Updated: Mar 23, 2020
16 Step Quick Mixing Guide #2 (More Info)
by David W. Aucoin
16 steps to a good mixSteps
1 IMPORT STEMS
Import stems into daw (.wav files) not mp3's
2 ORGANIZE TRACKS
Organize Tracks (Percussion / Bass / Guitar / Piano / Synths etc)
3 SET UP SEND TRACKS
Set up effects on send tracks (For reverbs and delays) I use 2 reverbs (Halls and Plates) and 2 delays (Long and Short) primarily for vocals. I use them on sub-mixes as well. I use track inserts on the individual tracks like, modulation, or special effects.
4 SET UP SUB MIX TRACKS
Set up sub mix tracks (For sections Drums/Bass/Guitar / etc)
5 SET UP MASTER BUS
Get master bus set up and ready to go. Basic favorite compression andeq's for gluing the mix together. It is wise to not go overboard on master bus.Try to make sure when mixing you leave the Master mix bus settings alone until the end for gluing things together and not smashing everything by applying too much compression as your mixing. Wait until you have finished your mix.
6 GAIN STAGING
Check the levels of your stems. There are plugins that can be used if your daw doesn't have a gain staging tool. Hornet plugins has a couple of nice plugins at a really low cost. Try to not across the board normalize everything. Work with each track separately and make decisions on a per track basis. Some tracks may need normalizing.
7 ROUGH MIX
Start adjusting levels and get a rough mix going. Basic levels. Just to make sure things are not clipping and make notes on each track on your track sheetif noise is occurring and where. Things like breaths, guitar string noise before actual lead starts etc.
8 PANNING & PROCESSING IDEAS EARLY ON
Make a mental note or even start panning tracks if you know for sure at that time where you want them to sit in the mix. Always listening for ideas that will help the mix. If a creative idea hits you jot it down or start the process then.
9 CHECK PHASING ISSUES
Check phase issues on all of your tracks (Primarily the kicks & snares)
10 ADDITIVE AND SUBTRACTIVE EQ
Some engineers use compression before eq but it's just a matter of personal taste. For me it depends on the situation and you will learn when to compress before EQ with experience. For the most part using EQ'ing first is a good start. So start your EQ'ing (Additive and Subtractive) HP & LP filtering. Take one track at a time and clean up the low and high ends in the frequency ranges that are not serving any purpose.
11 ROUGH MIX EVALUATION
After rough mix is done think about how you want the song to sound. Having a goal of how you want the song to sound when finished is critical. You will never mix well unless you have a certain feel of how you want the song to sound once you are finished mixing. Its important to listen to every track intensely. Here is where you fine tune your mixing levels and panning.
Check instruments to see if re-amping is necessary. Sometimes you may want to add an amp to things like bass guitar and guitars. Even keyboards may need re-amping. Just be sure you communicate with the artist. Using an added technique should not be a problem with most musicians especially if they stand out and shine. Honor their tones and don't change the artist's tone. Just enhance it.
Now use some compression. Be careful to not over compress things. Think of adding small amounts of compression in stages rather than crushing a track. Use different types of compression. Use 2 or 3 types of compressors making small additions instead of hitting one compressor hard. (There are times for that. Just evaluate the situation) 95 % of the time smaller compression techniques will produce a better mix. Learn what effects fast and slow attacks have on the sound field. Normally a fast attack will place an instrument in the back of a mix while a slower attack will place the sound to the front of a mix. In the case of a kick drum you may let the song dictate where it sounds best and compress accordingly either front or back of mix.
14 EFFECTS & PANNING PROCESSING
Evaluate each track and determine what effect is needed. Keep in mind that whenadding effects like reverbs and delays try to use the send tracks a much aspossible. Remember to set the mix on the plugin to 100 % wet for best results. Use panning to place the instruments in their correct place in the sound field. Don't crowd up your sound field. Try different placements. In the case of orchestra panning try to stick to placing the instruments in the same area of thesound field as when watching a symphony from an audience perspective.
15 AUTOMATION TECHNIQUES
Automate fade ins, fade outs, volume changes, and effects within tracks. This is where the sweetening of the mix comes in and a lot of care is to be taken at this stage. Slight changes in volume and effects processing at this point are very important. Try to be tasteful with effects. Make them smooth.
16 SUB-MIX AND MIX BUSS PROCESSING.
Some engineers mix into the master mix bus as they are mixing. I for one donot care for that method. (There is no right or wrong way but there are general guide lines for both). So your going to have to try both methods. I prefer mixing into the mix buss after I have gotten a great mix. I will then mix everything to the master mix buss with really nice plugins. Only a couple of really good compressors and a brick wall (if needed !!!). Two really good mix bus plugins like to use are the Kramer Tape simulator by waves and a good SSL console simulation plugin. Waves has a good one. There are others as well that are very good too. Those two moderate plugins can really help to glue things together really well. But there are thousands of options.
If you are not mastering and will have someone master leave at least -3db of headroom for the mastering house.
FOLLOWING THIS PROCESS WILL GIVE YOU A REALLY GOOD MIX