#1 When producing, do not use headphones while mixing down your track. Most headphones add more bass freq. (frequencies) and you will end up eqing/filtering them out if they seem overpowering or you will not add enough bass freq. thinking it sounds fine but once you listen on other systems the bass is weak and the song is less powerful. You can use headphones to check the overall stereo balance of a song and stereo effects on individual tracks.
#2 Now it’s time to clarify 2 other words I hear new producers misuse.
Mixing or Mixing Down: This is the correct wording to use when your talking about cleaning up the volume levels of every sound and master output of your song. This is an in-depth process that I will do a video tutorial on one day. But for now just now the correct technical term so you can do your own searches. One bit of help… do not use a limiter or compressor on the master output while you mix down. You want the output to be exact so you can shape each sound correctly
Mastering: This word is mistakenly used when they mean “mixing down/mixing” a song. This is the -LAST- process you do over the master output of the song using limiters, compressors, exciters, whatever floats your boat to shape the song and add more oomph and clarity to the song. This step should not be done by newbies and should rarely be done unless your a professional. It is very easy to muck things up and ruin a perfectly good mix.
#3 To fully understand how a sounds “eq range” works you should load up an eq visualizer (spectrum analyser) on your main output so you can see the frequencies that are being used by sound(s) and the song overall. By using your ears and eyes you can tell what freq’s need to be added or taken out. But be careful, you should be using your ears more then your eyes so do not get stuck gazing at the computer and not “listening” to what your really doing.
#4 Now that your looking at a spectrum analyser, look at various sounds and their frequencies. You will be surprised how some sounds look. Take a Pad or Strings for instance, some seem to be soft and seamless but will have HUGE curves in frequencies and usually a lot of low end. This now gives you a better idea of why a bunch of sounds put together can turn into muddiness unless you eq out frequencies, add reverb, panning/stereo panning, take out sounds, change pitches of sounds, and change volumes to make them fit together.
#5 Does your song sound to busy or muddy in the mid range? Try transposing the synth(s)/background sounds up or down an octave so that they are not conflicting with the lead or vocals.
#6 Another thing you can do to stop your song from becoming too busy and/or muddy in the mid range. Sit yourself down and ask yourself if you REALLY need the synth(s)/background sounds that are playing. If you can live without them playing and the idea of the song isn’t gone, take them out or space their placement so they stay away from conflicting frequencies. You won’t believe how much more your song clarity comes out.
#7 Panning your mono sounds and using mono effects on it can give a spatial feel to your mixes. When panning keep things balanced and try to give room for other sounds to be placed. One tip is to think of how you want your mix to be heard. Do you want the listener to get the feel that they are in front of the drums or sitting behind them? If you want them to feel like they are in front of the drums pan the snare to the left from 6-25% depending on your overall mix balance. If you want the listener to feel like they are behind the drums (banging away like a mad man) then pan the snare to the right 6-25%. I myself like to have the listener sound like they are apart of the song so I pan it to the right. It’s little things like this that helps make a mix overall.
#8 To make sure your Kick and Bassline are really in mono you need to listen to the song in a mono system or if your mixing board has a “mono” button use that from time to time to make sure all is in line.
#9 Try not to have too many “trinkets”, pictures, useless items hanging around the studio. They can have “sympathetic vibrations” with certain frequencies and the items can make sounds that will interfere with your listening to the track/sound. (Mine is the shower organiser in the bathroom next to my studio, I have to move it when I listen to my tracks loudly or else it starts to vibrate and I hear a horrible off key sound)
#10 You need to ask yourself, “What am I mixing for?”, and that will help determine how you will approach your mix and the final product. What do I mean by that statement? If your using tiny earphones, dj headphones, consumer speakers, or anything that is not a typical mixing setup, you will be mixing for that listening device. How can you figure out how to make a boomy bassline fit with a huge kick when your listening on the wrong equipment? If your making EDM, POP, Rap, Metal, Rock, and Top 40 your tracks will be louder and you will be pushing more limits then if you were mixing for ambient, folk, Country (although it’s pushing limits now), orchestral music, and other music that is not trying to sound HUGE.
Since your making music for the dance floor, try to listen to your tracks as much as possible on a club system so you can really see what your audience is getting. You can try asking promoters while they set up if you can throw your track on while they do a sound check, any little bit helps.
#11 Eq matters very much. It can be one of the most important tools in mixing music. Eq is used to take out or add frequencies where it is needed the most to help the sounds fit together and to help some sounds *pop* out more.
#12 Most sounds that are -not- the kick, bassline, or bass heavy sound should have an eq cut of 150hz and below. There is no reason to have those freq. around since all they will do is muddy the kick and bassline. Now imagine ALL your sounds not cut at that freq. and how muddy it can get.
#13 Depending on the genre of music you make you need to cut more from the bassline then the kick at the lower end of the frequency spectrum. Most Genres save Bassline heavy songs cut around 35-50hz from the kick and 40-70hz on the bassline. This lets the kick stand out more with more OOMPH while letting the bassline have it’s own room. For Bassline heavy music you reverse the order. One quick tip to help the kick stand out with either mixing form is to use a side chain (ducking) from the kick to the bassline. You can make the ducking unnoticeable or you can add the “breathing” sound that can give more energy to the kick.
#14 Most mastering agents would like your finished song to be -6dB. This means that your song at it’s loudest moment(s) hit at -6dB on your DAW. This gives them plenty of room to manipulate the frequencies they need to polish the song/album.
#15 Do not use headphones to mix down a song. Most headphones “color” the bass frequencies so they sound louder then they really are. You should only use headphones to check the over all balance of your song to see if any sounds are too loud on one side or the other.