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The first thing to understand about music is that it’s completely subjective. You might make music for yourself, you might make music for an audience, but the audience will always form their own opinions about your labor of love. The same is true for me: some people love my work, some people hate my work. I’m fine with that.
With that said, I do believe that there are some basic concepts that (for the most part) transcend individual, subjective preferences and make the difference between a good mix and a great mix.
This is a really big one: a great mix allows every part have an important place in the sonic field within the song. The great mixes will always make every individual element shine or sing in its own way, sometimes in a way that you don’t quite understand but is somehow awesome. A few surprisingly simple tips on achieving separation:
A great mix will always have sonic excitement, and this can be achieved in a number of ways. I’ve heard good mixes become great with just these simple steps:
Great mixes have good “space” in the width, meaning things are narrow when they need to be narrow and things are wide when they need to be wide. Don’t forget to use your pan knobs – they’re there for a reason. Stereo enhancers aren’t even necessary here; just the fundamentals of putting stuff in the right place will go a long way.
Ever heard a snare that was a little out of the norm or a guitar tone that sounds fresh and weird? You’d be surprised how effective it can be to just go off the beaten path. Sometimes it’s fun to put yourself in a self-imposed box of limitations to see what happens. Here are some tips to stay creative:
Like I said, all music is subjective, and at the end of the day, all that matters is that you are happy with the results, but I think you’ll find that these principles will help take any mix from good to great. If you still find yourself struggling to make a great mix, keep in mind that it’s all about your ears and your listening environment, and not about your tools. The more you rely on your gut and your ears, the better you will become at mixing. Put in the time and you will get better!
Joey Sturgis is a producer, mixer, recording engineer, programmer, writer, and performer. For a full decade, he has brought these powers to bear on nouveau strains of metalcore, post-hardcore, electronicore, and more, shaping a revolutionary new wave of hard music. Sturgis has racked up a massive list of credits for a who’s who of modern cutting edge metal, channeling the raw power of bands like Asking Alexandria, Attack Attack!, Born of Osiris, Of Mice & Men, Attila, We Came As Romans, Blessthefall, I See Stars, and many more. Find him online at JoeySturgisTones.com and https://urm.academy/
*This article was originally published at Sonicbids.com. It has been re-posted here with permission.