as iZotope Trash 2
(https://www.izotope.com/trash2) or Fabfilter Saturn
(http://www.fabfilter.com/products/saturn-multiband-distortion-
saturation-plug-in). These professional plugins provide you with much more
freedom, control and a better mix.

At this stage you have the option to export the stems in order to save CPU.
Double-check the settings and export all separate stems in the highest quality
wav format.

-
That concludes this episode of The Essential Guide To Becoming A
Music Mixing Professional series.
I appreciate you reading this post. I hope you put some comments down
below and ask me any questions, we are all learning this together. Also, join
our private mailing list and be the first to be updated with new mixing and
mastering tips.

In part 2, I discuss everything that you need to understand to become great at

 mixing. Part 2 covers how to set up your mixer, stems and channels, how to
 setup a good signal flow and why. Furthermore I will discuss equalizing (EQ),
 compression (dynamics), delay and reverberation (reverb). Continue reading
 the second episode here. (/essential-guide-becoming-music-mixing-

professional-part-2-signal-flow-plugins/)


I am Tim van Doorne, its an honour to serve you. Stay motivated to


improve your sound, every single day!
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Dj Shiftian B 6 months ago


great text broo !! Thank you Could you explain a little better That is to put your drums and
effects in the same key (tonic note) as the rest of your track.What do you mean?sorry me
english i from colombia south america
Reply Share

Tim van Doorne > Dj Shiftian B 6 months ago


Thank you! I'm not a native speaker myself, so I'm sure my english isn't perfect
either.

What I mean is that drums such as kicks, snares, hi-hats, crashes, toms, etc. are
generally tuned to play specific musical notes.

When you use these drum samples in your productions (or when you play them live)
 it sounds much better if they are in tune with the notes and chord progressions of
 the song.

 In other words, same as your synths and instruments play notes, your drums play
 notes too - make sure these are musically aligned with each other.
Reply Share


Tobin Fox music 10 months ago


Enjoying these articles so much! thank you for making them:)
Reply Share

Tim van Doorne > Tobin Fox music 10 months ago


Happy to hear that Tobin fox music. You're very welcome!
Reply Share

Sindre Brueland a year ago


Great article! So actionable, I'll definitely take this into practice. Sharing it too.
Reply Share

Tim van Doorne > Sindre Brueland a year ago


Thanks Sindre. Appreciate that!
Reply Share

Tim van Doorne a year ago


Thank you for reading! Would love to hear any thoughts you might have.
Reply Share

Sierd Jansen > Tim van Doorne a year ago


Hi Tim, thanks for writing this piece, great read! One question though, do you have
any tips on how to precisely determine the key of drums, bassdrums in particular?
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