This month, we asked our panel of top pop and electronica producers how they keep their mixes clean and punchy. Got a question for our experts? Let us know!
Put a highpass filter set at around 30Hz on your tracks to get rid of that rumble. When you cut, don’t forget to compensate for the change in level. Brick-wall limiters are your friend; use them for quick percussive transients. Avoid digital clipping whenever possible, except in the front end of limiting plug-ins.
It’s all about cleaning up the low end. It’s counter-intuitive, but if you want the bass in your tracks to sound huge, you need to focus on making it really clean. Filter out overlapping frequencies in layered bass lines and kicks, and remove low end from anything that doesn’t really need it. A lot of problems with clarity in the mids and dullness in the highs actually come from muddy low end eating up your headroom and overwhelming the mix.
When I have all the sounds I need to progress to the mixdown stage, I’ll have a look at the percussion (hi-hats, snares, and so on) and see if there are any troublesome frequencies in the drum hits. Using Logic’s Channel EQ, I’ll strip low frequencies out that shouldn’t be there, letting the bass line and kick drum breathe.
(Dragonette | dragonette.com)
Put less crap in your track. It’s really hard to do when there are so many fun, cool sounds out there, and increasingly, when you can get all the horsepower you need from your computer to create endless tracks.
First and foremost, it’s important to train yourself to remove any frequencies that don’t have to be there, even if you can’t hear them. When you’re doing this to individual sounds and instruments, it may not seem like a big deal, but when you do this consistently throughout, it can have a big impact on your mix. A lot of samples and instruments output low frequencies that serve no useful purpose in the grand scheme. I’ve pulled up drum samples with low-frequency rumble that does really nasty things when played back on a sub or big system. The same can be said for synthesizers. On the opposite side of the scale, some instruments will have frequencies that extend too high, giving them that digital brittleness. Unless you’re layering, it also doesn’t hurt to consciously avoid using sounds and instruments that overlap each other in terms of frequencies. You have three “dimensions” to work with to give everything its own place in the mix: the frequency spectrum, amplitude, and stereo width. Last but not least, compressors are invaluable tools to even out dynamics and inconsistencies in amplitude but after years of producing, I’ve finally joined the ranks of those who wholeheartedly claim that less is more.