Make Your Mix Stick In Your Listener’s Ears

You could write the catchiest song that’s ever existed, but without a solid mix to back it up, you’re not going to get it out to the masses. Why?

It’s a plethora of problems.

Labels are able to be picky – the music market is oversaturated with every genre imaginable and they’re looking for artists with the whole package, ready-to-ship. That means a band with a plan, a dedicated audience, good songs, and mixes ready to blow the A&R guy out of his chair.

On top of that, you’ve got an audience with a shorter attention span than ever. If something doesn’t sound right, your listener might not stick around for the chorus. Have you ever listened to something absolutely terrible and hit the skip button? Do you remember what it was? Probably not, because you gave up on it before you got far enough into it for the song to make a lasting impression.

Your Options 

As an artist, you’ve got two options when it comes to fixing your weak mixes:

· Hire A Pro
· Learn To Mix Like A Pro

Chances are if you’re reading this, you’ve already made the conscious decision to take the second path. Mixing music that sounds professional doesn’t have to take years of studying to achieve. For a lot of engineers, getting started is easy, but it’s a lifetime of learning new techniques and collaboration.

Will your first mixes be on par with what you hear on the radio? Probably not, but with the advantages of digital recording, that might not matter. Digital audio workstations give engineers the chance to go back, mix and remix until they’ve got something they can be proud of.

Here are some of the fastest ways to make a cohesive mix for your listeners:

Start With Levels & Balance

The biggest part of any mix is finding space for everything. If you start working on balancing your mix elements across the full width of your speakers, every mix decision you make after that should be in pursuit of further clarity and impact in your mix.

That’s what most dynamic processors do – change your sound in a way that should reinforce your overall sound.

As you get further into the mix, you’ll start adding time-based effects to fill out the gaps, add automation to keep the mix interesting, and start grouping things together for easier processing across multiple tracks.

Compression = Glue

If you’re getting a good mix, but you’re still missing the “magic” to pull it all together, there’s a good chance you’re not adequately utilizing bus compression. Ever since the days of analog, bus compression has added the glue to professional mixes. It’s given that “professional shine” to countless albums.

What can you put bus compression on? Whatever you want.

Each compressor will react differently depending on your settings and the source audio you’re feeding into it. Vocals come with their own intricacies that call for specific treatment. Guitars can be configured into a bulldozing wall of sound when compressed correctly.

The real glue comes through on your main mix bus though. Check out Fluff’s use of BG-Mix on In The Studio With JST:

How Are You Using Bus Compression?

If you’re already using compression to glue parts of your mix together, where are you putting them in your chain? Do you have different compressors for different elements (the whole concept behind the Bus Glue series)?

Let us know over in the Joey Sturgis Tones Forum on Facebook. If you’re new to mixing, it’s a great place to learn new ideas and approaches to mixing. Come join the discussion!