In the music industry, sound mixing is at the core of what makes a track successful. When you listen to a song on the radio and notice certain sounds or effects, that is thanks to the hard work of a sound engineer using the right mixing techniques. If you are just starting out learning how to sound mix, there are some foundational skills to work on in order to improve your technique.
While it is important to let the creativity flow, it is also just as important to have the technique to turn those creative breakthroughs into the mix you are imagining. Taking some time to learn and practice basic sound mixing techniques will help you gain experience and become a successful producer and have people appreciate the mixes that you worked hard to create.
Sound Mixing Technique #1: Choosing the Right Software to Stay Organized
With music becoming increasingly digitized thanks to technology being updated constantly, finding user-friendly software is paramount to mixing sound successfully. A digital audio workstation (DAW) is what you will be investing in to learn how to mix digitally.
Experts advise taking some time to research the numerous options available before committing depending on what your goals are for mixing. Many DAW options available allow you to use them on a trial basis which can be a helpful option to figure out which software works best for your sound mixing goals. Once you do commit to a DAW, take the time to learn all of the functions available to make quality mixes.
As you are exploring your new software, remember to keep your tracks neat and organized. Getting in the habit of relabeling your tracks as well as color-coding tracks will help you be efficient and effective as you improve your mixing skills. Plus when you take much-needed breaks, you will be able to come back to the track and easily pick up where you left off.
Sound Mixing Technique #2: Practice Panning, Often
Many experts in the industry will tell you how important planning is when it comes to mixing. Panning is ensuring where a sound is distributed in the mix. For example, when adding a piano solo to a track, by adjusting the panning you can have the sound stay centered or come out of a stereo speaker on either the right or left side.
Panning allows you to control the location and amount of sound a specific instrument receives. Keeping your extreme sounds, such as your heavier or lower sounds in the center, keeps your track balanced.
Sound Mixing Technique #3: Learn How to Compress
When it comes to sound mixing, there are a lot of terms to learn but compression is one of the most important ones you need to know. Mix masters will tell you volume is key when it comes to mixing, and compression helps control the volume. Too much or too little compression can completely change the sound of a mix. Compression simply means that you are taking an instrument that may be too loud on a track and turning it down.
There are numerous tips to learn when it comes to compressing. One of the more important ones is to remember that compression is different for different genres. Genres like pop and rock need a lot of compressions whereas jazz and soft rock don’t need as much.
Sound Mixing Technique #4: Use Reference Tracks
When it comes to mixing music, a lot of talented tracks have already been made for all of the different genres out there. That may seem discouraging, but as a new sound mixer, this is extremely beneficial for you as you have the opportunity to learn from the masters and use their work as inspiration. As you are learning the world of mixing, find a few tracks that have the sound you are aiming for and download them.
Once you have those tracks, they are now called your reference tracks. Choosing your reference tracks is an important step in sound mixing. When you are making adjustments to your tracks and are unsure of how you want a certain section or instrument in the track to send, head back to your reference tracks to see what they used.
Sound Mixing Technique #5: Make Changes Using Reverb
Experienced sound mixers will tell you that learning how to use reverb well can completely change the sound of a track. Wondering what reverb is? Reverb stands for reverberation, which is essentially when music echoes. In other words, it’s when a sound bounces off surfaces and objects and collides to amplify and extend the sound. Imagine hearing a choir sing in a room with great acoustics. You would naturally hear the music reverberate throughout.
When using reverb in sound mixes, it can be tempting to use multiple different reverbs for a large impact. It is advised only to use 2-3 reverbs per track to allow the sound and mood of the track to stay consistent.
As complicated as learning how to mix sounds can seem at times, there are numerous resources out there to help support you as you learn. Before you purchase a DAW, take time to research the different options out there as it is helpful to use one main DAW for mixing.
Once you start to learn the terms and the basic techniques of sound mixing, the fun begins and you will be surprised at how quickly you can create mixes. Remember that finding reference tracks doesn’t necessarily mean choosing your favorite songs, but finding tracks that are in the same genre for the mix you are creating. Sound mixing techniques take patience and time to learn, but also bring a lot of entertainment and excitement to the world of music and can make a basic track sound a million times better with the right mixing.