3 Mixing tips that change the way I mix
Mixing can make or break a song, a mix without dynamics, stereo image and clarity can make a song sound dull and boring, that's why mixing properly its important.
1.- NYC Parallel Compression for Drums
I was watching the Bobby Owsinski tutorial about NYC compression and I realize that I have been doing it wrong for years, this trick open my eyes to a new and better way to use parallel compression.
The first thing we need to do is to open a return channel, once we created the channel we add a compressor and we start messing with the parameters, first, we lower the attack time because we want the compression to be very aggressive, around .5ms to 2ms will be fine, then we adjust the ratio, as we want the signal to be heavily compress we set it between 10:1 to 12:1 and finally, we set the release time in 1ms.
After we are done with the compressor we add a parametric eq and add 3db at 100Hz and 3db in the 10kHz range, this will give some snap and body to the drums.
Now that we finished with the return channel is time to send the drums to it, we are looking to find the sweet spot to be around 6db to 12 dB of compression and once we get there we put the return channel fader down and we start to bring the volume up until we get a nice mix between the dry signal and the compressed one.
2.- My Vocal Chain
The vocals are the part of the mix that are the trickiest but also the most important to get right, they need to be front and center of our track, so we need to be very careful fon how to accomplish that and don't let them drown in the mix.
I always start with the eq to give them some body and color, but before I do that I normally use a highpass band around 120hz up to 200hz to cut all the low end that its just rumble and only adds muddiness to the mix.
Once we get rid of the rumble we start shaping the sound of the vocals, first, we need to hear what the vocal needs, if the vocal feels a little boomy which it occurs because it was recorded it in small place, we need to reduce some dB between 200hz and 350 Hz and if the vocal its to nasal we reduce some dB between 1kHz and 4.5Khz, now that we are done with all of our subtractive eq we add some presence so the vocal can cut through the mix and push it a little more to the front, so to do this we add in the 5kHz range.
Now we pass to the compression and something I like to do is to add 2 compressors back to back, so each one is getting around 3 dB of reduction, so we get a more natural compression and a more even sound.
Now for the vocal to sit perfectly in the mix we need some effects, so let's start by adding some reverb, first, we create a return channel and add the reverb effect in it, then to set the decay time exactly with the tempo of our track we need to do some math, first we divide 60,000 by the tempo of the track and we get the time between each quarter note, now we just choose how long we want our reverb to be, after the reverb we add an eq to clean the low end and to add a subtle boost around 7kHz to give it a little sparkle and air, after that, we add a compressor to sidechain the reverb from the clean vocal, and finally we blend the dry signal with the wet one.
3.- Gated Reverb
You know that 80s effect in all snares and toms of Phill Collins songs, the one that makes them sound huge and wide, well that effect its call gated reverb and it was a game-changer for me.
We start by creating a return track, we add a reverb effect in it and we turn the decay time way up, we don't want the decay to be low because we will hear the reverb tail and we don't want that.
Now that we are done setting up the reverb lets add a gate and use the sidechain mode to trigger the effect every time the snare hits, the parameters to adjust the length of the reverb are hold and release and I recommend to adjust it so it last approximately eighth of a note, the final touch will be to add an eq to clean the low end and some of the boxiness it could have around 200hz and 350 Hz and a compressor getting around 3db of reduction just so we can glue it all together.