Sound Mixing: 10 Essential Tips to Know
Kicking-off with 10 digestible nuggets of sound mixing essentials you should be practicing when either shaping sounds or balancing the mix.
You might know all, or some of these tips already - cool. However, they've been chosen precisely because they are ones we most-often let slide from our thoughts when dancing with the fairies in laa-laa-land (Note: I'm talking about you here - I've personally never been to laa-laa-land, preferring STRICTLY HETERO nightclubs instead, HTH).
1: Use MONO Sound Sources
Some of you might be shocked to learn this - I know I was when first told. I mean, MONO is crap right? We're into (what is it now?), 9-Channel surround-sound or sommat daft like that, aren't we! And what about your synth? I bet it sounds amazing in full-width panoramic swirling stereo doesn't it?
It just wouldn't sound the same in MONO, right? I feel ya, trust. But listen-up...
First-off, ask yourself: what sound source, in nature, is truly emitted in stereo? Aye, got you thinking hasn't it!
If you're sat there shouting: "All natural sound sources are in stereo - they're all around us!" Well yeah, that's how we hear them, true. But that's more likely a result of things happening to the soundwaves whilst travelling to our ears.
You see, sound-waves are reflected, blown-about, and dampened etc., don't forget. We perceive distance, direction and space through clues such as volume, and the difference in time sound takes to enter both ears; ie., hitting the left ear louder and quicker than the right.
Drowning in Stereo
Recording your sound-sources in stereo (or using stereo samples) can make it very difficult to find a "hole" in the mix for other instruments to sit. This can lead to excessive EQ-fiddling to create one - cue battle of the sounds.
A well-recorded MONO sound source, on the other hand, can be placed with relative ease onto the sound-stage, allowing you to better-handle what, and how, effects should be applied with regard to neighbouring instruments, and their positions and frequencies in the mix.
Remember these things:
- Record in stereo - record again in stereo! With mono, you just tweak the panning and effects (if any) until seasoned.
- If 2 mono sound parts are sharing the same frequency range then just try and simply pan them slightly: one to the right, other to the left (a couple of notches either side is usually enough).
- If you must record in stereo, use 2 mono channels to capture right and left separately.
Final Killer TipTest your mix in mono! Use the MONO button on the mixing-panel (or desk) to sum the channels together into one (MONO) channel. This will put all sounds into the centre.
- You'll hear if any phasing is creeping-in (like a comb-filtering effect).
- You can correct any sounds that have disappeared.
- Many club PA systems (believe it or not), use mono! Don't be embarrassed - I've read enough posts on forums to know this is a fairly common phenomenon!
What to listen for
Tone and volume consistency.
Yeah I know... how to explain that in writing, eh! Use your noggin: you're after consistent clarity basically; sufficient to identify the instruments in both mono and stereo. If it ain't happening, go back into the mixing panels and identify what's causing your mono upsets by looking at your stereo files and/or added stereo effects.