A while back I posted a remix of EMF's "Unbelievable", and the comments from forum members really helped guide me in terms of tweaks prior to submitting my mix. One of the comments was KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid), which helped me in terms of groove (in this case how kick drum & bass should lock in with one another). In mixing some of my home made stuff, I gleaned valuable insights from Youtube, and I'd like to share them here.
The first is a talk by mixing engineer Bob Power:
"Carve up the frequency spectrum to hear things in a mix". Most instruments have a resonant peak. It often changes with the pitch of the instrument. Raise up an EQ with a medium width and start sweeping it through the frequencies until you find the weird bit that really sticks out. That's the resonant peak. Pull back the EQ a little bit on those resonant peaks for every track in your session before starting to mix and you'll find there's so much more room for everything else because those resonant peaks won't be masking the other instruments." – thank you to Will Helliwell for this takeout in the Comments section.
The full talk is here:
The second is a conversation between Justin Colletti & mixing engineer, Michael Brauer:
It's clear that when it comes to mixing a track, mixing engineers can struggle with focus. As Michael says, it's about identifying what emotion the track evokes, i.e. happy, sad (or longing), angry or physical (dance) and if you can pinpoint the emotion at the start, it will focus your mixing.
The full conversation is here:
I mix on headphones and what sounds great in my head may fall apart on PC speakers, studio monitors, my car stereo or that bluetooth boombox I crank up in the kitchen. The deep bass I hear in my ears may be flubby in my car, or the crisp kick drum may pop on my PC speakers. What I'm up against is mixing without a flat response from my headphones. Having a flat response when monitoring audio is like having a vector & waveform monitor when colour grading video material (I am a video editor, so this example makes sense to me). What you see on the vector & waveform monitor is a true representation of video levels, regardless of how your computer screens are calibrated. There is hope for the guy who mixes on headphones, though. I did not buy the software, but I looked into SonarWorks "True-Fi". Here is a list of headphones that are supported: https://www.sonarworks.com/truefi/headphones
"True-Fi" knows your headphones' sound profile, and will attenuate the signal so that what you hear is what you get. But, if your headphones are not supported by "True-Fi", all is not lost. It's also about knowing your headphones really well. How do you experience the bass response on your headphones, for instance? How does it differ when listening to different styles of music? You can take that experience of how your headphones reproduce sound into your mixing session, and use it to gauge where the bass should sit in the mix – louder, or softer; punchier, or mellower. I've had my Sony's for almost ten years now. You should also audition your rough mix on different playback systems, like your PC speakers, your car stereo, your bluetooth speaker and so on.
Additional challenges include width and depth, and here is where monitoring on standalone speakers (as opposed to monitoring on headphones) becomes essential. You want to hear how different instruments (and how you've processed those instruments) interact in space – in the air between the two speakers. So I did a thing. I created a rough mix of a tune I like to call "Bluebell", auditioned that mix on different speaker systems available to me, and when I was happy with it went in search of a mixing engineer. It's amazing the audio postproduction services you can contract on the internet. I took a leap of faith, and if you'd like to hear the end result, it's here:
I composed "Bluebell" in Ableton, without third party loops or samples. I couldn't pluck up the courage to lay down a guitar track, but maybe that's something for the future?
It would be great to continue the conversation, not only about your impressions (of Bluebell), but also about mixing and mastering as you experience it, as you've struggled with it, and so on.