If you want to make a fire mix, start with subtractive eq and saturation on your instruments, then focus on vocal and drum reverb. From there you can create vocal layers using a tuner, and affect your mixbus to create a full and impressive sound.
Start with Subtractive EQ
Before we start, keep in mind that I’ll be showing each step in the order that I’d perform it – so each section is going to build on ideas from the previous section.
Subtractive EQ is a great first step when adding effects to your mix, with which you can attenuate aspects of each instrument that you don’t want. For example, I’ll use a high pass on my vocal, as well as dip 700Hz to get rid of some nasal tone.
I may also boost some frequencies, but only slightly since I don’t want to emphasize them too aggressively before my saturation.
Saturate for a Full Sound
Saturation accomplishes 2 very important things, compression, and harmonic distortion, both of which will make your mix sound fuller if done right. On my vocal, I’ll use BabyAudio’s TAIP plugin and emphasize the high frequencies to add clarity – on my keys I’ll use Kramer Tape to add low order harmonics.
Each saturator is a little different so use your ears to decide what’s best for the particular instrument you’re working on.
Reverb for the Vocal
Now that my vocal’s dynamics are controlled with saturation, and I’ve attenuated aspects I don’t want with EQ, I’ll add some reverb to give the vocal a sense of space and some character. I’ll use Valhalla’s supermassive, with the Capricorn setting, 16th note delay, 30% feedback, and 100% density.
Then I’ll isolate the reverb to low to high mids to make it sound a little more natural.
Reverb for the Drum Loop
For my drums I’m going to use a shorter reverb time to emphasize its percussive nature – I’ll the FabFilter ProR and select the preset Dubstep Snare. Then I’m going to time the reverb with my BPM by dividing 60000/BPM to get a quarter note.
For both the vocals and the drums, the reverb you choose will depend on the song, and what you’re trying to accomplish, but I liked these settings for this particular mix.
Static Vocal Layers
If you don’t have harmonies on your vocals and want to make them more complex, we can use a tuner to accomplish this – I’m going to duplicate my lead onto new tracks then use Vocal Bender by Waves. Using the flatten mode I’ll select notes in key with the song.
I created 3 duplicates and flattened their tuning to C2, A2, and C3, then adjusted their formants. Lastly, I blended in the effect with the original vocal and add the original vocal’s reverb to these 3 duplicates.
Upward Compress Mix Bus
Next, I want to start affecting my mix-bus so that the overall track sounds fuller and more impressive – I’ll start with MV2 by Waves to create upward compression. What’s great about this effect is that it increases the level from the noise floor up, amplifying the signal’s detail.
Since it’s not attenuating from the peaks down we don’t get distortion or affect our transients, but instead, achieve a really complex sound.
Saturate Mix Bus
With the details bought forward with upward compression, I’m going to add some harmonics and dynamic control with saturation. I’ll use Saturn 2 and select a preset Sage Audio created called Aggressive master, which will cause program-dependent saturation that varies based on the frequency range.
A warm tube setting helps amplify transients in my lows, while subtle saturation creates a full sound in the low mids. Clean tube settings in the highs increase transient detail and amplify the ranges with higher ordered harmonics.
Use Fresh Air Where Needed
At this point, my mix is just about done – I don’t want to add a limiter since I’ll leave that up to whoever is mastering the track, but I want to go back and add one last thing. Where it’s needed, I’m going to use Slate Digital’s Fresh Air plugin.
I’ll use subtle settings on my drum loop and keys, and then some more aggressive settings on my lead melodic instrument.
With that done, I’ll readjust the levels until I feel satisfied with my final mix.
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