Canadian Musician - September/October 2017 - Page 59

RECORDING VANRIP is a DJ/producer duo from Toronto made up of Adam Mohamed and Tyler Corbett. For more, visit and By VANRIP Tips For a Cleaner Mix S o you’ve written a hit. That’s awesome, but if it’s not well mixed, it will fall under the radar of so many potential listeners. This article will provide a few key tips and tricks for up-and-coming electronic producers to get the most out of their mixes. These tips are not specific to any DAW, so regardless of whether you use Ableton Live, Logic, FL Studio, etc., don’t sweat it. EQ: A Producer’s Best Friend The biggest mixing tool a producer has at their disposal is the EQ. Most DAWs have an EQ built in, or you can choose to buy an external plug- in. Some work better than others, but for most people, the built-in EQ works just fine. We use the stock Ableton EQ more than anything else. Different sonic elements have different frequency zones that they occupy. The kick drum, bass, synths, and percussion are each strongest in different zones, but there is “zone overlap.” In other words, some frequencies you get on a kick drum occupy the same sonic territory as those on a bass. The overabundance of these overlapping frequencies can make a mix sound unclear and muddy. Use any EQ plug-in to cut out all unnecessary frequencies. The following diagram should be the basic pattern of any EQ you have: The dip in the beginning is called a low cut. The human ear can’t perceive frequencies below 30 Hz, so cut those out. Those frequencies would otherwise take up space in the mix that you can’t hear. For sub basses and kicks, cut them at about 30 Hz, then slowly increase the frequency cut until you can hear the low end disappearing, then lower the frequency. This basically lets you cut out all the inaudible stuff and none of the stuff you want. Cut synths and basses at a higher frequency to leave even more space for the kick and sub. Generally, we cut synths/basses at about 100-200 Hz, depending on the instrument. Cut elements like hi-hats and cymbals even higher – sometimes we go as high as 5 kHz. This gives your track the most space. If none of the elements are fighting for space in a mix, your mix will be clean and punchy. W W W. C A N A D I A N M U S I C I A N . CO M The majority of instruments will have at least some information in the low-mids. The dip in the diagram shown at the second marker is a little trick we learned. Duck the volume for all your instruments a little bit in this zone, and instantly get some clarity. Reverb: Overused, Overplayed Here’s a quick one that we didn’t learn until about a year and a half ago: don’t overuse reverb. Before, we used to smack a reverb plug-in on every synth channel. We wanted everything to sound super fat. Turns out all we were doing was screwing up our mix. Put one reverb plug-in on a return channel or bus, and send everything you want with a reverb to that channel. That way, you have one plug-in doing all of the reverb, so there won’t be any weird time and decay artifacting. Don’t forget to throw a low-cut EQ on that channel, as reverb on low end will only serve to mess up your mixdown. Stereo Width Another overlooked aspect of a proper mixdown is stereo imaging. If every element in a track is fighting for the same space in a stereo field, the result is a muddier mix. Learn to pan elements that don’t need to be right in the centre of the stereo field, such as hi