A great song and arrangement makes great mix.
Over the years I’ve always struggled on how to find the best balance between the instruments and how to achieve the best mix.
I’ve spent many hours and sleepless nights mixing and remixing. Changing the workflow, changing plugins, saving many revisions of the projects.
I’ve always been fascinated how well-balanced were the PRO mixed songs that I was using for reference and trying to achieve the same overall balance and tonality.
The First thing that was somehow of revelation was how important are the drums and the bass part and the groove relationship between them. It’s the foundation of the song and how well the frequencies are blending together.
You can have an amazing harmony and great Melody line but it could be easily ruined by the wrong drum part and improper bass line.
The right pulsation at the right time to create a space where every frequency is having its own space.
Every great song has an amazing drum or percussion part. It doesn’t matter if it’s a simple beat or some poly rhythmic progressive groove.
All starts from the drums.
Finding the best beat and tie it up together with your bass line is the first thing before starting wasting your time on mixing and getting desperate of yourself.
Almost every time when I approach a new song I spend a great time just playing with different grooves. Something simple like changing the high hat notes duration from 8th to 16th could dramatically alternate the pulsation and how your high end will be managed later on the mix.
Another “secret” that came after years of trying was : Keep it simple.
Adding another instrument or hidden FX won’t fix your mistake avoiding working on the foundation.
The song should sound great just with 4 instruments. Drums , bass harmony and Melody.
Listen to Beatles, Rush, U2, Michael Jackson …. List is endless.
What you gonna discover is how simple everything sounds, every part has its own place. Simple rhythmic line and proper tonal timbre choice between each instrument.
Worth to mention how important is to find the right instruments’ timbre for your arrangement. Your goal is to build a homogeneous mixture of instruments.. Combining the right instruments will give you great Instrumentation which leads to great timbre combination and natural build up of the frequencies spectrum.
- Change the drum kit.
- Try different snare.
- Try different amplifier,
- Change the speaker cabinet
- Different microphone.
- If there’s piano, try electric piano instead.
- Browse through your library and try different presets – patches.
This should be the first thing you do before start diving into hours of constant mixing and trying to create something with EQ that doesn’t belong to your song.
Yes, the equalizer is your best friend, but only to fine tune your mix and to make a breathable space.
The EQ won’t change bad choice of instrumentation.
The EQ won’t make old string shining and sparkling. Your acoustic always gonna sound dull.
The EQ won’t fix your kick drum when the bassline is all over the place with wrong notes decisions.
The EQ can’t fix the wrong microphones choice used on your guitar amp cabinet or vocal.
Everything is in relation. Every instrument has unique properties and demands unique approach.
So, you have to master your song in the writing process. The key is to choose the right materials before building a guitar or a house.
You can’t redo it when the final layer of lacquer is laid down.
Work on improving your composition skills. Work on your timing when playing and recording.
Spend time analyzing drummers and learn new instruments.
All of this will shape your abilities and will make you a better composer and a great mixer.
It’s an art that needs a great attention to the simple things like the beat or the bass line which most of the time are neglected.
And forget the line : We will fix it later in the mix.
It is wrong!