I hear from lots of producers and the biggest misconception is that you don’t have to mix beats. You may not realize it, but most your plugins and sample libraries mix sounds to make them sound more appealing when you play them. If the grand piano didn’t have that cathedral style hall reverb on it, it wouldn’t sound so appealing. Understanding that the sound is mixed and that it has consequence in the full picture of mixing is important because sound is processed in a specific order and there are consequences for doing things earlier than other things in the mixing chain. If you want to learn how to make beats, you must understand there are different phases (steps) in the music production process (workflow).
Here are the 8 fundamentals of mixing:
EQ’s are used to edit out bad qualities of a sound and to enhance a sound. They are also used to shape the “tone” of a sound, the way we perceive a sound (frequency wise).
Reverberation is the effect you hear when you step into a large space and make noise. That noise bounces around the walls of that environment and return back to your ear (delayed in timing). Different reverbs are created with different times of the sound returning to your ear.
Compression is used to adjust the perception of level (volume) in a sound. If we take a kick drum with a loud transient (beginning portion of sound) and a soft body and compress it, we can match the level (volume) of the beginning portion of the kick with the body. This would make the kick seem longer, simply because the volume was made more constant.
There are more functions to a compressor, including clipping distortion effects, but to keep it simple, compression is used to make the volume of a sound more constant without changing, which makes a sound feel more linear (flattened).
Limiters are really just compressors with a harsher character. They are known to set “ceilings” which are used to make sure sound levels (volume) don’t go above a specific dB level. This is used to prevent clipping in tracks. Again, there are more functions to a limiter as there are for the compressor.
There are many different styles of saturation. Saturation essentially makes a sound more aggressive, buzzy, fizzy, or pronounced. Some techniques involving saturation are to create upper harmonic activity, to give low frequency sounds more activity in the high frequency range. This technique is used to make low kicks and bass audible on lesser quality systems like radio or lo-fi headphones.
Think of saturation like light distortion.
Delay is created with time differences. If I say the word “hi” and you say it 10ms later, that is delay. Any time difference between two things. We can use delay for many things in mixing, one main reason of using delay is for increasing the presence of rhythm in a track and solidify the motion created in the track.
Distortion is the reshaping of a sound from its original shape. Just like walking through a house of mirrors exaggerates your figure, distortion will exaggerate your sound. It is essentially, very aggressive saturation even involving digital clipping (going above digital 0dB)
8. Mono and Stereo
Think of a song in three positions: Left, Center, and Right. Left and right would be the stereo (side) sound. The Middle would be the mono sound. Don’t confuse mono with center panning however because mono can be panned left and right. To keep it simple, just realize that there are three main sections to a song, the mono and stereo field (left and right). You can manipulate the three positions for unique results in your song.
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