It is critical to know that mixing really starts at the tracking stage (an audio term meaning the actual recording of sound being processed and stored within your DAW). If the tracking engineer did not do a good job, then as a mixing engineer your job just became a bit more complicated. For example, if you were sent a studio session to mix but the vocals keep clipping/ distorting adding a compressor won’t necessarily solve your issue. It might actually make it worse because now you have a weak clipping lead vocal and you never want your lead to be weak (unless its artistic).
Always check the recorded files for clipping/distortion or any other issues!
2. Relativity not loudness
One thing that I see novice engineers doing is mixing with everything loud; that’s just not how you mix. When you have a conversation with friends does everyone talk at the same time? NO! Of course not, and if they do, no one is comprehending the information being spoken. The same applies to mix you have to give a chance for every section( bass, treble, and high) to the song to shine and support the other sections. If the bass is too loud your going to cover the kids and the highs. If treble and highs are too loud the listener might not even notice the bass.
It’s about levels in relativity, not loudness. Remember that.
One of the easiest ways to better your mix is panning. Panning gives the listener the impression that sound is coming from different directions of space. Meaning I can pan the guitar hard left and the sound will sound like it is coming from behind you. Panning is a great way to widen and expand your mix so that the frequencies do not fight over the same space.
Experiment with panning so that your mix has more depth to it.
4. Side-chain compression
Side-chain compression (SCC) is one of the tools that professionals use to help layer and arrange the mix. SCC is when compression is triggered by an outside source. For example, let’s say the piano is too loud during the verse not allowing the voice to shine you can SCC the piano so when the vocal is playing the piano gets compressed; when the vocal stops singing it goes back to normal.
SCC a great tool to help with levels and arranging.
5. The feeling, not the attempt
Remember that music is an art and an expression so remind yourself that it is your job as the engineer is to capture the moment and make it grand. You never want to destroy the mix because your doing to much. Don’t focus on the theory as much but the feeling that the music is provoking and help that shine more.
Music is emotional so focus on that! Ask yourself –is this what I’m trying to make the listeners feel?