Some Useful Tips When Learning to Mix Music


In this article I wanted to share a few things to keep in mind when it comes to getting a great mix. These techniques are not only for beginners but also for the seasoned pros as well. Any great engineer should have a few things in mind before they start their work. These tips will serve more as a foundation that can sustain your mixes for year to come.

I’m not going to explain what audio mixing is because there are other good sources like Wikipedia who do that well.  I’m just going to assume that you have a basic understand of what it is.  What I hope to do is give you some actionable steps to use in your mixing workflow.

Your Listening Levels

Even before you get your hands on anything in your DAW and begin mixing your music, you would be smart to set up your monitoring levels from the get go. It doesn’t matter if you are mixing on your headphones or speakers, you should set a proper and consistent level that will remain as your go to volume for the entire mix.

Even the tiniest amount of volume change during the mixing process can obscure how you hear your project. So try and find a spot that you are comfortable with and then stick to that. And how do we find that spot you ask? The best way to judge the level is if you can have a conversation with someone with out having to raise your voice, than you are definitely in a sweet spot.

There’s many reasons why you want to mix your music at lower volumes but here are a couple: better frequency response, less room noise, and your ears will thank you later.

Proper Gain Staging

Now that you have your monitoring levels all ready to go you are going to need to do a little more house cleaning before you start mixing. This is where gain staging comes in. Your tracks are either too hot or too low and you need to set them in an optimal range.

What we are trying to achieve is a level that makes sense but also gives us enough headroom. Because if your master track is dangerously close to clipping then you will have problems. Digital clipping is the worst thing you can do to your tracks. The best way to do this is to add some type of gain plugin which will turn down the input of the track.

If you play back the song now, and you have about 25% of headroom on the master fader, then you are most likely in a sweet spot and you can continue on your music mixing journey.

The Volume of Your Tracks

The last point I want to drive home is probably the most important of them all. Now we want to try and establish the best possible fader position for each track in our mix. You may have done some of this stuff already but this is where you want to finish it off.

Every track in your mix is going to have a sweet spot at where the fader should reside and it’s your job to try and find out where that is. Your going to take a lot of listening to the tracks over and over. It’s your job to find the spot for each track where it delivers it’s optimal impact on the record. Of course, it’s not going to be perfect but it should make your mix sound more musical.   At this point you are 90% of the way to mixing your song, congratulations!

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Use References For Mixing Clues

Here’s a cool mixing exercise for you: Go and put on your favorite song and really listen to it. But don’t just listen to it and enjoy it, listen to it with reason. So in this article, I’m going to give you a few things to focus on when you turn up those tunes. You need to investigate these music recordings like you were Sherlock Holmes. So once you feel like you have the problems solved, you can include them into your own recordings.

Where Are They Placing Things Between The Speakers?

An important thing you can do is to try and determine what type of panning verdicts were made in the song you are listening to. You can do this while you are listening on headphones, then just jot down what you are hearing. Where are the vocals? The Delays? The Drums? How close and far away are things from you?

By going back to songs that I have loved for a long time, I am often surprised that the panning decisions are not what I thought they were. A perfect example is the RHCP album Californication. That album was done really well and is both fun and energetic but to my surprise, almost all the tracks were panned to the centre. Yep most of the sounds were in mono most of the time.

How Wet or How Dry is It?

Just like fashion, musical trends will come and go and as an engineer, it’s important to try and take note of the amount of reverb and delay is being used. During the 80’s, it was quite common for things to be very wet and sometimes artificially so. But in the decade before, things tended to be more on the dry side. All of that is cool but what’s more important is to find out the styles and trends that you yourself enjoy.

You should try and focus on two things, if you can help it – the vocal and the snare drum. Try to listen to how wet they are. Does the vocal sound like it’s in a small space? Maybe a large hall? Is there any delay on it at all? This is pretty important because they can sound extremely different. Investigate the reverb in a mix and then try to take note of it for your own use. This should help you make better decisions when you use reverb in your mix.


Without a doubt this is the most helpful thing that you can learn from a professional song. You need to really focus on what instruments they used throughout the song to make it pop. Can you notice any pianos, guitars, tambourines, strings?

As you investigate further, you might be surprised to hear certain rock songs that use heavily distorted guitars, actually also have acoustic guitars. You also might shocked to hear a hip hop song with a piano or pluck on the outro. There’s a lot to be learned from the professional recordings to see how they make songs interesting from beginning to end. These should all help in your future recordings.

Get Investigating!

So I’ve done my part, the rest is up to you. Slap on some headphones and listen to your favorite songs. Grab a pen and pad and jot down all the cool and interesting things you hear. Take notes on what you are hearing and then copy it and use it on your own projects, you will see some noticeable improvements.

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Creative Ways For Mixing Hip Hop & Trap Style Music

mixing trap and hiphop

One of the first things to take into consideration is the fact that mixing Trap Music is vastly different to mixing other types of Rap Music. For example, coordinating low end is a common aspect of mixing. This is when you try to get the bass and the kick to complement each other perfectly. With Trap Music however, the bass is typically also the kick.

Setting up ambiance is another example. When you’re working with your reverbs and delays in a regular type of mix, you need to choose settings and styles that are relevant to the tempo of the song you are working with. Trap Music on the other hand has a negotiable tempo! Additionally, when you mix you usually try to achieve a balance in the arrangement of instruments, but with trap music the arrangement of instruments can change from one second to the next, making it almost impossible to keep a static mix.

Getting a Killer Low End

Generally speaking, you need a massive “low end” in order to get a good trap mix. Volume also tends to become quite a challenge. You need a kick which is loud, but obviously there is a point where the volume of your kick will simply mask everything else.

Once you have determined the right level, your next challenge is to find ways to make the kick seem louder than it actually is. To be honest, there are many ways you can go about achieving this, but subtlety and taste are incredibly important because can very easily result in the kick appearing smaller or even bigger than it really is.

You Need Movement

The best way to deal with rhythm is to break your rhythm down into sub-rhythm, and then you address each of these individually. Long reverbs and delays should be put on slower elements, while short reverbs and delays should be put on faster elements. Once this has been achieved, you can begin blending the reverbs, but you always need to ensure that the resulting sound is cohesive. In short, you want a unified reverb that doesn’t encroach on any of the elements.

As a general rule, the faster elements should essentially be in attack mode, but you will need to increase the “sustain” of slower elements, including synths and snares. Fortunately, you will almost always find that the kick already has a hefty built-in sustain.

Keep the faster elements more attack driven – like hi-hats – but play up the “sustain” of the slower elements – like synths and snares. Usually the kick already has a huge built in sustain.


If the instrument arrangement changes, it is the mixer’s responsibility to make the necessary mixing adjustments, so as to compensate for the changes. Forget what you might have read about “Set and Forget” – When you are working with Trap Music, the Set & Forget approach simply won’t work. Fortunately, you can overcome most of these hurdles with nothing other than careful level adjustments. Nonetheless, some elements might call for EQ or compression adjustments to be done in certain segments. Lastly, don’t be afraid to experiment, and remember, you can copy an instrument onto a completely new track, and you can then treat that instrument differently in different segments of your track. This is one of the beauties of mixing Trap Music, you can be creative.

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