We’ve recently done a tutorial explaining our new „Major Lazer - Cold Water“ project file. Here, we’ve extracted some essential tips from it which can help you improve your mixdowns.
1. Sound widening
Here are two possible techniques you can use to make a track sound wider:
- using Simple Delay / Filter Delay
To widen your track with a Delay, set both Left and Right channels to Time. Next, bring both of the Time settings to 1.00ms. That way the whole track will be delayed by 1 millisecond. Next, increase the time difference between L/R channels. You’ll notice that the track will sound much wider. For even more control you can use the Dry/Wet knob of the effect to balance the center/wider signals.
- using EQ Eight
Another way to widen sound is to use different EQ for each of the (L/R) channels. Once you’ve dragged EQ8 onto your track, go into the Mid/Side mode (by default it’s in Stereo mode, meaning that we’re adjusting the Stereo signal). Then just EQ each of your channels in a different way. If you don’t want to EQ out any frequencies but still want to make your track sound wider, you can just boost different frequencies for each channel (screenshot below).
2. Using Highpass/Lowpass EQ for tracks which don’t need low/high end
This is especially necessary in parts where a lot of elements are playing. It’s okay if you have a few instruments playing in the lower frequencies - an obvious example would be a bass and a kick. However, once your pad, lead and snare all have muddy low end, your kick and bass won’t sound as present. Cut off as much of the low end as you can for instruments which don’t have to play there. It will leave space for the instruments which need it! The same situation applies if your higher frequencies are too crowded. In general, always make sure your mix isn’t too cluttered with unnecessary frequencies.
3. Sidechaining a track - even to more elements at once
Let me first quickly explain what Sidechain Compression is. In essence it’s decreasing the volume of one track when another one’s volume goes up. It can be used to create a cool pumping effect if you sidechain something to the kick. To create this effect:
- drag a Compressor onto your track,
- click the little arrow next to the ON/OFF switch,
- set it to Sidechain mode,
- select what you’d like to sidechain your track to from the „Audio From“ dropdown menu
- drag the threshold down and adjust all settings to your preference.
Now that you can sidechain a track to another, how do you go about sidechaining a track to MORE tracks? There are two possible ways:
Group all your „sidechain“ tracks to one group (select all them and press Cmd+G) and set your „Audio From“ on the Sidechain Compressor to this group. This method is better if you want to sidechain your track to more than a few elements at once - it helps preserve your computer’s resources.
Drag two compressors onto a track and set each one’s „Audio From“ to a different track. This method is faster when you’ve got few elements you want to sidechain your track to.
4. Panning percussive elements
By automating the panning you can easily add movement to your percussion. To do this on any track follow these steps:
- Drag a Utility onto the track,
- Click the „C“ (which stands for Centre) under „Panorama“
- Adjust the red automation line which appears on the track.
I often use this techniques to add movement to hihats, but it can be done with tom fills, shakers and all kinds of sounds.
By layering synths you can create original sounding instruments - just like the lead sound in „Cold Water“. There are two possible ways you can layer sounds in Ableton:
The first method is to create multiple tracks with synthesisers/samplers and to copy the exact same MIDI information to all of them. However, this method can make your project look very big if you layer a lot - because you’ll have a lot of tracks (one for each layer). However, it allows for more flexibility - you can easily choose which parts are played by each of the instruments.
This method can be used to contain all of your layers in one track. To do this, select your first instrument/effect and click CMD+G. This will group your instrument into an Instrument Rack. Now you can drag more instruments to create „chains“. Each chain will be one layer, and all of them will be inside one track. Voila!
Thank you for reading this article, I hope it will help you with your mixing! Good luck.
I’m k-pizza, a chill trap music maker who likes to share his experiences with other producers. I’m regularly going to show up with music and content at PML.
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Keywords: mixing, frequency balance, frequency masking