Mixing your beats can be a difficult process, but it is necessary in order to make them sound professional and give them a chance at major placements. However, you may not need to devote hours to it. It could take up to 5 minutes.
In this tutorial, I’ll walk you through each step of the process of mixing your beats to make them sound professional and get you major placements and sales.
Step 1: Gain Stage Everything To Be -12dB
Gain-staging your mix correctly is the most important step in mixing your beats because it ensures that your beats will not clip and become ruined.
-What Exactly Is Clipping?
Clipping occurs when a track exceeds 0dB in volume. When this happens, the daw and audio interface can’t handle it and cut everything above 0dB, resulting in strange distortion and artifacts.
Clipping will also ruin your master because you won’t be able to properly use a limiter.
The job of the limiter is to keep everything below a certain level. If a track exceeds 0dB by 5dB, for example, it will reduce everything by 5dB.
The issue arises when your kick/808s strike.
When the kick/808s strike, they raise the master gain, causing the limiter to turn everything down for a few milliseconds before returning to normal, rendering your beat anything but professional and balanced.
-How Can You Avoid Clipping?
It is actually quite simple to avoid clipping. To keep your beats from clipping, make sure that the peaks on each of your channels are less than -12dB.
By ensuring that all of your channels peak at or below -12dB, you ensure that you’ll have enough freedom to level your channels however you want without ever crossing the 0dB threshold.
However, it is important to note that the channel rack volume should be used rather than the mixer. This allows you to start over with balanced mixer channels.
Step 2: Assign Everything To A Mixer Channel
To apply effects such as EQ, reverb, compression, and so on, you must assign the channel to a mixer channel.
This way, you’ll be able to easily level everything and have complete control over each channel.
In FL Studio, click a mixer channel in the channel rack, then click the little arrow in the top left corner, and then click “assign free mixer track.”
Step 3: Level Everything In The Mixer According To The Kick
After you’ve connected each track to the mixer, you can begin leveling each of the mixer channels so that everything sounds balanced and each channel has its own place.
My preferred method of leveling
While there are many ways to level a mix, and there is no right or wrong way as long as there is no unwanted clipping, this method is the best for avoiding clipping and achieving a well-balanced mix.
Step 1: Set the kick’s peak level to -12dB.
No matter what, keep the kick’s peak at -12dB. Even if you use effects, make sure to keep the output volume knob of the effects at -12dB.
This will provide you with a solid starting point for leveling.
This will ensure that your mix never clips and that you have enough headroom for mastering at the end.
Step 2: Increase the volume of the master channel in the mixer to its maximum setting.
Increasing the master’s bus channel volume by the mixer’s maximum volume (5.6 dB) for the leveling process ensures that your mix will never clip and that you will have enough headroom for mastering in the end.
Instead of ensuring that your mix peaks at -6dB, you can simply ensure that it does not clip, and you’re good to go.
Step 3: Level the remaining channels (starting from the 808)
Because the hardest and most important part of mixing is usually getting the kick and 808 hit just right, it’s best to start there. If you get them balanced correctly, you’ll have a much clearer picture of the mix and be able to prepare its base parts.
I usually level with a bottom-to-top method. That is, I start with the bottom parts (kick, 808, drums, etc.), then move on to the middle parts (chords, pads, etc.), and finally level the top elements (vocals, leads, etc..).
Anyway, you should level your tracks however you see fit. It’s OK as long as you don’t modify the loudness of the kick.
Step 4: Once you’ve finished leveling, set the master track’s volume to 0dB.
When you’re through leveling everything, you may return the master’s bus channel volume to its default (0dB).
Step 4: EQ Each Of The Channels (Where Necessary)
It’s now time to EQ each channel in your mix. For those who don’t know, EQing is the process of enhancing and lowering specific frequencies. You may, for example, increase the bass, decrease the mid-range, and decrease the high-end.
To begin EQing, we must first understand what is known as the “human frequency spectrum.”
The human frequency spectrum describes the frequency range that people can hear. It ranges from 0Hz to 20,000Hz, which is commonly abbreviated as 20kHz (k = 1000).
The goal of EQing is to ensure that all elements in your mix are evenly distributed within this range. Consider your mix to be three boxes (low-end, mid-range, and high-end) inside one giant box.
And, in order to fit all of your elements in neatly, you must leave adequate room in both individual boxes and the overall box.
When I want to include an 808 in the mix, for example, I make sure that none of the parts that aren’t meant to be in the low-end have low-end frequencies. This gives the 808 ample room to fit in without generating muddiness or clipping.
If I want to fit in an acoustic guitar with a very obvious mid-range, I make sure that none of the other parts have a very noticeable mid-range by decreasing the mid-range of the other elements.
Step 5: Pan The Drums Correctly
Panning your drums and manipulating the stereo field correctly may transform your beat from decent to professional and brilliantly mixed.
So, let’s take a look at each drum and see how they should be panned.
Mono, Kick & 808
Have you ever listened to a song where the bass sounds fantastic on headphones but odd and muddled on real speakers and downright awful in cars?
If so, it was because the kick/808 was not tuned to mono, which rendered the music incompatible with mono listening.
Since the kick and 808 include mostly low frequencies, they shouldn’t typically be panned or given much breadth.
Since low frequencies lack directionality, it is difficult to determine where they are coming from. So there is no reason to pan them or make them stereo.
Additionally, expanding something moves it more toward the back of the mix as opposed to the front.
And usually, you want the kick & 808 to be centered and upfront.
Stereo/Panned/Mono Snares & Claps
One component that is entirely up to you and your song is the snare.
Snares typically have a stereo sound, however there are a few situations where you might want to consider making them mono.
You might want to set it to mono if you want to concentrate on your snare and make it more effective and centered. The same logic applies to the kick for that reason: By making something wider, you also push it back into the mix.
Stereo, however, mimics the sound of space. Snares do sound better in stereo, therefore.
It’s crucial to A/B test this on each mix you create and make the appropriate determination as a result.
My advice is to widen the snare’s top frequencies while keeping its low-end frequencies mono.
By doing so, you may maintain the snare’s force and preserve the sound of the actual place.
With a multiband stereo imager, you can accomplish that.
Toms/Percussion – Panning/Mono
Toms should often be placed somewhere in the middle of the mix.
They shouldn’t stand out too much, but they also shouldn’t be hidden too far in the background.
How can I achieve this equilibrium, you may now be asking.
There are three basic strategies you might employ to do that:
This is how I like to include the toms into the mix.
The toms are easy to include into the sides of the mix because, in contrast to other panned drums, they are focused on the low-end and mid-range rather than the high-end.
Why not? It also increases the track’s breadth.
Sometimes it just makes more sense to make your toms mono if you truly want them to be front and center.
The kick and the 808 clash when toms are set to mono, which is a serious issue.
Therefore, you would need to highpass their low end and make sure they don’t hit simultaneously with the kick if you wanted to set your toms to mono.
Step #6: Add Special FX (Reverb, Saturation, etc..)
It’s crucial to include special effects to your songs because they can quickly remedy serious issues or give your beats a unique touch.
Let’s examine the applications for each special effect.
It appears that you don’t use reverb as effectively as you could if your rhythms frequently sound too dry.
Reverb simulates space, making your mix sound as though it were played in a real location, which is great as long as you don’t use it excessively.
Additionally, it can be of great assistance to a muddy mix, a narrow mix, and a too-dry mix.
Reverb is also very helpful in creating seamless transitions and filling empty space.
Drums and vocals typically get a little bit of reverb, and if the loop I’m using didn’t come in with any, I add reverb to that as well.
You should usually just apply saturation if something sounds flat or empty and you want to make it feel warmer and more vibrant.
Harmonic frequencies are added as the major result of saturation over the sound.
Any time you wish to introduce new frequencies to a sound, saturation can be helpful. (As opposed to an equalizer, which simply boosts or rolls off already-present frequencies.)
It’s critical to understand how to use audio compression because it has the power to create or destroy your song.
Use compression when you want to, in my opinion:
Shift the dynamic range:
Applying compression to a track whose dynamic range exceeds your desired level is a good idea.
Just be careful not to compress it too much or it will sound monotonous.
Shift the transients:
Compression can be used to change transients and give an object a punchier or softer feel.
Set a medium-low threshold, a medium-high ratio, and a long attack time to make something punchier.
Do the same, but set a brief attack time to make something softer.
Of course, there are plenty additional techniques to accomplish that, including equalization, saturation, distortion, and more.
Glue two or more elements:
When several elements serve similar roles, it is best to process each one separately, route them all to a bus channel, and then process them all at once.
The sound they produce when they are all compressed together will be cohesive and significantly enhance your mix.