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Mixing Fundamentals - 4 Ways To Avoid A Muddy Mix

Mixing Tips Tutorial

It's not difficult to accomplish a good sounding mix, however changing too much at without enough thought will result in a chaotic muddy mess of sound.

You have a much better chance of getting the sound you want if you follow some kind of workflow when mixing your track. 80% of the results come from 20% of the effort when moving those knobs and sliders so don't over do it!

You should focus your attention on these 4 areas during the mixing process.

1. Balancing the volume of your elements should be the first step in the mixing process as it will impact the sound of your mix the most.

Keep the elements in the mix at a steady level, avoid fluctuations in level changes where possible.

Don't be afraid to experiment at this stage, some elements that were hiding in the background originally may deserve a little more presence at this stage or you may even decide to knock back anything that is a little too in your face.

You will probably have to revisit this stage if you add any compression, EQ or send effects so mastering balancing is the most important thing to master here.

2. Remember to use the stereo field - Elements fighting for the centre will limit the expression of your mix.

Panning out your drum elements will increase the the sense of space imminently.

Each element in the track needs a place in the stereo spectrum. Experiment with panning until a good balance is found for all elements.

Remember the subtlety is key here, extreme settings may result in an unnatural sounding mix.

I would recommend picturing a band playing all the elements in your mind, keeping the kick drum and any bass elements in the centre.

3. Equalization should be used for enhancing the sonic colours of your elements.

At this stage you should be looking at removing unwanted frequencies and boosting the desired characteristics of your elements.

EQ can be an art form in itself but the following tips can be used to repair and enhance elements of your track:

  • Keep your boosts minimal – Subtractive EQ is king. Cut more and raise the volume.
  • Use buss EQ when possible – Not having to work on each channel can really save time and complexity.
  • EQ your effects – Use EQ on the reverb or effects channels to avoid muddy returns.
  • Do you REALLY need to EQ? – Don't apply EQ just for the sake of it, consider all elements in your track before twisting those knobs.

4. Compression enables your track to breathe, don't squash and choke the life out of it!

Remember to always apply compression to the loudest part of the track when monitoring.

Next Up : When over compression sounds great... NEVER!

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