In this post, I’ll discuss the five most frequent mixing mistakes.
Some of them will be familiar to those who follow my blog.
1. Not High Passing
I often say that just because we can’t hear the low end on individual instruments or in our mix doesn’t imply it isn’t there.
Most of us are mixing on 6 or 8-inch drivers, or even smaller at times, and most people don’t mix with a sub, which I highly recommend if you can afford one, but the reality is that you’re probably mixing in a smaller environment with small speakers, and you’re sitting there with your laptop or small home system.
I made a high pass filter and a compressor for electric guitar the other day, and we were compressing up to 3-4 and occasionally 5 DB of gain reduction.
I took the high pass and as I pushed it closer and closer to 100 Hz, it suddenly stopped compressing all of that low end that was down there, because it was adding so much volume to the instrument, even if it was hardly audible.
I now had a cleaner, more concentrated guitar sound, but I used a lovely soft sounding slope to get rid of anything below 100Hz. – The truth was that the bottom end was nothing but muck.
It’s important to remember that when you have a lot of low-end instruments, it’s not just about the rumble and mud; it’s also about the clarity. You’ll get more bottom end if you have a focus of a bass guitar, a bass synth, or a kick drum sitting there super fat, rather than having synths overlapping down there.
Consider a large low frequency coming out of an instrument, followed by another big low frequency that is slightly offset; this will result in phase or polarity cancellation.
So instead of getting more low end, you get less low end; it turns like muck, and there is no concentration.
Remember high pass? I know I talk about it all the time, and it’s become a running joke among people who follow my channel, but I bring it up because it’s still an issue I encounter. I get sent mixes, put them on the speakers here, crank them up to listen to them, and there’s no low end definition.
It’s not that they aren’t increasing the low-end; it’s simply that there are so many instruments competing for the same low-end. – Create clarity and high pass down there.
Also, don’t be scared to do some low-passing if you have an electric guitar that has a lot of bite around 5-7K. Try low-passing it to about 7K with a lovely soft 60b slope.
You may discover that it has little effect on the nature of the electric guitar in the music, but it does remove a lot of sizzle and unpleasant high end that you don’t want to hear. That will go, and the voice will begin to breathe at a rate of 7-10K. The air will then return, and the vocals will return.
You can do so much with low and high passing, it’s the number one thing I hear in mixes that I want to help others accomplish – so don’t forget or be scared to high and course low pass.
2.Fixing problems in the mix using EQ on the master
Low mids are found in almost everything; there are very few items that do not include a significant quantity of low mids. What exactly does it imply? That implies that if you plug all of these instruments into your masterbus at the same time, you’ll get a genuine build-up of low mids.
The incarnation that I’ve heard a lot of people speak about is just going into your mixbus and pulling off 350-400Hz to make it sound “better,” but it’s really just putting a bandaid on a gaping hole, as the old joke goes.
When X, Y, and Z instruments perform together, there may be more or fewer low-mids than when a different set of instruments plays together.
What I’m saying is that you need to go in there and figure out how to manage the build-up of the low mid frequencies on the various instruments.
It’s not only low-mids; it’s also stuff like severe high-mids, as you may know if you follow me on Twitter. I like utilizing DEssers on items that aren’t often associated with DEssing.
I’m not trying to bash older technologies, but anything from the early 2000s and late 1990s tends to sound extremely “digital” – incredibly bright and forceful.
People send me guitar overdubs that they’ve made with these older boxes that don’t have appropriate impulse response simulation and can’t make it seem like a speaker is there. On those early amp emulations and simulations, that technology wasn’t actually accessible or being utilized.
So I end up using a Desser across those guitars, and it works wonders because a Desser is a single band multiband compressor, and it’s just going in there and defaulting to around 5-5.5K, which really hurts your ears because that’s where the S’s and T’s are on a voice that hurt your ears.
On electric guitars, it’s the ideal location to get rid of the high-end or decrease and regulate it.
Those are the two things I see on your primary stereo fader, which controls your mixes. Those are the two major places where I find 3-5K becomes very aggressive and a large accumulation of low-mids.
The idea is to focus on the individual components and fix them there. Not only will it sound better and more consistent throughout the mix, but you’ll also learn more and get a better understanding of where the problems are in the mix.
As opposed to doing a fast repair on the masterbus, which, as I’ve stated a hundred times before, is what Mastering engineers do. They strive not to do too much, just what is necessary to make your song sound as good as it possible can.
Mix the music and, if you’re going to master it yourself, do it on a separate stage or hire a mastering engineer. Whatever you choose or are forced to do due to budget limitations, make sure you address the issues that lead up to the masterbus.
3. Mix Bus Compression with Multi Band Compression
There’s a strong temptation to utilize one of the numerous sophisticated multiband compressors available.
The issue is that if you put it on your mixbus and mix into it, it will turn everything down every time you use it. If an instrument has too much 400, 500, 700, or 1K and pokes its head out, the multiband will turn it down.
Things will come up and down all the time across all of your tracks, thus the multiband compressor will manage them. – Doesn’t that all sound good? No
You won’t learn anything since you won’t grasp the instruments’ correct frequency response or what to boost in instruments, and you’ll end up with the most monotonous and softest awful sounding mix you’ve ever heard.
Its only purpose is to decide that everything must be flat. And you’re nearly printing white or pink noise, which I understand isn’t the case, but the fact is that everything becomes a huge wall of flawless 20Hz – 20KHz flatness, which doesn’t sound nice.
Do not use a multi-band compressor unless you have a pressing need to repair anything, such as a single problem where you need to identify something that concerns you. Do not use one too early, and do not use one at all. – But there needs to be a reason if you have to wear one.
Multiband compression is not something you should mix through; none of the mixers I grew up listening to, nor any of the ones we’ve interviewed on this channel, use it. The reason is that they aren’t attempting to soften their mixes, which is precisely what we’re talking about.
They’re trying to choose instruments and showcase them in interesting ways, and then do things to automate things so that it pops up and fits around the other elements to generate that excitement.
Multi-band compression should only be used if it is corrective and there is no other way to address the issue. – It’s not a good idea to mix it through.
4. High volume in the mix
I know this seems self-evident since there are two things that come to mind when you speak about mixing loud: hearing damage and the fact that you don’t want to blow out your ears by mixing too loud all of the time, which is clearly essential, but your ears automatically turn down.
What will be the first to go? When a baby is crying, the region where your ears are most sensitive, as we all know, is about 2-5k. This is the area where your ears are most sensitive when a baby is sobbing.
If we’re mixing too loudly, those things will be turned down, and you won’t be able to hear how aggressive and painfully unpleasant you’re making the 3-5k range.
It’s something I’ve done a thousand times before. I mixed with a band and they wanted it louder, so the following day I had to turn it down and play it again, and it was the loudest, most offensive thing in the mid-range, and not in a good way.
Don’t make the mix too loud!
- Keep your ears safe
- • Your mixes will sound bad since the high mids are much too forceful
5. Not paying attention to the whole mix
Don’t get me wrong: you should listen to the whole mix. I don’t mind soloing; in fact, I want to solo; but, how do I decide what to solo? I listen to the whole song.
For years and years, I’ve been doing this: when you receive a song to mix, ideally it comes with a rough mix. – That makes things a lot simpler for you.
When you receive a rough mix, you get a sense of the producer’s or artist’s vision for the song, and you typically see areas you want to enhance right away.
So you go into the studio, listen to the music, and instantly have a vision for it. That doesn’t always happen; sometimes they’re looking for you to mix it because they don’t know how to get it past the post.
So, how do I proceed? In that case, I just click play and begin volume balancing; you can see me doing this in all of my live broadcasts. I begin volume balancing and putting together a rough mix. While it’s playing in real time, I’ll start panning a few items around.
If it’s a 4-minute song, I typically have a rough mix at the end of it that enables me to make choices. I may then click play and push the solo button with that fast rough panned around and volume done in real-time mix because there’s something bugging me and I can figure out what it is.
The idea is that it’s the process of soloing and un-soloing, as well as listening as a whole; this may seem self-evident, but few people really do it. It’s most likely a major flaw in the YouTube professional community.
People are mixing one instrument, but that is not how you mix; you mix by combining instruments to fit together, not by adding EQ, compression, and ideas.
Of course, you want to master the tricks, but these are the techniques you use when you think, “I need to better this,” rather than “I have to do this.”
Listen to the entire mix again, solo as long as you like, but make sure you come out of solo and listen to what you’ve done in the track.
The greatest mistake I’ve made over the years, and one I’m sure I’ll continue to do, is to listen to something alone, work on it for half an hour, and then put it back into the mix, and that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever done.
Listen to it as a whole and gain a sense of it, even if it takes 4-7 times to get a sense of it.