10 most important tips when recording and mixing your music
There are so many things that need to be taken into account when recording your music, we've summarized what we believe are the 10 most important tips for you to consider, so you can deliver the best result possible for your music. Your songs deserve it! and it doesn't mean you need to spend a lot of money to get the great sound you were looking for.
NUMBER 1 - Basic recording equipment
You don't need to invest too much, but you should invest some money to get good basic equipment that you can rely on. There's nothing more important than getting quality audio source for your mix. That can be achieved by having: 1) A good sound card for your computer, 2) Proper quality microphones, specifically important to get a good condenser mic when recording vocals or acoustic instruments, and some basic dynamic mics for recording from guitar amps, 3) A good quality DAW (Digital Audio Workstation), meaning... recording software. We believe ProTools, Cubase and Logic Pro X have the best and most comfortable offering in the market to date, but there are other alternatives out there as well.
NUMBER 2 - The importance of properly recorded tracks
An important rule to remember, if it doesn't sound good when you record it, it will not sound good when you get to the mixing stage. Don't rely on fixing the quality of the sound at a later stage, this is not what mixing it about. Invest the time at the recording phase so the 'audio sources' are at best quality.
NUMBER 3 - Always use a reference song
One of the most important things to remember is that your ear is sensitive and over time becomes fatigue. When working on a mix for a long period of time, at a certain point in time, things will sound somewhat different to you and this may result in 'over engineering' certain channels in your mix. This happens to many sound technicians, even professional ones. The best way to address this is by having a reference song available as separate channels so you can always compare the sound you've got to so far, to the target sound you want to achieve in your reference song. You should keep on comparing your mix every step of the way, both when working on the sound of a specific instrument, when creating the balance between instruments, and when working on the mastering of the entire song altogether. You can have more than one reference song to a specific project.
NUMBER 4 - Compressors, compressors, compressors
Compressors are key to audio engineering! these are used in pretty much all audio channels recorded, whether its drums, vocals, guitars, acoustics, bass, and the list goes on. You need to familiarize yourself with how to work with compressors, it's not brain surgery, but it does come with a learning curve. Different compressors will respond very differently to your recorded tracks, they vary from basic ones to top of the line brands. Don't be afraid to try different plugins, from different providers before you chose your preference, and soon you will find yourself identifying the compressor of your liking for each track recorded. Compressors are highly important specifically when mixing drums, to give that punchy sound, worth while to invest time on that!
NUMBER 5 - If it isn't broken, don't fix it
Assuming your tracks have been recorded properly (see item 2 above), don't automatically adjust the channel parameters unless absolutely required. Sometimes it's only a matter of light compression and EQ and you're there. Don't overthink it and over-engineer. Sometimes great sound is simply the natural recorded sound.
NUMBER 6 - keep an eye on the input levels of each recorded channel
You should always make sure you have a proper wave size for each recorded channel. You do not want your channel wave size to be too low, it may not have enough sensitivity when certain plugins are applied, such as the gate, compressor or other dynamic inserts. On the other hand, you don't want to have your input volumes too high as you may find the mixed project 'exploding' with some distorted sound levels.
It is ok for Base drums and snare drums to sometimes lightly clip over the 0db level (after being added with all inserts, compressors, etc.), this may give some nice punchy color to the drum track, but make sure this is not a constant situation as this may overload your mix.
NUMBER 7 - Beware from overloading
Even when properly handling each channel, beware from overloading too many instruments and channels all at once. You may find the end result sounding very 'condensed' and with no space and room to enjoy specific instruments. Sometimes less is more.
NUMBER 8 - The importance of panning
Don't automatically pan everything to the center. While some channels by definition need to be in the center (such as the base drum, the snare drum, bass guitar, etc.), other channels need to be panned in order to give the '3rd dimension illusion' to your mix. Certain channels by definition need to be panned to one side or the other (HighHat, ride, etc.), but you may also want to use panning on specific melodic channels which assist the mix in adding more space between the instruments. In some cases adding a harmonic clean guitar panned to one side (doesn't have to be panned all the way) can give more emphasis to the part compared to 'fighting for attention' when panned in the middle.
NUMBER 9 - recording twice certain channels
If you want to get that super stereo sound to some of the instruments, one of the most usable ways to do that is by recording them twice, simply playing twice the same part, and panning each recorded part to a different side. This will give you that stereo effect to the recorded part. This is usually done when recording rhythm guitars, to create that 'wall of guitars' effect, but also when recording strumming acoustic guitars, to create a more heavenly stereo effect and a more harmonic background.
NUMBER 10 - Don't compromise!
Finally, when mixing your song, don't compromise on what you're aiming to achieve, you want to get that magic touch to your mix, if you're not yet there, continue exploring until you feel your song gets the sound it deserves. adjust EQ's, change EFXs, play with the compressors, you will GET THERE! and you will get to the point that you have the experience and knowledge of what works better for you and for your music.