Music Production Mixing Tips Guide

Music Production Mixing Tips
Mixing a track, is pretty much finding the right balance of your instruments, tonal qualities, the micro and macro-dynamics of the song. With the end result striking balanced levels, clarity and punch. In this part we will focus on low end mixing tips. Getting the low end to sit just right is half the battle.

What you will learn.
How low Frequencies are perceived.
How to approach low end equalisation
How to Dynamically control the low end
Creating a cozy low end pocket in the mix
Share a bunch of personal mixing tips i picked up along the way
How Low Frequencies are Perceived
The low end battle, is no easy battle. Let me explain. We perceive sound from 20Hz to 20kHz. The low end spectrum one may argue starts from 20Hz to 300Hz. Again what its really important here is how we perceive this low end. We start to hear sound at 0dB SPL. Based on some experiments done in the 30’s i believe, it takes about 100dBSPL to hear 20Hz at a 40 Phones level (normal listening levels).
Right about now you’re like what the xxxx is going on? Ok, lets put physics aside, but before i do just that, always remember this; lower frequencies are more spherical than higher frequencies. Spherical in the sense the way they are generated and move about in a space.
One last thing, lower frequencies, carry more energy and travel a further physical distance. Your outside the club you hear bass or hi hats?

Tip: Since low frequencies have such high energy, a sub woofer is appropriate to better listen/feel that sub low end. Having your 2way monitors try to replicate low end, is not accurate at all for precision mixing.

How to approach low end equalisation
Equalisation of low end, is a fine art, which requires aural and visual aids. Its best to have a frequency analyser to fine tune your low end, especially when you are mixing in a non professional location or equipment setup.
Tip: Before adding an equaliser its best to ‘mono’ your low end, (kick & bass). By mono-ing your kick and bass you achieve two things
1. Free up space between your L & R space for mixing other sounds in.
2. You put extra control on your wild low end, teasing them right before you EQ.
Note: i feel to share something relevantly relevant. When applying an EQ you are actually applying phasing to the sound. This is how EQs work, 99% of them at least. They phase constructively or destructively that section of the filter that you are boosting or cutting by a finite value. I needed to share this, as some people like to fix phasing issues by EQing; by adding phase to phase. Lastly, its very unlikely that the human ear can pick up clearly digital phasing in the low end.

Now assuming that the low end has been mono-fied as much as possible, now is a good time to apply some EQing. There are several ways, and i like to separate them into their approaches and use:
1. The boosting approach: Simply put, you just boost the low end to hear it better.
2. The cutting approach: You cut away the ‘unnecessary’ frequencies. For example kill as much of the high end and mid range without degrading the total quality.

I bet most of us use both when applying EQs, i find a fine balance of the 80/20 rule here, 80 cut.

Always when using an EQ trust your ears first and then your eyes. If the room doesn’t fit, use closed headphones as a reference, or learn how your room response to the low end. I find it best to listen to the low end across many types of settings, monitors, headphones as possible to obtain a better experience for the end user.

Lastly compare the loudness of the low end to some recent track on beatport or iTunes in WAV format.

Dynamically controlling the low end
I actually do this first before EQing, i love to create some interaction between bass and kick. Even a very subtle one, creates a lot of low end dynamics. I usually side chain the kick to the bass by about -1 to -3dB. If it becomes audible then i loosen the side chain. Doing so it cleans up the kick, so when the kick cuts through the bass even just for a tiny bit, 50% of your low end issues are solved. Makes the EQing part, more clear and easy to use.

Creating a cozy low end pocket in the mix
This has to do a lot with the other sounds other than the low end. What i like to do is either create busses/sub groups and route certain instruments through it, or if its a striped down production i would just insert it on the channels themselves.
Whats the approach here? By using an EQ with a relatively steep low end cut filter at about say 50-100Hz, you clean up a lot of pitch-less, under-tonal content from your leads, vocals, percussion, etc. Leaving much more room for your low end to live in and express it self, the result is more clean low end and a cleaner melodic and percussive content.

Some more Music Production Mixing Tips:
1. Use a frequency analyser, rest your ears, take a break, sleep on it.
2. Make sure kick and bass play right across time and key
3. Don’t be afraid to compress the life out of the low end, and attack times are good way to add or remove punch and alter your signals.
4. Cut more from the bass and less form the kick (if you have to).
5. If you are monitoring, walk around the room to hear the room response.
6. Listen to a similar commercially available track in Hi-Def format, for comparison.
7. Use multi band compression only if you know how to use it, and is the last resort at a mixing stage.
8. Carve out the Mid Range of Low End Content, (i love this).
9. Make sure your kick and bass are in tune and sound good together in solo.
10. Compress slightly more one sound over the other.
11. Understand that the kick, bass, snare and other instruments have the same/similar fundamental frequencies.

Useful Links:
Frequency charts by IRN, interactive charts to better visualise your mix.