What Is A Mix-down?

After we record a song, the next step is obviously sitting down to edit the tracks in order to ensure that we use good takes.

In the editing phase we are also looking to spot mistakes in word pronunciation, recording errors and many other things.

Once we are done with the process of editing, we now move on to the next step which mixing the record.

In mixing we use a number of tools to process audio and get it to a consumable state, after which we create what is called the final mix down.

In this post ill discuss what a mix down is.

With that said, what is a mix down?

A mixdown is simply the process of balancing the volume level and frequency of each individual mix element in relation to one another with goal of allowing for clarity within the mix and to avoid elements from being in conflict with each other.

With that said let’s get into the actual process of mixing down.

Mixing down

Lets get into what the actual process of mixing down involves.

Get a Reference track

The first thing that you need to do is get a reference track that you’ll use against your mixdown.

You don’t need to import it into your DAW, you just need to have it ready for playback with your media player on your computer.

In explaining this process I’m going to use an example where we have a mix that consists of 4 elements.

These four elements are a Kick, Snare, Hihat and Bass.

Put each element on the mixer

In the first step we’ll be routing each element to separate mixer inserts so we can alter them individually without affecting others.

Using our example, we are going to have the Kick, Snare, Hihat and bass routed to individual mixer inserts.

Leave a limiter on the master channel

Ensure that you don’t have any other effects on your master channel except a limiter which we help you avoid your mix from clipping.

Get the frequencies right

Once you have all your elements routed to the mixer, you’ll need to ensure that you use an EQ plugin to cut away any uneeded frequencies in all of the elements routed to the mixer.

For example, if a kick has unnecessary top end frequencies that don’t serve any purpose, you’ll cut the unnecessary top end away because a kick is supposed to be a low frequency element.

You’ll carry out this process with all elements ensuring that non of them conflict with any other elements frequency-wise.

Turn all faders down

Once you sort out frequency issues in all elements, you can then go ahead and turn down all the volume faders of the elements routed to the mixer.

Using our example mix, we’ll turn down the volume faders of the Kick, Snare, Hihat, bass down to 0.00 dB or simply 0%.

But we are going to leave our master fade at its natural maximum volume which is 0dB, the highest and normal level.

Determine the most important elements

After we turn down the faders of our elements, we then have to determine the most important elements of the track.

This is different for every genre.

I mainly deal with hiphop production and the most important element is usually the Kick drum.

So we’ll go with the Kick drum as our most important element.

Bring the fader of the most important element up

The Kick will be the first element to work on since I’ve determined it as the most important element in our theoretical example mix.

With that said, what we’ll do is bring the volume fader up until we get it to a good level.

The reference track should be our guide here.

Match the Kick volume in the mix with the Kick in the reference track.

Check Frequency

At this stage you can also check the Frequency information of the element to make sure it’s occupying the right space.

Bring up next element

Now that we are done with our kick, we can then bring in our next important element which will be a snare using our theoretical example.

We can then go ahead and bring the fader up to a decent level.

Balance the two elements

With the snare up to a decent level, we can use our reference track to check for the volume of its snare with regard to the kick.

We should aim to have the same kick and snare relationship that is in our reference track.

Bring in the third element

After we are done getting our kick and snare balanced, we can then bring up the volume fader of our third element which could be either be the bass or hihat using our example.

Let’s use the bass.

We’ll use the reference track when adjusting the level of our bass and we’ll ensure that our bass properly sits well with the Kick and Snare.

Balance the 3 elements

At this stage will simply balance our kick, snare and bass making sure that they’re in sync and non of them are conflicting with the other elements.

Bring in the last element

We can then bring in our last element which is the hihat.

We’ll also look to the reference track when adjusting the level of our hihat.

The goal is to get our hihat to a level that matches our reference track hihat.

Balance all elements

The next step is to now balance all our elements with regard to each other and get them to match perfectly.

Here’s your mix down

After balancing everything and ensuring that there are no volume and frequency conflicts, we now have our mix down.

Some people may also use the mix down process to pan instruments to enhance the stereo image.

The goal is to ensure that every element has its place in the frequency spectrum and non of them comes in to conflict with any other elements.