What makes a good mix?
Well, it’s a variety of things that all come together to Make the final mix.
Lets face it, mixing is no easy task and can be quite exhausting for beginners that are still getting their feet wet.
This is why I wrote this article. It should be the tool that will help you excel in your mixing and your general approach to music production.
Knowing what constitutes a good and acceptable mix is the hack that will help you make better decisions while being focused on an outcome. Knowing the techniques of mixing is very vital when its combined with actual knowledge of how your final mix should sound like.
With that said, let’s get into the various things that make a good mix.
The number one thing that will separate a good from a bad mix is how clear it is. When it comes to mixing, clarity is everything and is almost at the front and center as mixing is done, at-least by me it is.
Human perception is subjective which means, clarity in a mix is very vital as you carry out your processing.
You can do this by clearly defining the individual elements of your mix making sure their frequencies are well handled.
Good Volume and Dynamics
A mix will be disregarded if it lacks the right volume. Dynamics are very essential in mixing because they bring out your content to the center stage of audio perception so your songs can be enjoyed by the listener.
Volume in a mix is usually achieved during the mastering phase which is essentially geared toward making the record final and ready for release.
A good practice and key tip is mastering in comparison with commercial music because it can help you get a good idea of how loud your mix should be.
Another good tip is testing out your mix on different audio playback devices so you have a good idea of the overall dynamics and volume of your mix.
Well combined frequencies
When it comes to mixing, we are essentially blending different tracks and elements to have one solid composition like a song.
These various elements have to be well adjusted and processed to ensure that the combination of their frequencies doesn’t end up in a total disaster.
Doing good frequency checks for each individual element can help you sort through what needs handling and can work and what won’t work.
I don’t even know why simplicity is not emphasized or discussed whenever audio mixing is brought up because it is one of the things that makes songs easy to listen to.
Your mix should be simple, with good elements combined, preferably a few. You don’t need a lot of moving parts to make your mix sound good.
Use beats with fewer instruments that are well mixed to ensure that you don’t get any headaches when trying to blend them with your recordings.
Avoid using too many effects on your elements like vocals, because you can easily damage their originality.
You need an authentic, good clear and simple mix that is pleasurable to listen to.
Another thing that makes a mix particularly “good” is its grit. By this I mean, having your elements do what they are intended to do.
Have your kicks properly cutting through the mix and have your other subtle elements sitting subtly in the mix.
This is usually achieved in mastering where the primary goal is to get each instrument to a good level giving it all the edge and grit that it needs to be able to have it’s fair share of the stereo image.
Good Element coordination
I’ve used the word “element” over and over in this post simply because I want to generalize every piece of audio that you may have in your mixing session. I don’t want to only limit it to vocals and instruments because audio production goes beyond these.
With that said, every good mix should have good coordination among its elements because they make up the full mix.
Which is why you should work hard to ensure that you get your elements to compliment each other.
Good width and space
Width is very important in mixing and is one of the techniques that will help your elements blend instead of conflicting.
Reverb works great in this part of mixing because it can essentially make your elements wetter and give some space around them that can allow for a good harmony among all elements.
Panning is another great way to create some room within your mix and by this I don’t mean panning your sounds completely left or right. I mean panning in a more subtle way, just enough for you to have elements create space for each other.
This can help give your overall mix a good width to make sound bigger and wider.
We definitely cannot ignore creativity.
Your mix has to be creative enough to keep your listeners engaged.
People listen to music to be entertained in more ways than one. If your mix can’t tell a good story or be creative enough, people won’t go half a minute into it.
We are living in digital times were attention span is generally low because people are bombarded with information the moment they get out of bed.
Therefore, your mix has to be creative enough to give your listener a good enough reason to keep playing it.
This is pretty much in line with creativity but in more technical way.
Excitement is generally making your elements sound better by polishing them up with techniques like saturation that can make them POP. Making them more desirable to listen to.
This is very inportant, a great mix allows every piece of the puzzle to have an important place in the sonic field within the song.
A good mix is one that allows every individual element to shine or be present in its own unique way, sometimes in a way that you don’t quite understand but is somehow sonically pleasing.