20 audio mixing techniques you can experiment with to improve your mixes...

audio mixing tips image

So, I asked Henri Latham-Koenig, our chief engineer, for some audio mixing techniques or strategies audio professionals can use to improve their own work in the studio, and he delivered! Try out the techniques or strategies below in your studio and let us know what you think.

Now, obviously due to the amount of techniques we cannot go into each in too much depth on this one page. No worries! We have a lot more in-depth content in the pipeline for the clickmastering.com community.

We think these 20 points should keep you busy for a while though. Try them right now...

1. Reference, reference, reference...

Reference your mixes on as many different systems as possible. One can never stress enough how important it is to reference your mixes on a wide variety of playback systems. Yes, you come to know your regular studio and monitors very well, so you learn to trust them. Every time you reference your mix somewhere else however, you’re likely to learn something new about it.

2. Watch those levels...

Don’t monitor too loud during the audio mixing process! You shouldn’t really need to monitor at more than 90dBA because at about this level your ears are at their optimum listening capability. Go any louder and you start to tire your ears sooner and could even cause long term damage. What’s more, monitoring at levels of 100dBA and beyond will tend to give you a false sense that the mix sounds good because of the loudness!

3. Keep it quiet...

Listen to your mix at very low levels as often as possible. This tactic helps you identify general mix level problems and forces your brain to heighten your attentiveness. Get your mix to sound good at very low levels, and it'll probably sound good at higher levels. The opposite certainly can’t be said!

4. Close your eyes, open your ears...

Try to monitor with as little visual distraction as possible at least once or twice during your audio mixing process. So, turn your computer monitor off, turn the lights off, close your eyes and just listen.

You’ll be amazed at how much objectivity this can bring to the table. We tend to attach a lot of conscious importance to what we see, so when we take the visual stimulation away we allow our conscious mind to focus more on what we hear.

5. Mono check, still...

Mono reference your mix, always. There are of course fewer and fewer instances of mono playback in the world today. Mono is however still a reality, so at least make sure important aspects of your mix, like vocals, don’t get affected in unwanted ways when you sum your left/right channels. A mono check might at the very least help you spot a phase problem in your mix which could otherwise have slipped by unnoticed.

6. Stay in context...

Avoid working on an instrument in solo for too long. Whether you want to adjust EQ or compression, stay away from doing it in solo. Remember that the audio mixing process is about making many different instruments work together as one. Adjust one instrument, and you have an impact on the whole mix and the mix is after all what you want to pay attention to.

7. Step away from the L2...

Don't keep a brick-wall limiter such as the L2 on your master bus during the audio mixing process. You don’t gain anything when you limit your mix bus during the mixing process. The limiter makes it difficult to know if and when any peaks in your mix exceed digital 0dB.

A master bus compressor is fine and if it’s something you haven’t tried, I recommend you experiment with it. Master bus compression, when used right, can really help bring a mix together well.

8. Keep an ear on compression...

Avoid the overuse of compression. Too much compression on various tracks can quickly add up to a flat, lifeless and one-dimensional mix. Too much compression may also result in unwanted distortion to the final bus.

9. Group dynamics...

Try to compress instruments as groups rather then as individual seperate tracks. This can often help you achieve more natural and coherent results. There are cases of course where you want to add compression to individual tracks. I find you can often create more organic-sounding mixes when you compress instruments as groups.

10. Compress for dynamic range...

You can use a compressor to increase dynamic range of an instrument. A compressor with a slower attack time could help bring a dull instrument which lacks dynamics, back to life.

11. Think relationships...

It feels natural to turn something you want to hear more of up in the mix. This tactic may not always serve you well though. First try to work out what you should turn down in the audio mix in order to achieve the same result. This way, you keep better control of the overall levels and you also develop a more objective listening approach.

12. Pan apart...

Never have two instruments at exactly the same pan position. It becomes a lot harder to achieve good separation between two or more instruments if they are at exactly the same pan position.

13. Stereo reverbs...

Feed your reverbs from stereo sends. You’ll be surprised how much better a modern stereo reverb will work when fed this way. It can also help you achieve much more accurate placement of instruments in the stereo field.

14. Restrict the reverb...

Don’t use too many different types of reverb and effects in the same mix. Try to limit yourself to only 2 or 3 different reverbs. This way you will keep a better handle on the stereo image and spacial clarity of your mix.

15. Reverb returns EQ...

Equalize reverb returns on the mixer rather than in the reverb unit. Your mixer’s channel EQ will most often be of better quality than a reverb unit’s version. You may often also listen in a different way when you adjust EQ parameters on a reverb unit compared to when you adjust a mixer strip EQ.

16. EQ bandwidth...

Use wider bandwidths for boosts and tighter bandwidths with cuts. In general if you equalize along this guideline principle you'll tend to achieve more musical results.

17. Cut over boost...

It’s better to take out what you don’t want rather than boost what you do want with an EQ. This helps minimize distortion risks and also accomplishes more discreet and musical results.

18. High pass filter...

Apply a high pass filter to all your non-bass related instruments. This can help clean up your low end, especially with live recordings. Low pass filters are pretty much essential should you want to create a sharp, crisp and precise low-end in your mix.

19. Phase reverse it...

Don’t be frightened of the phase reverse button! Phase inversion on a particular instrument can at times improve the way the instrument interacts with the rest of the mix. This is very true for live drum mixes. Try to always listen to the effects of phase inversion on the relationship between different drum microphones in your mix.

20. Resolution...

Work at higher resolution wherever you can, as this will improve the quality and definition of the end result. You want to of course set this at the recording stage of the game, as increasing a session’s resolution after recording by converting all recorded media tends to waste time and processing better spent on other aspects of your audio mixing job.

We hope you found these audio mixing techniques useful! Please share them on Facebook and Twitter with the buttons below should you think some of your friends or colleagues can benefit from these tips.

All the best,
The clickmastering.com team

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