Mixing music can be an incredible difficult task if you don’t
learn to grasp the concept of balance & compromise.
All mixes are a compromise. Your job is to choose the
hierarchy between each separate sound or instrument
in your song.
A big mistake is thinking that every instrument is going to
an “A player” in your mix. The more things you have going
on in your mix, the less room you can give to each one of
The more sounds or instruments in your mix the less room
each of them can take up in a mix. If you want each instrument
to sound bigger, you have to reduce the number of instruments.
The reason Nirvana sounded so huge is because there were
only 3 instruments & each sat in a different frequency range,
so they complimented eachother, instead of interfering with
If you are an electronic music producer, changes are your are
going to have many more than 3 sounds in your song.
It’s also not as easy as just dividing every sound equally
across the board. The fact is that some sounds are going
to be more important than others.
For example, your backing vocals are going to be less important
than your backup vocals. Strings & pads are going to be less
important than your lead sounds.
Back in my days of mixing other bands, it was a challenge
when every musician wanted their part louder in the mix. If
everything is louder, nothing is louder.
It can also be tempting in a mix to solo each instrument separately
and try to make every sound as up front & “in your face” as possible.
Once again, if everything is “in your face” nothing is.
Many amateur producers make the mistake of adding mid
frequencies to every sound, which ends up completely throwing
off the balance of the mix & ends up with every instrument battling
for the same frequency.
This is the fastest way to end up with a tinny mix that has
no bottom end.
Here are a few ways you can get a more balanced mix, where each
instrument has its own place.
1. Start by rating each of your sounds from 1-3. 1 being the most
important and 3 being the least. This will let you know which sounds
you can sacrifice to give more space to the more important sounds.
2. Work on your reductive EQing. Remove unnecessary frequencies
to make more room in your mix for other sounds.
3. Use panning to give each instrument a place in the stereo field.
This will help sounds that use the same frequencies from interfering
with one another.
4. When mixing an instrument, try this 2 techniques. First, turn
the instrument you are mixing louder than it needs to be in the
mix, then slowly bring down the as low as you can without losing
As you do this, try listening to every sound in your mix EXCEPT
the one you are mixing. This let’s you know how a particular
instrument is affecting the rest of your mix.
5. There are situations where 2 instruments are both important
but at different times. Let’s say guitars & vocals as an example.
In this case, the only time the guitar is less important is when
the vocals come in.
By lightly sidechaining the guitar to the vocals, the guitar will
only by pushed down in the mix when the vocals come in and
otherwise remain upfront in the mix.
While many producers are familiar with sidechaining parts
to their kick drum, you can also get incredible results by
sidechaining less important parts to more important parts.
It gives the illusion of everything having impact at the right
time without all your parts fighting for attention.
When you fully understand the idea that a mix is a compromise,
you’ll be able to make more realistic and informed decisions
that will ultimately give you much better results.
Obviously 1 blog post is not going to solve all your mixing
issues, but hopefully this will point you in a more useful direction.
Happy music making!