What is music mixing, and why is it so hard? Producers worldwide try their music to sound as good as possible. And for good reason. Mixing is about a creating a fantastic end-result by building excitement, contrast, and putting all sounds in their right place. It’s about balance.
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In this article, you will learn what mixing music is, why it's so hard, and get a few tips on how you can start mixing music better today.
Let’s dive in with our first topic, what mixing music is.
What Is Mixing Music?
Mixing music is the process of bringing several sounds together and making them sound great together. In DAWs, you typically work with many different audio channels. And to make all sounds fit together, you typically have to make changes and do optimization to allow the sounds to go together.
The audio mixing process typically includes simple volume customization, meaning changing the levels of each channel. For example, lowering the bass so the kick drum can come through.
However, it also includes more advanced customization like equalization, meaning frequency changes to make certain elements shine through or take a step back in the mix.
It’s also about reducing problem frequencies and peaks, which is a very common thing.
With many different audio effects to choose from, you have unlimited ways you can make sounds fit together. But typically, you aim for a benchmark. And the benchmark comes from a balance in frequencies, volume, and dynamics. But there’s also depth, contrast, and excitement.
Mixing music is about taking an arranged track and making the best of it. And this means lowering and increasing energy for specific parts. You don’t want repetitive music with the same energy throughout. You want things to happen, energies to change. And that’s what mixing is all about.
Why Is Mixing Music So Hard?
Mixing music can be hard. With many different sounds and an experimental attitude, chances are you get disappointed. With unlimited ways of putting sounds together, it’s tough to know how to make it work.
Considering finished tracks can contain anywhere from ten to hundred-fifty different channels, it’s no wonder making sense of it all feels like a challenge.
However, mixing is not hard if you know the right ways to do it. Even though it takes years of dedication to become the world’s best mixing engineer, making professional mixes good enough for Spotify and playing live only needs the right structure.
With the right knowledge about balance and mixing decisions, you can go from “I have no idea what I’m doing” to a great mixing engineer – just like the pros.
The time following will only increase your skills. With better-trained ears, you will make more accurate decisions that take your music to a whole other level. And if you get good, you can even mix other people’s music for a lot of money.
In mixing, the devil is in the details. And with the right mixing knowledge, you will learn what details to look for.
How To Start Mixing Music
You have your DAW; you have VST plugins and fantastic ideas. But how do you bring them all together in the best possible way? As previously stated, it’s not easy. If you know nothing about mixing, it’s incredibly tough to make sense of it all. Sure, you can go completely by ear. But sooner or later, you will run into disappointment or trouble that only proper mixing knowledge can solve.
Luckily, mixing music to sound good enough for Spotify is easy. You only need to learn the right tips, tricks, and techniques.
If you’re new to mixing music, you’re in a very delicate position. You can either learn by trial-and-error, shooting in the dark for years, and hoping you learn the right technique. Honestly, it's an honest approach but very limiting.
A better way to learn is by taking a proper mixing course and applying what you’ve learned. With the proper knowledge as your foundation, you only have good mixing skills to expand upon. And you will learn a lot faster than someone who experiments.
Mixing Tip #1: Balance
Remember, the goal of mixing music is about achieving balance. If your final track is only bass and very little high-end, it will sound off. And if you put delays and reverbs on everything, you don’t achieve a proper balance of depth. Delicacy and balance – that’s the way to mix.
Mixing Tip #2: Excitement
Mixing is also about excitement. That’s a massive part of what makes people listen to music. Interesting effects, surprising panning and arrangement shifts, weird effects – it’s all a part of building excitement. You have a lot of tools at your disposal, so there’s a lot you can do.
Mixing Tip #3: Depth
We have mentioned depth slightly, but it’s a critical part of what makes a great mix truly shine. With the right, balanced depth, you can make your music an immersive experience – setting the soundstage for all your listeners and taking them wherever you want. It’s not as easy as throwing reverbs and delays on all sounds. Delicate mixing is more advanced than that. And depth is critical.
Mixing Tip #4: Dynamics
A great mix is up and downs. It’s highs and lows. If all your sounds play with the same energy throughout your music, it will quickly get dull. Listeners want sounds to happen – they want changes in energy, vibe, and sounds. And that’s what a great part of the mixing process is about. By learning how to control your music's energy, you can control your listeners' emotions and work to make your music ten times better than before.
Mixing music is about the result of all your sounds played together. It's about having the proper balance, excitement, depth, and dynamics, making the listeners experience out-of-this-world. And with the proper training, you can easily start making great mixes on any music genre you attempt.
For music producers, investing in the proper mixing knowledge is like putting money in the bank. It helps you a long time while saving you valuable time and frustration. And once you have the foundational mixing knowledge and know what to do, you can quickly expand and become a world-class mixing engineer.
Audio mixing is an extremely sought-after skill. We all want our music to sound fantastic, and many will pay good money for it. Just look at the amazing people that mix music for the top-list artists. You wouldn’t believe the credibility they have and the money they make. Mixing music is an amazing skill, and well-worth learning all you can about it.
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Mixing and mastering is a true skill that takes years of intense focus, training, and hard work.
Knowing what decisions to take to bring out the best in each sound while making all sounds work together is tricky.
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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.