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Top 10 Advanced Mixing Tips

  • Use Side Image Transient Expansion
  • Emulate Natural Surround Placement
  • Create “Depth” With Mid Image
  • Create “Width” With Side Image
  • Mix with Impulse Responses
  • Observe the Delta of Processing
  • The Out-of-Key Resonance Trick
  • Make Drums More Musical
  • Side-chain the Click Track
  • Monitor with Impulse Responses

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Side Image Transient Expansion

In this video, the tips are in no particular order.

This is something I came across when making one of these videos, and I really like the sound of it - in short, I send a signal to an Aux track and isolate the side image using the free plugin MSED. Then, I introduce Newfangled Audio’s Punctuate to expand the transients.

Usually, the side image lacks transients, so this technique has a really unique and enjoyable sound, especially on drums.

Let’s take a listen.

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Emulating Natural Surround Placement

For the most natural-sounding stereo imaging, we can emulate how a listener’s head blocks high frequencies - first, I’ll duplicate the track I want to affect, and pan the original and duplicate hard left and hard right. Then with an EQ, I’ll attenuate the highs on one of the tracks.

I like to use the PSP Infinistrip for this since it’s zero latency, and I can quickly switch EQ emulations while keeping the settings the same. With an EQ analyzer, we can see how the slope of the attenuation changes.

To explain why this works, if a sound source is to the listener’s left, then the head will absorb and block some high frequencies in the right ear. So if I want the sound to seem like it’s on the left I’ll attenuate the highs on the right, and vice versa.

Let’s take a listen.

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Creating “Depth” With Mid Image

For these next 2 chapters, I want to emulate the Depth and Width functions of the Neve Portico mastering processor - starting with the depth function. If we look at the Portico’s manual, we’ll find the frequency response of these filters, all of which are on the mid-image.

So say I wanted to emulate filter type 4, I would create a bell filter on the mid image that matches that of the Portico. I’ll use the most aggressive settings at first, but I can reduce the amplitude of the bell to blend the effect in, just like how the hardware allows.

Let’s take a listen to an emulation of this filter type.

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Creating “Width” With Side Image

The “Width” function on the Portico affects the side image, again, depending on the frequency setting that was selected. I’m going to emulate filter type 8 this time, or the low-mids, and like the last chapter, match the filter shape and amplitude as close as possible.

Again, I’ll start with the most aggressive setting the Portico allows, and then dial back the effect.

Let’s take a listen to how this affects the signal’s width.

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Mixing with Impulse Responses

Impulse responses are typically used for reverb or guitar cabinet emulation, but some engineers use them to closely emulate hardware and audio mediums. One of my favorites that I’ve found is of a Studer A812 tape machine, where the engineer utilized different gain settings to achieve various results.

Although an impulse response can’t replicate the harmonic content of the hardware and tape, it gives a great representation of its frequency response and ADSR.

I’ll use Logic Pro’s stock Space Designer plugin, load in the impulse response, and reduce the dry signal to 0 to avoid phase cancellation.

Let’s take a listen to how this Studer Impulse response alters the sound, and I’ll use a higher version since it makes the effect easier to hear.

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Observing the Delta of Processing

Some plugins have a delay function which lets you quickly observe how the processor is changing your audio, but if you want to monitor changes from a plugin that doesn’t offer this function, try this. Duplicate the audio you’re processing, then use the effect on the original.

Next, place a phase inverter on the duplicate and invert the phase. Everything that’s identical between the 2 tracks will be nullified, while the processing will stay the same amplitude.

Let’s try this out with some saturation to hear how the processor is affecting our signal.

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Out-of-Key Resonance Trick

This is something I’ve shown in another video, but I like it a lot so let’s cover it one more time - first, I need to know the key of my song, which for our demo track is E Major. This means that notes C, D, F, G, and A# are all out-of-key.

Next, with a synth and the cleanest sine waves possible, I’ll play or program these out-of-key notes, and have them last for the duration of the song.

I’ll then mute the track. Next, I’ll insert the plugin Soothe 2, or an alternative resonance reducer, on my vocals or an instrument. Lastly, I’ll side-chain the muted, out-of-key track, to use it as a trigger for this plugin’s processing.

As a result, the plugin reads these out-of-key notes as being too loud, in turn, attenuating their respective frequencies. This makes the instrument sound more in-tune and in my opinion, more musical.

Let’s take a listen.

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Making Drums More Musical

Let’s use a similar concept to the last chapter, but implement it more simply - with an EQ, I’ll amplify in key notes on my drums, mainly just the root note of E. Then I’ll make the bands dynamic to expand these notes whenever a transient hits.

For drums, this really brings out pleasant resonances and adds a musical element to it, especially on drums in which the key of the track wasn’t considered during production.

Let’s take a listen.

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Side-chaining the Click Track

Another way we can make an instrument more musical when mixing is by using the click track as an external side-chain. So first, I’ll export a portion of the click track and bring it back in as an audio track - then I’ll mute it.

Next, I’ll insert a processor, in this case, a multi-band dynamics processor, and expand the signal using the click track as the trigger.

I like this effect a lot on an instrument track or bus since it adds a percussive element to it that otherwise wouldn’t be there.

Let’s take a listen.

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Monitoring with Impulse Responses

For this chapter, I used a 1 sample section of white noise and ran it through some home speakers I like and use for casual listening. I recorded the output using the flattest-frequency response microphone I have and then exported the re-recorded impulse as a Wav file.

Lastly, I imported the file into the same space designer plugin I used earlier, and reduced the dry signal to 0, just like before.

Now I can emulate the response of these speakers, and the effect of the room.

The end result definitely isn’t perfect, but this is something you can do for your car speakers or anything your want to monitor.

Let’s take a listen to how the impulse response affects the audio.

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