Mixing & Mastering

Take your own and your client’s songs to the next level. The tips and tricks provided here can provide crystal clear clarity to your recordings that can make the difference between a dud and a worldwide hit. Don’t miss the info in our other columns as well. Take advantage and dominate your sector.

De-esser: The Guide for Sibilant-Free Vocal Recordings

Updated: Mixing & Mastering
what is a deesser

The de-esser isn't a modern tool at all. Even before it existed in its current form they were being created by using several other signal processing units in combination. They exist for a single purpose, though their use has been expanded a bit over time. When humans speak or sing, we have a tendency to create harsh bursts of high frequency sounds when pronouncing certain […]

What is a Limiter & How Do I Use Them for Audio & Music?

Updated: Mixing & Mastering
audio limiter

The most basic explanation of a limiter would be that it's a device that stops all audio (whether digital or an electrical signal) from exceeding a certain volume. Though it can operate at any volume level, it's mainly used at the maximum allowed amplitude to avoid the phenomenon of peaking. Before we dive in much further, let me lay out the game plan here. We're […]

Gated Reverb - How to Get the Big Drums of 80's Pop Music

Updated: Mixing & Mastering
gated reverb drums

Gated reverb is the sound of the 1980's. One might argue, "No, it's MIDI production or it's the synthesizer." Say what you will about the blatant and overt sounds of that time, but the trained ear hears something completely different. It's all in the drums, especially the gated snare drum. They're powerful. They punch through the mix. And they don't sound like anything ever heard […]

Reverse Reverb - How to Create This Backwards Echo Effect

Updated: Mixing & Mastering
backwards reverb

People call it different things: reverse echo, backwards reverb, reverse regeneration... but in the professional sector of the music industry we plainly call it the reverse reverb effect. And thanks to computers and lookahead algorithms it's easier than ever to create. Let's quickly define what it is for the newcomers, give a few examples of how it sounds, talk about how it was originally invented […]

Haas Effect: Gain Depth & Width With a Slight Delay

Updated: Mixing & Mastering
haas delay

Way back in 1949, a gentleman by the name of Dr. Helmut Haas is given credit for discovering a psychoacoustic phenomenon which was subsequently named the Haas Effect after his namesake, but is also called the Precedence Effect. Psychoacoustics relate to how our minds perceive the audio our ears sense out in the world. There are a handful of these interesting cases that we've covered […]

How to Use Reference Tracks to Emulate Top-Tier Mixes

Updated: Mixing & Mastering
what is a reference track

We all have a list of favorite albums and songs that we think sound amazing. We always imagine that that's how we'd like our own music to sound, and a lot of times even think "How the heck did they do that?" Don't dream about it anymore. You can get your songs to sound that good by using those exact songs as reference tracks for […]

What is Phase Cancellation? Understand & Eliminate It In Your Audio

Updated: Mixing & Mastering
what is phase cancellation

Phase cancellation is almost a mystical matter in studio engineering and recording. Many choose to flat out ignore it just to avoid learning what it is, why it occurs, and how to fix it. Don't be one of these people. I'm going to break it down in simple language and show you exactly how to hear it, how to spot it with plugins if you […]

Bass Compression: Getting Energy & Groove Into Your Mix

Updated: Mixing & Mastering
compressing bass

Compressing bass is a fundamental part of any mix, and getting it right means having a great foundation to a song with well-balanced energy and an intelligible groove. Getting it wrong is a disaster. Great bass compression settings, along with other considerations we'll mention, are the difference between a solid, full, and thick bass with great harmonics and attack, versus one that's either weak and […]

Acoustic Guitar EQ: Studio-Quality Tone With Minimal Effort

Updated: Mixing & Mastering
acoustic guitar equalization

Forget your preconceived notions. Acoustic guitar equalization is a piece of cake once you understand what to listen for (and how to listen for it). The principals below work for mixing in the studio and for live performances on stage. There's two aspects to mixing any instrument, and that's getting it to sound amazing by itself while also allocating a dominant frequency range so it […]

Mixing in Mono: Produce Better Music With This Pro Method

Updated: Mixing & Mastering
mono mix

You might be thinking "mixing in mono? I thought the 1950's came and went?" I'm not telling you that your final result will be completely centered between the speakers, just that you'll work that way for at least half of your mix. Why does pretty much every professional do this, and if not at least spends 10% of their time not working in stereo? Because […]

Pink Noise Mixing: The Trick to Fast & Accurate Volume References

Updated: Mixing & Mastering
mixing with pink noise

When you receive a raw DAW project file with a song ready to be mixed, the first thing a mixing engineer will typically do is balance the levels across all of the tracks in relation to one another and pan them around. You may not realize this as an organized person, but more people than not send in the most absurd projects with 50+ tracks, […]

How to EQ Bass Guitar for Energy, Punch, & Clarity

Updated: Mixing & Mastering
bass guitar eq

The sub-bass and bass frequencies of a song are everything. Get it right and you'll hear endless praise. Mess it up and your entire mix will suffer. The bottom is the foundation and has to be solid. There's endless discussion about various attempts to provide a rock solid groove that drives a song to the top of the charts. From equipment and playing technique to […]

How to Use Autotune for Natural or Extreme Vocal Tuning

Updated: Mixing & Mastering
autotune pitch correction

Autotune is the perfect example of a signal processing method that can be used in overdrive as an effect or used properly in a transparent way to improve a performance. More artists than you'd realize use this tool undetectably, while others make it very obvious. Take artists like Cher or T-Pain, or even Lil Wayne when rapping, who nearly sound like robots during their songs. […]

Multiband Compression: The Tool of the Top Mix Engineers

Updated: Mixing & Mastering
multiband compressor

If you're reading this, then the assumption is you understand how a typical audio compressor works (I'll summarize it below anyways). That full-band gain reduction tool is crucial to all mixing engineers. So then what is this mysterious multiband compressor and why does it deserve its own separate name and category of existence? It's still just a regular compressor, the kind you're used to dealing […]

RIAA Curve: The 1954 Turntable Equalization Standard That Still Matters

Updated: Mixing & Mastering
riaa equalization

Today we're going back, way back, all the way to 1954. While the exact year is fuzzy, we accept that as the year that the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) established the RIAA curve standardization for records and record players. This article starts as a history lesson that merges into an explanation of why this RIAA equalization still matters today. It's interesting to think […]

Parallel Compression: Get Better Mix Clarity & Dynamics

Updated: Mixing & Mastering
new york compression

As far as we know, this method of compression was invented (or discovered) by Dolby Laboratories in 1965 and used in their Dolby A noise reduction circuitry. Eventually in 1977, Mike Beville casually described its use in Studio Sound magazine. The Beville article, called Compressors and Limiters was reprinted in 1988 and that blew the lid off of a masterful technique hidden right out in […]

How to Compress Vocals in 7 Easy Steps for Pro Results

Updated: Mixing & Mastering
vocal compression

In addition, I'm going to provide you with some professional tricks of the mixing trade that you can explore once you understand the lay of the land and feel comfortable with your results. These tricks aren't a must but can take your mixing to the next level in terms of clarity, intelligibility, and presence in your vocal recordings. And that's the goal of compressing vocals […]

How to EQ Vocals Professionally: The Easy 6 Step Method

Updated: Mixing & Mastering
how to eq vocals professionally

Even if you're familiar with recording and using DAW software, stepping into mixing can be daunting if not downright confusing. There's a lot to take in. It's honestly easiest to start with EQing vocals because it's easiest to hear and understand the changes being made. There's a learning curve with each plugin, and that's not even talking about how they affect each other and beginning […]

How to Master a Song: The Methods to Mastering Your Own Music

Updated: Mixing & Mastering
mastering

Mastering a track is the very last step to polishing a song before you release it to the public. But despite the misconceptions, you don't just master a single track. You polish off the entire album in the context of itself as a whole. Yes, you want each individual song to sound great alone, which is the main task involved in mastering, but it also […]

How to Mix Vocals: Tips & Techniques for Perfect Quality Tracks

Updated: Mixing & Mastering
vocal mixing

Nothing matters more than vocals. It doesn't matter if you're talking about music, podcasting, voice acting, podcasting, television and movies... What everyone focuses on is the human voice. Of course, you know that. The question is how to mix vocals to the point that they compete with the quality of professional releases and productions. It's not hard once you understand the order of operations. People […]