A 30 Minute Miracle Cure For Your Mixes

Posted by Aaron Davison on Thursday, November 8, 2012 Under: November 2012
Today's post is a guest post by How To License Your Music.com's resident
music production expert, Gary Gray.  

Gary and I recently created a course devoted to how to produce music that will meet the industry standards for getting your music licensed in tv and films. You can learn more about our course here.

Over to you Gary...
"There are times when I have extremely demanding deadlines and have to get music mixed and mastered for licensing right now right now. In these cases, I have found 3 fast steps to mixing that have given me a 99% success rate in getting tracks accepted. 

1. High Pass Filter 

Every mix has an “invisible” accumulation of low end frequencies that cause the final mix and master to sound “muddy” EVEN ON HIGH FREQUENCY INSTRUMENT TRACKS. In other words, let’s say you have a hi-hat track 
(whether played by a live drummer or with a synth or virtual instrument). Most producers like to mix their hi-hat tracks with a nice strong crispy high end up around 5kHz to 8kHz or even higher depending on preference. 

You wouldn’t think that you would need to CUT the low end of that track in order to increase the quality of your overall mix. In fact, even when you DO cut the lower frequencies (let’s say from 100Hz down to 20Hz) it’s hard to 
hear any big difference on that hi-hat track. Cutting those low frequencies is what a “High Pass Filter” does – it allows the High Frequencies to Pass and Cuts the Low Frequencies; thus the name High Pass Filter. 

However – and here is one key secret to great mixing – if you DON’T take all (or most) of your tracks in your mix and cut those low frequencies, a muddy sort of amateurish dull sounding mix results. Cut those low frequencies across the boards, and listen to the punch and the brilliance and clarity of your mix. It’s pretty amazing. And this is something you can do to your mixes IMMEDIATELY! 

For details on how to mix the Bass and Kick track, refer to “How To Produce Music That Will Get Licensed And Make You Money.” 

2. The Monster At 200Hz 

The next thing I do if I’m under a stressful time crunch deadline is I listen to my mix as a whole, and while doing so, I go through key instrumental and vocal tracks and, one at a time, (again, while listening to the ENTIRE mix), I 
adjust the EQ at around 200Hz – and usually end up cutting that frequency a bit (or more) on some of the key tracks on that song. 200Hz is another culprit that can cause a muddy amateurish sounding mix when it is too prevalent in a 
mix. Adjust your EQ so that the width of the EQ band is somewhat narrow – not too wide – and adjust away. One secret here is that once you’ve got your mouse on the EQ adjustment, close your eyes and LISTEN (Don’t watch your screen – your eyes can fool your ears) and start adjusting (I start lowering first) that 200Hz frequency band until the track sounds more Pro and less muddy. 

3. Quality Is Great When You Duplicate 

Once I’ve done the above two steps I will immediately go to the Vocal track, the Bass Track, The Kick Track, The Snare Track and The Hi-Hat Track and I will duplicate each one. You may have to lower the Master Fader a bit (see 
my blog series for details on the Master Fader Volume Adjustment myth) in order to allow headroom for your mix when you duplicate these tracks. You may also have to lower the volume on each track that you are duplicating 
(both the original track and the duplicated track) in order to create enough headroom without distortion. 

4. Excellent Vocal Tracks 

If I have extra time, I will route both of the vocal tracks (original and duplicate) to a group or aux track and set up a compressor, reverb and delay. If I have even more time I will do this: 

a) Take the two vocal tracks (original and duplicated track) and duplicate them again so I now have four vocal tracks. I will keep tracks 1 and 2 of the vocals as they are. I will then take the newly duplicated tracks 3 and 4 and send 
them to a SEPARATE group or aux track and on that track I will place an Auto-Tune Plug-In. I will take that 3 and 4 Vocal Track group or aux track and route it to the group or aux track of Vocal Tracks 1 and 2. THEN the secret: I 
will listen to each phrase of the vocals – starting with the opening phrase of the melody – I will listen to the 1 and 2 Vocal group or aux track and then compare it with the 3 and 4 Vocal group or aux track (the track with Auto-
Tune) and see which sounds better. I will then cut all four tracks with a scissors tool just before and after that phrase and MUTE THE TRACKS (either 1 and 2 together or 3 and 4 together) that I don’t want and allow the 
other group or aux track to play. If you go through an entire song like this, phrase by phrase, what you end up with is certain phrases of the vocal arrangement being used that have no Auto-Tune on them, and certain phrases being used that DO have Auto-Tune on them. That way, you get the best of both worlds – you get vocals that are in tune, but if the Auto-Tune creates unwanted effects, you can go with the natural sounding take. If neither sound good, then (if possible) have those phrases re-recorded – or if you’re advanced enough – you can go in with certain plug-ins and manually fix the tuning on those certain notes. 

For more detailed information regarding the above as well as an in depth education on how to produce tracks that are up to industry standards for licensing – check out “How To Produce  Music That Will Get Licensed And Make You Money.”

In : November 2012 

Tags: music production  music licensing 
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