5 Mix Engineering Techniques
This intends to be to-the-point and of interest to engineers and producers who may need an extra few ideas throughout their production. Here’s a list of mixing techniques commonly used by experienced, professional engineers…
1. Duplicate Tracks
Duplicating tracks to edit the duplicate is common practise. If you duplicate a vocal track, for example, you can emphasise a particular characteristic in the sound. If it’s lacking that high-end sparkle you hear on industry songs but EQ won’t do the trick, simply duplicate the vocal, excessively emphasise the high-end by any means (adding high-end harmonics with EQ’s or Exciters, etc.), bring the fader down and introduce the duplicate until you hear the result you're looking for. Try duplicating the snare and compress the duplicate with a heavy ratio that brings extra snap and aggression to the snare, for example.
2. Panning FX
Panning is an often underrated tool when it comes to separation. Pannings a good way of shifting clashing elements away from each other and likewise for widening elements. To help make room in the stereo field, pan your FX (your reverb or delay, etc.) away from the source it’s used on (panning a violin to the left with its reverb to the right, for example). This creates a bigger/wider sound and also helps with separation.
3. EQing FX
Don’t forget to EQ your AUX’s (reverbs, delays, etc.) - a low-cut to 100Hz-200Hz and a high cut down to 15kHz-10kHz (or lower) or however you see fit. This cleans and clears up and the FX and also helps with separation (utilising room for highs and lows). Also, EQ can be used on your FX for brightness and darkness - if you want your reverb, delay or anything for that matter to be noticeable and stick out in the mix, emphasise the high-mids/high-end and likewise with the low kid’s/low end to blend a sound into the mix.
4. Distortion & Automation
A method of using distortion to create depth is using multiple distortions of different textures and using automation to introduce them at different points in the song . Or automate a change in distortion on one sound when a chorus drops or verse starts, etc. Using automation to alter a sounds character or shift sounds around is effective for keeping the listeners interest and practise can introduce your own special touches, contributing to your signature sound - sounds that will improve the more you know and understand what you aim to achieve when using them.
Using saturation on the outputs of grouped tracks, for example, can act as a gel in blending grouped elements together. It can be used on individual elements in general - try putting Logics Overdrive on anything from an AUX effect to a snare, for instance, and hear the surrounding space become larger. The more you use the same saturation plugins (or the same plugins throughout your mix in general for that matter) for different sounds, the more they’ll share the same character and blend together. Saturation is commonly used to create bulk and an analogue feel where necessary and might be something you should consider throughout your production.
6. Ultra Depth (Bonus Tip)
This technique is actually extremely effective in creating an illusion of depth and size in the mix. It involves what you call psychoacoustic manipulation through the use of phase conversion. Create an AUX Bus — use Logic Pro’s Gain plugin to invert the phase (Phase Invert L or R) — enable ‘Swap L/R’ to swap both phases left and right — Logic’s Linear Phase EQ; low cut to 100-200Hz, high cut to 10kHz (emphasise/brighten the effect with upper mid boost or blend it with low mid boost for subtlety) —- a very short delay (stereo) to balance out phase issues (mild saturation as last in the chain can also enhance the result) — merge the AUX into the mix gently and use it subtly, overuse of this effect can sound undesirable and be damaging for the mix so treat it sensitively.
This technique, learned from David Eley’s ‘Pro Audio Mastering Made Easy’ (which you’re encouraged to read if you’d like to know how this technique works), is seemingly uncommon in that the experienced engineers at the Music University I’m in were unaware of it, which suggests to me it’s unique and with its efficiency in creating such depth and hypnotic space it’s well worth employing in your mixes.
Thanks for reading. Leave thoughts, feedback and ideas for further posts.