Music Processing: 12 Steps to Perfection


Mixing is the meticulous process of converting a set of audio tracks into a complete piece of music. This is the painstaking work of the best mastering service at to achieve the perfect mix.

Where to start mixing a track?

Listen to similar songs. Concentrate not on the music, but on the mixing. Feel that even in a very tight mix, you can distinguish the part of each instrument, because it is in its own space.

So what are these twelve steps to the ideal?

1. The mixing process often takes a long time, so the workplace should be convenient and comfortable. First of all, you need a good computer chair with back support. The light should be dimmed so that the attention is completely focused on the sound. Rest your ears by taking breaks every 45-60 minutes.

2. Sign all tracks and channels, give them a logical order and organization. This will save time and make mixing easier.

3. Mixing is a creative process, it involves the right hemisphere of the brain, and the removal of clicks is the work of the left hemisphere. The combination of these actions will inhibit creative activity, so it is better to do all the routine work first and not return to it anymore.

4. If your track uses synthesizers, adjust their sound as early as possible. For example, don’t connect external EQs if you can just tweak the filter cutoff.

5. Until you adjust the overall approximate volume balance – do not add any effects or processing. First turn on mono for all tracks. If the sound is well balanced in mono, it will benefit in stereo.

6. Equalizers help you differentiate between instruments and also improve sound balance. So first get into vocals, drums, bass – the most important elements of the mix. And when they sound good together, you can move on to the less significant elements.

7. Basic processing. This definition means processing that radically changes the sound or brings something new to it. For example – adding echo or some kind of distortion, etc.

8. It’s time to place the instruments in the stereo field. Keep the kick and bass in the center: low frequencies contain maximum energy, so it must be distributed evenly. When panning the rest of the instruments, keep a close eye on the balance. If something one turned out to be on one side, it means that something else should turn out to be on the other.

9. Try to keep the number of competing instruments to a minimum, this will help keep the listener’s attention in focus. Of course, you may really like some sound effect, but if it is not necessary for a specific composition, get rid of it. Conversely, if you think you are missing something, try filling in the gaps.

10. Once you have placed all the instruments in their place in the stereo picture, it is time to add depth. But avoid multidimensionality, especially when mixing live music. Also, do not seek to improve sound quality by using reverb. It’s more efficient to go back and work with the equalizer or synthesizer settings.

11. Now that the most important task is completed, you should double-check the volume, equalizer settings, effects. Make the required adjustments if necessary. But do not be zealous, music does not always benefit from a certain sterility of sound.

12. Before you put an end to your work, listen to how it will sound on various audio systems – from the equipment in the studio to the car system. If the sound of the mix is ​​convincing everywhere – they did it perfectly well!

Mixing Basics

What is mixing? The answer, as often happens, lies in the very name of this term. Mixing, or as it is also called, mixing means mixing midi- and / or audio tracks album mixing into one general mix.

So, we have a certain number of instrument parts, vocals or drum loops that we want to combine into one track. What is needed for this? First, we will determine the tasks we are facing: whether it will be a dance stereo track, a five-channel movie soundtrack, etc.

Let’s say we want to get a dance track. The loud-sounding track with powerful low frequencies and wide stereo panorama is the unofficial standard for dance music. Each sound in the mix should be well “readable”, but at the same time nothing should stick out from the overall mix.

Ideally, the result of mixing should be a three-dimensional sound space, where the x-axis is a stereo picture (panorama), the y-axis is the height and strength of the sound, and the z-axis is the depth of the sound. Pan control is used to work with the x-axis, EQ and volume are used to work with the y-axis, and reverb and delay are used to work with depth or space. Now about everything in order.

X: Panning is to distribute different sounds relative to the left and right channels. For example, the kick is in the center, the hets are slightly on the left, the two guitar parts are spread almost all the way to the right and left channels, the percussion is on the right, etc. The essence of panning reflects its alternative name – balance. That is, none of the channels should “outweigh” the other, but each sound should take its place in the stereo picture.

Y: You probably noticed in a club or at a rave that the bass and kick of the track hit the chest, and the percussion and hats sound like at ear level, although they sound at the same volume … The thing is that these sounds different heights and with proper work with equalizers and loudness, each sound takes its place in this spectrum and becomes clearly audible.

Z: The above two characteristics are not enough for a modern track, besides the track sounding in the same plane is too straightforward and frankly boring. Reverb and delay creates the physical feel of the track that our ears are accustomed to. That is, some sounds sound in front of us, others somewhere behind, some other sound starts nearby, and fades out (illusory) somewhere in the distance.

This is the end of the description of the mixing process, since this article is only the basics of information. Moreover, each of the three points described above is worthy of a separate article, which will happen a little later. And this is just the basic knowledge that you need to learn and dissolve in yourself like a morning sandwich 🙂

Remember – by and large no matter what DAW or VST you use, the key to good mixing is your experience and quality control.

Finally, here are some simple but valuable tips:

1. When starting to note, take care of creating an atmosphere of calmness. Do not make appointments or calls for this period, turn off messengers.

2. Before mixing, do not listen to a lot of music, it is enough to listen to the “reference” mix once or twice, the sound of which you are going to focus on.

3. Print or keep in quick access the documentation in the form of useful equalizer frequencies, compressor settings, manuals, program hot keys, etc.

4. Do not start mixing immediately after recording, especially if the recording was long and difficult.

5. It is good if you allow yourself a little rest before mixing. The best option would be walking in a park or square, for example.