There’s a huge difference in mindset and execution for beginner versus professional mixes. Professional mixing engineers work with vision, a goal to enhance what's there and drive the story with the help of purposeful audio tools.
But if you're a beginner or intermediate producer, how can you think if you want to make better mixes?
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This article has gathered three key considerations for more professional sounding mixes. Start practicing today, and you will see great results.
Let’s start with the first one, your acoustics and reference audio sources.
1. Acoustics & Reference Audio Sources
If you want to make professional mixes, you must think about your acoustics and reference audio sources. Acoustics means how the sound bounces off the surrounding space in which your monitors play. Reference audio sources mean other sources you will test-listen to your music through, like different pairs of headphones, car speakers, or even at a club.
Let's start with studio acoustics, which can be a very tricky thing unless you're a sound acoustics expert or have taken learned professional sound acoustics.
Beginner and intermediate producers rarely take audio acoustics into great consideration. If they are lucky to have a home studio, it’s usually decorated with a few pieces of foam put up in random places. Few producers measure acoustics and know if what they did is the best for their room type. And that can have detrimental effects on your mixes.
Mixing is about combining all your audio channels into a great-sounding and coherent piece. But if your room acoustics is lying to you, it can lead you down to making the wrong mixing decisions – which might shock you in other room types or listening through other audio sources.
That brings me to reference listening to different audio sources. Your fans will play your music in a wide variety of different audio systems and settings. And to make the best mixing decisions, you need to get as much feedback as you can.
While a well-treated studio room is a great foundation, listening to your mix in other sources gives you new insights that you can mix to perfection back in your studio.
So, if you want to make professional mixes, take your audio acoustics into great consideration, and listen to your mixes in a wide variety of audio sources like cheaper consumer speakers and studio headphones.
2. Tell A Story
Mixing like a professional is about highlighting the artist's vision. But it's also an opportunity to highlight hidden aspects or storylines of the track. Few beginner producers think about mixing this way, but it can help give you a mixing roadmap and confirm your mixing decisions.
Sadly, there’s no easy way to describe the process of highlighting a story with mixing. It’s intuitive and comes down to a lot of listening and feeling. But let’s take an example.
Let’s say your original mix contains a distorted and sad-sounding lead synth. By listening to it, you may want it to take the front seat of the mix and story. You may also want to accent the sadness of the synth with creative delay effects.
Knowing what route you want to take, you can narrow down your mixing decisions, which drives the musical story a lot better.
Thinking about the story and what you want the mix to convey is a professional way to mix music. And once you start thinking in those terms, you can start to make better mixing decisions with better-sounding mixes as a result.
3. Less Is More
More is rarely better when mixing music. Case in point, check out your favorite producers as they mix their tracks and see if they have a gazillion of equalizers and audio effects on every track. Most don’t.
Rather, less is more when it comes to mixing. It allows you to take more focused and determined decisions instead of making minor adjustments through endless effect chains.
In your mixing process, always ask yourself why you want to do a certain thing. Is it necessary? If so, do it and practice refraining from using too many effects.
Of course, there will be times where you will need to use multiple effects to achieve a desired result. But by creating the habit of using fewer effects, your mixes will start to sound better and more focused – and will be a lot easier to adjust when needed.
Making professional mixes is an art form. It requires great hearing skills, attention to detail, and top organizational skills and techniques.
By reading this article, you have learned three important considerations to take your music mixing to a professional level.
Pay careful attention to your room acoustics, listen to a wide variety of audio sources, enhance the story of your mix, and use fewer audio effects with more purpose.
That’s a great start to making professional mixes. And as always, the more you practice, the better you become.
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Thanks for reading, and see you in the next article.
About the author
Pelle Sundin is a Swedish music producer and writer, active with his chillout project PLMTRZ. He also produces psytrance. When he's not producing, he surfs, skates, and chugs coffee.