Do's and Dont's for Mixing and Mastering

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Do's and Dont's for Mixing and Mastering

Postby JSynth » 22 May 2013 11:44

I figured it would be a great idea to have a thread dedicated to the do's and dont's of Mixing and Mastering.

Try not to repeat any tips.

I will start:

Pan out your mix. Centering all your instruments only causes them to compete. Keep your bass, lead, kick and snare centered and pan almost everything else.
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Re: Do's and Dont's for Mixing and Mastering

Postby Aurum Noble » 22 May 2013 11:56

Well said.

I've learnt my lesson after I was making a synth-heavy track which wasn't panned correctly. Also, I was trying to make a quasi-Yamaha TX816 using 8 instances of FM8 in a rack, and after a bit of playing around, I've managed to get it sounding right, thanks to panning.

Also, centred tracks could potentially overload your master, more so when the volume is set equally.
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Re: Do's and Dont's for Mixing and Mastering

Postby Nine Volt » 22 May 2013 13:40

Mix to at least -6dB on your master.

And now something less generic:
EQ and sidechain everything. Everything. Well, you can disregard the sidechaining thing if you don't do, say, dubstep or house or trance, but sidechaining everything is helpful to know.
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Re: Do's and Dont's for Mixing and Mastering

Postby TheMalenEst » 22 May 2013 14:53

i hope everyone know this.

Rest your ears
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Re: Do's and Dont's for Mixing and Mastering

Postby PropellerEscape » 22 May 2013 14:57

Nine Volt wrote:Mix to at least -6dB on your master.

EQ everything.

This is so important. EQ everything, even if it's a slight EQ on a high hat, or on a sound effect, it frees up space for other elements in your mix
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Re: Do's and Dont's for Mixing and Mastering

Postby Motivfs » 22 May 2013 15:07

Lowpass/Highpass EQ everything that has empty space. If a synth takes up only the high end, EQ the low end, same for cymbals. If you don't EQ that low end, your subs and basses will come out muddy. Same goes for the high end, don't let too much occupy that space otherwise it will be too overwhelming on the high end. They still take up that low/high end regardless of if you see any harmonics in that frequency or not.

Don't let your synths compete, let them share the space and work with eachother.

And m8, do u even compress?
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Re: Do's and Dont's for Mixing and Mastering

Postby Captain Ironhelm » 22 May 2013 16:54

personal oddities I've developed:

- if in doubt, throw it out. no use in stressing over something that isn't working.

- do everything mono. a lot of systems use mono anyway. weird stereo effects can really drive me batty. if you use stereo anyway, use caution.

- if you find something you can improve on in the master, go back to the mix and fix it there. repeat as necessary.
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Re: Do's and Dont's for Mixing and Mastering

Postby Genkar » 22 May 2013 18:07

When you EQ, cut, don't boost. Really basic, but really important.

Don't use soundgoodizer.

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Re: Do's and Dont's for Mixing and Mastering

Postby Mr. Bigglesworth » 22 May 2013 20:29

TheMalenEst wrote:i hope everyone know this.

Rest your ears

Layering synths is fine as long as the supporting layers are quieter than your lead (and pan them if you wanna). They compete like crazy at the same volume.
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Re: Do's and Dont's for Mixing and Mastering

Postby colortwelve » 22 May 2013 21:35

Zero out everything at the start and build up your mix by turning up the most foundational/important channels first - first drums, then sub, then bass, then leads, then weird effects and layers and incidental percussion. This lets you make sure your mix is prioritized and that your leveling is correct (and on that note, check leveling before you EQ).

Remember that you can automate the gain on an EQ band if you have to - this can be very useful if you're dealing with a synth with prominent cutoff automation, in which case some frequencies that are initially at a good level can get out of hand when the cutoff is all the way off. This lets you keep the character of the initial sound, so long as there's already room for it.

When dealing with full-sounding basses, you have two options to keep from interfering with a kick drum - either highpass the top end of the bass and layer it with a sub/low end and sidechain the low end, or sidechain the low EQ bands themselves to the kick, so that the high end stays when a kick drum attacks. This lets you keep your mix compact and easy to deal with.

Keep in mind that if you master your own work, mastering compression may affect the way your mix sounds - your options in this case are either to let up on the compression and have a generally weaker-sounding master or to tweak the mix as you master, so that the master still has a nice amount of loudness without unbalancing your mix.
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Re: Do's and Dont's for Mixing and Mastering

Postby Navron » 23 May 2013 04:04

- Don't balance every instrument. A well-balanced mix is a boring mix. A good mixing engineer guides the listener. Find out what the focus is for each section, and bring that more into the front so the listener focuses on that.
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Re: Do's and Dont's for Mixing and Mastering

Postby JayB » 23 May 2013 05:32

Have and use reference tracks. These are professional tracks of a comparable style you can use to refresh your ears and find out what might be wrong in your mixdown.

Also when you're not sure if your main element is loud enough turn down your speakers to zero and slowly turn up the volume. The first element you hear is the loudest element. Of it's your main melody or vocals, it's good. :)
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Re: Do's and Dont's for Mixing and Mastering

Postby S.P.P » 23 May 2013 07:33

I don't have many "dos and don'ts" type tips, but you can have some EQ tips!

-If a sound is muddy in the mix; cut it at 250Hz. (This is good practice anyways) (Don't do this on subs, obviously)
-If you want to make sounds better, cut.
-If you want to make sounds different, boost.
- You can't boost something that isn't there to begin with!

Also, take some EQ frequency "guidelines" (written with acoustic mixes in mind, but will work fine for electronic; just switch in instruments for the applicable synth type):

Kick drum: Bottom at 80-100Hz, hollowness at 400Hz, click at 3-5kHz.
Snare: 'Fatness' at 120-240Hz, crispness at 5kHz, snap at 10kHz.
Toms: Fullness at 240-500Hz, attack at 5-7kHz.
Floor tom: Fullness at 80Hz, attack at 5kHz.
Hats (and other cymbals): Clang at 200Hz, sparkle at 8-10kHz.

Bass guitar: Bottom at 50-80Hz, attack at 700Hz, snap at 2.5kHz.
Electric guitar: Fullness at 240-500Hz, presence at 1.5-2.5kHz.
Acoustic guitar (also is the same for organs if you're into that): Fullness at 80Hz, body at 240Hz, presence at 1.5kHz.
Piano: Fullness at 80Hz, presence at 3-5kHz.
Horns: Fullness at 120Hz, 'piercing' at 5kHz.
Vocals: Fullness at 120Hz, 'boomy' at 240Hz, presence at 5kHz, sibilance at 4-7kHz, airy at 10-15 kHz.
Strings: Fullness at 240Hz, scratchy at 7-10kHz.

Remember to take all of the above with a pinch of salt, and let you ears be the final judge of what sounds good and not a chart/list!
If you're mixing electronics, some of the above may need to be tweaked slightly, but it can still stand up to electronic mixes (for example, dubsteppy basses can be mixed somewhere between a bass guitar and electric guitar, to suit).

Also, it's a good idea to compress and EQ everything, but in a lot of instances, use compression very sparingly. There's nothing worse than over-compression. Except Nicki Minaj.

That's about all I can give you, I hope somebody finds this useful!
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Re: Do's and Dont's for Mixing and Mastering

Postby ChocolateChicken » 23 May 2013 07:50

Do not stereo spread your master, and there shouldn't be a lot of stereo spreading in your mix in the first place.

As Rob Swire said, "If everything above 3kHz disappears when you sum to mono, you're doing it wrong."
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Re: Do's and Dont's for Mixing and Mastering

Postby Lavender_Harmony » 23 May 2013 14:43

Do: If you're getting too used to a mix, and finding it hard to spot flaws or just generally getting stuck, try transposing your entire mix a couple of semitones. I learned this from Alex S, and while I've only used it once or twice, when you're on a tight deadline, it can help return that fresh perspective from when you started the track.

Don't Leave a limiter on your master which is gaining. If you absolutely must have one, set the gain to +0 and the out ceiling to 0dB, and mix quietly. That way, if you're working with really volatile synths, like Reaktor, your ears won't get killed when you make a mistake and put that oscillator through fifty gain stages. Do A/B often though, some limiters cause colouration just by being there.

Do use Soundgoodizer, sausage fattener, you wa shock etc on things like drums. they're saturators. stick a guitar amp on the snare if it sounds good, just don't use them as mastering tools...
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Re: Do's and Dont's for Mixing and Mastering

Postby the4thImpulse » 23 May 2013 15:28

If it sounds good it sounds good, even if you have to break all the rules to get it there.
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Re: Do's and Dont's for Mixing and Mastering

Postby Matthew N. » 23 May 2013 15:50

Never add master automations into your main, raw project file. If you have an idea just write it down and apply in later, working-on-wav stage to reduce your CPU usage.

Also, to FL users: try to avoid using "smart disable" macro. You may end up with renders that did not fully process all plugins due to the disabled plugins not running during rendering. A glitch that has yet to be fixed.
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Re: Do's and Dont's for Mixing and Mastering

Postby HMage » 23 May 2013 17:55

A perfect mix doesn't need mastering.
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Re: Do's and Dont's for Mixing and Mastering

Postby the4thImpulse » 23 May 2013 18:54

HMage wrote:A perfect mix doesn't need mastering.

Mastering and mixing are two returns different processes. Mastering is the final touches in a mix getting it ready and sounding as best as it can for the final export and print onto vinyl, cd, computer file ect..

Professionally, a person who's never hard the track before will do the mastering as to give it a fresh set of ears through a last EQ and dynamics processing.

Mixing isn't much more than summing all the recorded tracks down into one, master, track that's more pleasing to the ears than the raw recording files.

A perfect mix will benefit from mastering possibly more so than a non perfect mix. But I don't believe there is such thing as a 'perfect mix'.
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Re: Do's and Dont's for Mixing and Mastering

Postby ph00tbag » 27 May 2013 20:58

Learn to mix without sidechaining before you implement sidechaining into your production. This way, you learn the fundamentals of balancing sounds according to their inherent qualities rather than just letting the compressor push them out of the way of the kick if they're too loud.
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Re: Do's and Dont's for Mixing and Mastering

Postby itroitnyah » 27 May 2013 21:11

Is "The World Trade Centers fell down on September 11th 2001" an opinion?

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Re: Do's and Dont's for Mixing and Mastering

Postby Sonarch » 11 Aug 2013 18:44

Genkar wrote:When you EQ, cut, don't boost. Really basic, but really important.

Actually, I recently saw something to the contrary. In this video, the guy uses both boosting and cutting to get the best possible sound out of the drum sample, boosting the frequencies that make it sound fuller and cutting out the unnecessary frequencies. Not sure how this idea applies to anything outside of drum samples, but I can't argue with the results.

On an unrelated note, I'll need to be learning more about mastering so i'll keep an eye on this thread!
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Re: Do's and Dont's for Mixing and Mastering

Postby Facade » 11 Aug 2013 19:06


always try to use your emotions in your music i find this helpful as it almost always makes my chord progressions melodies and harmonies sound better ... o-the-dark
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