The Web contains dozens of pages written for amateurs learning to mix. Some pages are simple collections of tips, while others are in-depth walkthroughs, containing advice of benefit to even seasoned engineers.
I collect the best pages here, updating as I find tutorials with something of value. If you’re new to the science (and art) of mixing, these links will serve as great background reading. But even if you’ve been at it for a while, you’ll probably discover a few gems among the tips and tricks in these pages.
Mixing 101 – A Mixing Primer – By Bruce Valeriani
Those new to mixing should start here. Bruce’s article is probably the definitive Internet text on the subject. He walks us through a high-level approach to panning, levels, EQ, and most importantly mental preparedness.
The plan here is to take out the stuff that�s not working together, and leave in the stuff that IS working…. there are a couple of ways to do this: 1) use EQ to tailor the portion of sonic spectrum a track will fit in, and 2) mute the track at the problem spots.
Mixing – from SAECollege.
While somewhat console-centric, the approach to mixing described here works just as well for folks mixing within a DAW.
The important thing about mixing is apparent loudness, or relative loudness. If I whisper into a mike and then I shout into a mike the shout will appear louder because I know that shouting is loud. It’s the same with mixing. You create an illusion of loudness, everything is relative.
Basic Mixing Method – from the Department of Music at Columbia University.
This page outlines a straightforward approach to mixing rock tracks: Start with the drums and bass as a foundation, and build on that.
Once the fundamental groove is established the vocals or lead instrument should be added. We work with these two elements first simply because these are the most important parts of the mix. The groove will get people listening and the vocal is what they�ll hum along to and remember later.
The simple steps outlined in the article provide a cookie-cutter approach to mixing a song, and while the approach isn’t appropriate for all styles and tastes, it’s a great way to get started if you’re a beginner. (The article also mentions one of my favorite mix-check techniques: “step back from the speakers and listen to the mix from the doorway.” Great advice.)
Mixing, from a producer’s perspective – On the Humbucker Music web site.
As the article states, many of the mixing tutorials on the web are engineer-centric, focused on tips an engineer can use to create the perfect mix. But more often than not, a great mix starts before the first track has been recorded.
If the producer knows how every step of the preparation and recording process is going to contribute to the final mix, then the mixing stage should be straightforward and successful. This means, among other things, getting the arrangement right and selecting the right sounds, making sure the musicians are playing in time and in tune, obtaining a good performance from the singer by whatever means necessary.
Practical Mixing – from sound On Sound magazine.
This article focuses on tracking and mixing via console (with an aside to address the importance of checking a reference CD while mixing.) But Sound On Sound caters to the masses, so the information in this article is broad and still generally useful.
It is important to keep checking the balance in mono as well as stereo (or surround) — particularly if your material may end up on the radio. Inevitably the mono mix will sound different to the stereo (and the stereo to the surround), so a degree of compromise will be required to achieve the most acceptable results in each format. Pay particular attention to reverbs, which have a habit of drying up when you listen in mono.
The Secrets of Mixing – from John Vestman.
Vestman’s “Secrets of Mixing” page is more a collection of tips than a mixing tutorial. He starts with advice to get yourself properly set up for mixing (like “organize your files,” “allow extra time,” and the ever-important check reference CDs while mixing), then moves onto compression and overall level:
Always record in the highest sampling rate possible in your DAW (allowing for realistic hard drive space – most projects don’t go over 96k). Be sure that your stereo mix does not ever go into clipping (digital overs) when it is set at Unity Gain -0- Once you know you’re not making any digital overs, remove your master fader – your mix will sound better!