Remember, being a good designer isn’t about having the latest hardware or software: ideas and execution are far more important than shiny new equipment. But it’s worth investing in the best kit you can afford.
1. Crush It!
Your mix is going to go through multiple steps of dynamic range processing while you are working on it—and likely more steps still, once it leaves your hands.
Mastering, radio, and even some streaming services can and will compress and/or limit your mix before passing it on to the end consumer. If you aren’t careful, the balance and tone of your mix can be heavily altered; A frustrating experience for any artist or mixer.
Some mixers I know preemptively process their mix to remove most of the dynamic range to effectively minimize the damage that can be done later. To me, this is tantamount to burning down your house so you no longer have to worry about whether you left the stove on.
While I do use stereo bus compression, I feel it’s important to keep a useful dynamic range for the song. (How much is enough will depend heavily on genre.)
That being said, there is logic in the “just crush it!” technique that we cause to our advantage—even if we want to keep some life-giving dynamics going in our final mix.
When you get your mix to a place that feels and sounds good, you can apply some TEMPORARY limiting to hear how your mix holds up.
What we are looking for here is how the mix will react to future processing. Throw a limiter on your mix post all other processing and really start to crank it down. Make sure to attenuate your output level so that the new, limited version is the same apparent volume as when the limiter is bypassed. It will become immediately obvious what is overpowering the mix, because sounds that are too loud will distort or make the limiter pump and react like crazy.
A side benefit of this technique is that the results are mostly independent from your room acoustics, as the limiter is reacting to an imbalance that occurs before the listening environment.
Just remember that this processing should only be applied to your monitor path! If your DAW doesn’t have a separate way to process that, be sure to disengage this ruthless mix-crusher before printing your mix. Continue reading “How to Make Your Mix Better By Listening to Less of It”