Saturday, August 16, 2014


Hello and welcome to this week's article! Today we're talking about the 5 worst mistakes that we can make when mixing and mastering! If you find you're stumbling upon one of these, make sure to fix the problem before moving on with your project!

5) Arranging: This is a fundamental problem, that maybe can be properly solved only with some experience. The song may be too crowded at some points, for example we may find on the same guitar+bass+drums riff 3 vocals that sings different lines, a line of piano, a whole orchestra section, a dubstep-like synth and a sampler that shoots drum n'bass loops to give "that modern vibe".
Cut that stuff away.
Jack White of White Stripes (among the other projects) once said that there shouldn't be more that 3 things playing at the same time on a song in order to make it really enjoyable;
I think that there is a way in between: the arranger, that often is the songwriter himself, should be wise enough to know where the listener's attention is going to go, and to drive him the way he intends his song to be enjoyed.
For example if there are too many different lines playing different things at the same time, the focus of the listener may wander to the useless details and miss the important thing we wanted to say.
Take a listen to the radio hits of today and you will discover a return to the essential, for example the Miley Cyrus hit Wreckin'Ball, where for most of the song there are only low lines of synth and some piano.
The more the sound stage is crowded, the more the single instruments will sound thin and tend to hide each other, so we must become wise when arranging in taking away the unnecessary and give weight to the important elements of the mix, making it crowded only when essential, not all the time.
Another mistake when arranging that can really turn any song into crap is drum programming.
If you can't record a true drummer or just prefer to use sampled drums there are no problems, just make it write to a real drummer if you have no idea of how to play drums, since one of the worst things that can happen, especially to a rock or metal song, is to have a "virtual drummer" that does unnatural things, things that a real drummer wouldn't do. If you're in doubt, always choose the most simple, normal, boring drum fill, otherwise the song will result automatically in a ridicolous mess.

4) Panning: Moving on in our gallery of horrors let's talk about panning, which is the disposition of the instruments on the stereo field and that we have already covered in a dedicated article, but that may cause problems if taken too lightly.
The idea is to stack as fewer elements as possible in the same exact place, to avoid overcrowding a particular area. This happens especially at the center: it's the place where lead vocals, snare, kick and bass guitar usually lays, (and often piano and lead guitars too), so it's suggested to move the other instruments around a little bit, for example even just off centering a lead synth of just 5% left or right will leave the middle area of the mix much clearer.
Everything should have its place as if we're hearing the band from the front of the stage or like we're hearing it from the drummer's perspective, just avoid overcrowding the center of the soundscape and the extremes: instruments placed 100% left or right tend sometimens to disappear or sound a bit too far with some device, for example some car stereo, so it's a good rule to use 95% left or right as a maximum panning distance.

3) Boosting: passing to the lower step of the podium we meet this tricky topic, boosting.
Using an equalizer to boost some frequency of an instrument it's not a mistake by itself, since eq is a tone shaping tool by definition, the mistake arrives when boosting before the compression on the single channel (since the compression will lower the boost, the rule of thumb is to use subtractive eq, then compress, then use the additive eq).
Besides that, if we need to add like 10db on the top end of our snare or guitar, maybe we should consider it recording it again changing something, like the microphones used or their position, since twisting an original sound in such an extreme way usually results in having unpleasant, digital sounds, that will kill the performance itself.


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