For this video, the chapters aren’t in any particular order, so feel free to pick and choose which tips you incorporate into your productions.
One of the biggest mistakes I used to make when mixing was to use too much processing, much of it conflicting. With that in mind, I now use as little processing as possible to accomplish a task or try to find the simplest chain for a particular job.
This doesn’t mean avoiding problems in your mix, but just finding the simplest way of remedying them. To illustrate this concept let’s listen to 2 chains, both accomplishing the same task, but one chain has redundant processing.
Following this idea from chapter 1, we can use saturation to accomplish multiple tasks, instead of using various processors. For example, saturators introduce soft-knee compression, harmonic distortion, subtle equalization, and possibly even transient expansion depending on the saturator that you use.
Let’s listen to the difference saturators make when introducing them to all signals in this mix.
In addition to controlling dynamics, compressors can shape transients, introduce distortion, and control the overall timbre of a signal. With that in mind, I’m going to use a compressor on my drum loop, and introduce super quick attack and release times to distort and amplify my transients.
Let’s take a listen and pay attention to the transients of the signal.
If you’re having trouble getting your lead vocal to sit right, use two compressors back-to-back or in series. The first compressor I like to use will control the dynamics quickly, and return the signal to unity quickly - the second is usually an Optical compressor to smooth the sound.
Let’s listen to these compressors introduced one at a time to hear how they work together on the vocal.
Although using a limiter on the mix bus may be tempting, it’s going to give us the wrong idea about the relationships between various instruments and their respective dynamics. Additionally, it’s going to affect our transients and change the timbre of our entire mix, making it difficult to mix accurately.
To illustrate this, let’s listen to 2 limiters on a mix and notice how each completely changes the timbre of the overall mix.
Although we’re often particular about which compressors we use, or analog emulators we place on the vocal, etc, we rarely consider how reverb plugins each have a distinct sound and are best suited for particular purposes. For example, Pro-R by FabFilter has a very natural and laid-back sound.
On the other hand, Logic’s Chroma Verb has a bright and aggressive sound. Each works well for different situations, so let’s listen to both with the same settings, and notice their distinct sounds.
I’m often asked in the comments how to time the release time of a compressor to the song, or maybe the delay, or predelay, etc, but to do this we only need one equation. If we take 60000 and divide by our tracks BPM, we’ll get 1 quarter note in milliseconds.
Once we have this number we can divide it by 2 to get a 1/8th note, or multiply it by 2 to get a half note, and so on.
So use this equation whenever you want to make a time-based function, in-time with the BPM of your song.
Let’s listen to one of the reverbs we used in the last chapter, but now, with in-time reverb.
Linear phase isn’t always needed, but, if you’re using an equalizer for parallel processing, you’ll need to use a linear phase setting to avoid phase cancellation. I recommend using a low-latency mode to avoid the effect of pre-ringing and to reduce the impact linear phase has on transients.
Let’s listen to a parallel processed signal, with and without linear phase processing, and notice the phase cancellation that occurs without linear phase enabled.
If you’re using logic pro x, you have access to binaural panning, which lets you easily use psychoacoustic effects to place the instrument within a field, as opposed to just left or right panning. I find that this is a better option than stereo imagers, and results in a better sound.
Let’s compare stereo expansion and binaural panning pay attention to the realism of the effect.
If your instruments aren’t sounding uniform, change their outputs to a bus, and then process the multiple instruments on that bus. For example, bus compression with a couple of dB of attenuation is a great way to make seemingly separate instruments sound as if they’re from the same performance.
Let’s take a listen to this effect on the drums tracks and notice how we achieve a more cohesive sound.