Adding Energy to Your Mixes – With The Cast of the JOEY STURGIS FORUM PODCAST

Have you ever been working on a mix and thought it sounded really good?

Have you ever compared said mix to a pro mix and found yourself really bummed out and borderline suicidal?

We’ve all been there. And because it can be so crushing to the ego, many mixers choose to not reference their work to other mixes. That’s a huge mistake! If you can stomach the painful truth, referencing your mixes will reveal exactly where yours are deficient.

…and the culprit might be any number of things:

  • High end could be too harsh
  • Low end might need fattening
  • Balance and panning might be wrong
  • The song arrangement might be impairing the mix
  • Or, it could just need more energy…

I in no way shape or form feel that our video is a complete list, but that it merely highlights some of the biggest offenders:

EXPLOIT THE FOCUS – What I mean is that every piece of music has a foreground, middleground, and background. For example, foreground could be a lead vocal, middle ground could be the rhythm guitar, bass, and drums, and the background could be a synth element. Well what happens when the lead vocal stops and all that’s left are middle and background instruments? If you do nothing, the energy of the song will dip. But, if you automate the rhythm guitars up to compensate, the momentum and energy will be preserved. This idea isn’t limited to vocals, it’s meant for any section in a song where one musical element is the main focus. Always keep something in your mix aggressively demanding the listener’s attention.

MIX BUS AUTOMATION – Music is not a static thing. Music is fluid, constantly evolving, and requires tension and release in order to keep a listener involved. One of my favorite ways to incorporate those concepts is by automating the mix bus. Seems simple, and a little goes a long way, but this is one of the most surefire ways to guarantee that a transition will hit exactly the way you need it to. For instance, sometimes all a chorus needs in order to really POP is to be automated up a db on the master bus. However, be careful with how much you use because even .3 of a db will cause audible changes. And just like the previous paragraph, this technique isn’t just for choruses. You should be considering your automation options on every song transition. That’s not to say that you should just bump every single section of every song, but it is to say that if a transition seems lackluster, or needs an extra little spark, try some mix bus automation moves and reap the rewards. Oh, and try this on other mix elements as well. Sometimes raising the room mics and/or overheads up a little on a transition can add the energy it was missing.

BOOST THE LOW END OF THE KICK – Your kick drum is what I like to call the mix anchor. Even though you might EQ the bass guitar to be under the kick, the musical function the kick fulfils is that of an anchor. It tells you where the one is, provides your pulse, and gives the song drive. If you have a kick drum with an unfocused, anemic, or undefined low end your entire mix will suffer. Keep in mind that to get the low end of the kick in check, you need to balance it with the low end of the bass guitar. Sometimes this is a quick process, sometimes it will take forever. These elements do not always play nice together, and your job is to get them fitting like a glove. But before all that, it’s important to decide where you want the low end focus to be. Whether you decide on 60hz, or 80hz, a careful boost will help bring your mix to life.

For more info like this, as well as in depth recording, mixing, mastering, and music industry advice with myself, Joey Sturgis, Joel Wanasek and our amazing guests, be sure to subscribe to our podcast.

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Written by

Eyal Levi is a critically acclaimed guitarist, composer, producer, educator, and engineer.