In this episode, we’re going to talk about the five most common mixing mistakes.
Those of you that follow me will know some of these already.
1. Not High Passing
I talk about this all the time, just because we can’t hear the low end on individual instruments or even in our mix doesn’t mean it’s not there.
The reality is most of us are mixing on 6 or 8-inch drivers even smaller some times, most people don’t mix with a sub I highly recommend it if you can get one but the reality is that you’re probably in a smaller environment with small speakers and you’re sitting there with your laptop or your small home system and you’re mixing.
The other day on electric guitar I created a high pass filter and put a compressor afterward and we were compressing up to 3-4 and sometimes 5 DB of gain reduction.
I took the high pass and as I moved it closer and closer to 100 Hz it suddenly stopped compressing all of this low end that was down there, because even though it was barely noticeable it was adding so much volume to the guitar.
Suddenly I had a cleaner, more focused guitar sound but I got rid of everything below 100Hz using a nice gentle sounding slope. – The reality is the low end was just all mud.
Richard Furch the great mixer I’m sure you know, he’s worked with Usher and Prince, as an engineer and mixer, he is super talented. He told me he goes down on dance kick and high passes at 20Hz. He says that the super low-end just muddies up and takes so much energy in his mix his master bus compression is going 2 or 3 DB more then it needs to be.
Then suddenly he’s cleaning up the low end, I’m not talking about taking it up 200 or 300Hz Just tighten up the low end on individual instruments, this can give you so much more focus and clarity.
Remember when you have a lot of instruments with low end it’s not just the rumble and mud it’s 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, compared to having synths overlapping down there.
Think about having a big low frequency coming out of an instrument, and then another big low frequency slightly offset, with that you’ll get phase or polarity cancellation.
So you don’t get more low end, you actually get less low end, it turns into absolute mud and there is no focus.
Remember high pass, I know I talk about it all the time and it’s become a standing joke with those who watch my channel but I talk about it because It’s still a problem I get, I get sent mixes, stick them on the speakers here, I crank them up to listen to them and there’s no definition in the low end.
It’s not because they’re not boosting the low-end, it’s because it’s just a big bleeding mess of instruments all fighting for the same low end. – Create clarity down there and high pass.
Also, low pass, don’t be afraid to do some low-passing if you have an electric guitar that’s got some really nice bite at about 5-7K try low-passing it to about the 7K area with a nice gentle 60b slope.
You might find it doesn’t change the nature of the electric guitar in the track but it gets ride f a lot of sizzle and painful high end that you don’t want to hear. That will suddenly disappear and the vocal will start to breathe 7-10K suddenly the air and the vocals are back.
The cymbals come alive, maybe some sizzle on the acoustic guitars, you can do some much with low and high passing, it’s the number 1 thing that I hear in mixes that I want to help people do – So don’t forget or be afraid to high and course low pass.
2.Applying EQ on the Master to fix Problems in the Mix
I know I talk about this all the time but the reality is you need to go in there and find out where the issues are and solve them there. I know I’ve probably said that in 3 different videos but it’s something I still get.
I still get sent mixes, roughs, mixes by bands that I work with, and that is the most common thing that happens, we all know there is an abundance of low-mids in pretty much every instrument.
Low mids are pretty much in everything there are very few things that don’t have a decent amount of low mids in it. What does that mean? That means with all of these instruments you have 40 channels all playing at once into your masterbus, you’re going to have a real build-up of low mids.
The incarnation that I’ve seen a lot of people talk about is to just go into your mixbus and pull out 350-400Hz that make it sound “better” but it really is as the old joke goes – putting a bandaid on a gaping wound”.
Nothing is consistent, when X, Y, Z instruments play together there may be more or less low-mids when another set of instruments play together.
What’s my point, you need to get in there and find the build-up of those low mid frequencies on the individual instruments themselves you need to control them in those elements.
It’s not just low-mids, it generally is but, it’s also things like harsh high-mids as you may know if you follow me I love using DEssers on things that you wouldn’t normally associate with DEssing.
Often I’m given guitars that are not necessarily recorded kempers can be great, Axe effects can be great, it’s some of the older pedals the pod kind of pedals which were ok they were pretty good with some multi-effect boxes and people take direct outputs and put them into the DAWs.
I’m not trying to come down on some of the older technology in the early 2000’s late 1990’s stuff tends to sound very “digital” – super bright super aggressive.
People give me the guitar overdubs they have done with these older boxes that don’t have proper impulse response emulation they don’t have a way of making it sound like there is a speaker was there. That technology wasn’t really available and being used on those early amp emulations and simulations.
So what I end up doing Is sticking a Desser across those guitars and it does wonderful things, since a Desser is a single band multiband compressor and it’s just getting in there and where it defaults usually about 5-5.5K which really hurts your ears because that’s where the S’s and T’s are that hurt your ears on a vocal.
It’s the perfect place to get rid of that high-end or reduce and control the high-end on electric guitars.
Those are the two things I find on your main stereo fader where your mixes are going through. Those are the two main areas I find 3-5K gets super aggressive and there is a massive buildup of low-mids.
The point is to get stuck in on the individual elements and solve it there not only does it sound better, more consistent in the whole mix but you’re going to learn more and understand where the issues are in the mix.
As opposed it just trying to do a quick fix on the masterbus and I’ve said this 100 times before but that’s what Mastering engineers do. They try not to do too much, they try to do the minimal amount to make your music sound the best it possibly can be.
Mix the music and if you’re going to master it on your own master it as a different stage or give it to a mastering engineer. Whichever you decide to do or have to do given financial constraints make sure you solve the problems leading up to the masterbus.
3. Using Multi Band Compression on the Mix Bus
There is a temptation to use fancy multiband compressors, there are so many of them.
The problem is if you use it on your mixbus and mix into it all that’s going to happen is every time you use something it’s going to turn it down. if you have too much 400, 500, 700, 1K on an instrument and it pokes its head out the multiband will turn it down.
Across all your tracks you have things that will come up and down all the time so the multiband compressor is going to control them. – all sound good doesn’t it …. No, it doesn’t!
First of all, you won’t learn anything because you won’t understand the instruments proper frequency response and what to enhance in instruments, and secondly, you will get the most boring and softest horrible sounding mix ever.
All its doing is deciding that everything needs to be flat. And you’re almost printing white or pink noise, I know your not but the reality is everything becomes a big wall of perfect 20Hz – 20KHz of just flatness and trust me it does not sound good.
Unless you really really have to fix an issue like 1 problem where you have to find something that bothers you, do not reach for a multi-band compressor do not put it on too early, frankly don’t ever put one on. – But if you have to put one on there has to be a reason for it.
It’s not something you should mix through, no mixers that I grew up listening to or any that we’ve interviewed on this channel mix through multiband compression. The reason is exactly what we’re talking about they aren’t trying to soften their mixes.
They are trying to pick up instruments and feature them in exciting ways and then bled things automate stuff so it comes up and fits around stuff and create that excitement.
Avoid multi-band compression unless it’s corrective and there is a problem that you have no other way to solve it. – Don’t mix through it.
4. Mixing Too Loud
I know this sound really obvious cause there are 2 things that spring to mind when you talk about mixing loud, hearing damage you don’t want to blow out your ears by mixing to loud all the time, obviously, that is a really important thing but your ears naturally turn themselves down.
What goes first? Where your ears are most sensitive, as we all know it’s around about 2-5k this is the area where your ears are most sensitive when a baby is crying it’s right banging in those high mids.
If we’re mixing too loud those things get turned down and you will just not hear how aggressive and blatantly painful you’re making that 3-5k area.
I’ve done it a thousand times I’ve mixed with a band and they want me to turn it up louder, the next day I come in and have to turn it down and play it back and its the loudest most offensive thing in the mid-range and not in a good way.
Don’t mix too loud!
• Protect your ears
• Your mixes will suck and suffer from being far too aggressive in the high mids.
5. Not Listening to the Mix as a Whole
You have to listen to the whole mix, don’t get me wrong I don’t mind soloing, of course, I wanna solo, but how do I make a decision on what to solo, I listen to the whole song.
What I’ve been doing for years and years now is when you get a song to mix hopefully it comes with a rough mix. – That makes your life so much easier.
If you get the rough mix you get an idea of the producer or the artist’s vision of the song usually, you identify things you immediately want to improve.
So you open the session, listen to the song and you immediately have a vision for the song, that doesn’t always happen, sometimes they are looking for you to mix it cause they don’t have an idea of how to take it past the post.
So what do I do? I press play in that instance and just start volume balancing, you see me do this in all of my live streams I start volume balancing and creating a little bit of a mix. I’ll start panning a few things around while it’s playing in real time.
Frankly, if it’s a 4-minute song usually by the end of it I’ve got a rough mix that allows me to make decisions. With that quick rough panned around, and volume done in real-time mix, I might then press play again and hit the solo button because there’s something bothering me and I can figure out what it is.
I solo the guitar part that has a nasal sound and it’s bothering me. So maybe I apply a little bit of EQ to the guitar part.
The point is, it’s the process of soloing and un-soloing and listening as a whole, this might sound really really obvious however not many people do it. – It’s probably a big fault of the professional YouTube community.
People are focussing in on one instrument and mixing it, that’s not how you mix, you mix by mixing instruments to fit with each other, not just applying some set of EQ, compression, and ideas.
Of course, you wanna learn the tips but these are the things you apply with the thought process of “I need to improve this” as opposed to “I have to do this.”
Once again listen to the mix as a whole, solo as much as you like but make sure you come out of solo and listen to what you’ve done in the track.
The biggest mistake I’ve made over the years and I’ll continue to make I’m sure, is to listen to something in solo, work on it for half an hour and then put it back into the mix and it is the worst stupidest thing I have ever done in my entire life.
Listen to it as a whole, get a feeling, if it takes listening to it 4-7 time to get an idea of it.
What I would suggest if you’re new to mixing is open a mix and start mixing and find a problem and then find a video if you don’t know how to solve it.