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How To Mix A Song – 17 Steps That Engineers Do

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How to mix a song

Mixing is THE most important step in music production. You make a song with all the best efforts and try to decorate it with all the nicest things you know and now to make sure your audience hears everything exactly the way you intended them to hear, you need perfect mixing!

Here is all that you need to mix your song so that your audience hear your song and have an unforgettable experience –

  1. Use these 9 mixing steps first.
  2. Use the right type of monitors.
  3. Have supplementary monitors as well.
  4. Prepare the groundwork for your mix.
  5. Adjust the timing and tuning.
  6. Use comping for getting the best version.
  7. Pay attention to the arrangement.
  8. Establish raw balance first.
  9. Use compression.
  10. Use expansion and gating.
  11. Use equalization.
  12. Use distortion.
  13. Use frequency selective dynamics plugins.
  14. Use sidechaining.
  15. Mix with reverb.
  16. Mix with delay.
  17. Use automation.

In these articles I have included all that is necessary for you to understand how mixing your song works. Let’s see the details of these points…

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1. The 9 mixing steps

For mixing a song from scratch follow these 9 mixing steps –

  1. Listen to the song’s intention.
  2. Organize your mix session.
  3. Balance like a music lover not an engineer.
  4. Set the track levels for headroom.
  5. Use reference track.
  6. Scheming the frequency spectrum.
  7. Safeguard the instrument balance.
  8. Don’t try to make individual instruments sound pretty.
  9. Take frequent breaks.

If you follow these 9 steps to start your mix, you will have a solid foundation for a great sound everytime. Let’s now dive deeper into it – 

1. Listen to the song’s intention

By intention I mean is you need to find what purpose the song is made for. Is it for the dance floor to be played in the clubs or is it a song meant for a soft romantic atmosphere, or does it creates a spooky vibe etc. I believe you get the point.

Understanding this will make you understand which instruments are important for creating the vibe and are the priority for this song. This will affect your mixing decisions correctly!

2. Organize your mix session

This is the most important step in order to be more time-effective. What happens is, when you take a session which has less number of tracks, then it doesn’t hurt but it becomes a headache if you are mixing a big session with more than 30 layers. 

Believe me, it becomes frustrating and it takes only a few seconds to lose objectivity when you are lost in finding the sounds and instruments. Every second wasted while mixing degrades the quality of your mix. That happens!

Do all the necessary trimming, color coding, removing empty audio etc. Name the respective instruments. Place the similar type of instruments together for example, place all the drums and percussions together, place all the guitars together, place all the vocals together and also align the parts that play together. 

Keep your session neat and clean so that it is easy to focus on the actual mixing and so that it saves time.

3. Balance like a music lover not an engineer

We all were not an engineer since birth but we are surely a listener since then. This means we have a music lover instinct in us. When you simply use this instinct to guide you balance your mix, your mix will get more impact and the groove will move the listeners more!

You need to simply drop the engineer’s hat and just enjoy the song and move the faders that feels more musical and natural to you or what moves you the most. For example if the song is groovier, you know that the foundation can be nothing else but drums. Come to the most energetic section which is the chorus and then start with the kick, set its level and let the snare come in slowly till what feels just right to you and makes you move, because it should!

Do this with every other important instrument with respect to the foundation. Keep what just feels right!

Just keep this balance and we will refine it further. 

4. Set the track levels for headroom

Now that you’ve got a nice balance between your instruments with the music lover mindset, no it’s time to bring out the engineer from within you. So what do I mean here is that when the music lover sets the faders, chances are that in the excitement of listening and moving with the song, the master level may cross the red signal!

If you check the master level, the output may be pretty above 0 dB mark. Don’t worry that’s normal. To get a good amount of headroom, you just need to select all the faders together and bring down the level simultaneously so that the master channel output stays 6 dB to 8 dB below 0 dB mark.

That will give you enough headroom to do the job!

5. Use reference track

When you mix a song, how do you know that whatever you are doing is in the right direction? See, an human ear is not perfect to judge the music after listening to it for so long. Your ears get adapted to the sound of whatever you keep listening to.  

Now to know how your music is supposed to sound like, a good reference track is required. As you know that spending some time with your track will make you get adapted to the tone of it. You will not be able to hear whether it sounds balanced in the whole frequency spectrum or not and what necessary adjustments are needed for it.

In such case you need to have a look at it compared with a professionally mixed and mastered reference song that covers the complete frequency spectrum and which has a wonderful dynamics. Comparing with this type of track will show the variations for your song then you could do extra surgery to make it sound balanced.

6. Scheming the frequency spectrum

This has to do with the reference track. The reference track is your ideal goal. You want your low end, mids and the high end to sound like the reference track as it is already a commercially released track and is doing well in terms of translating on various playback systems and have a great dynamic.

The reference tracks let you look in detail and get a clear understanding about the tonal balance of your track as against its own. So now you can plan out your EQ moves in order to improve the tonal balance of your track.

You need to pay attention for improving the whole mix rather than a single instrument. Basically your EQ adjustments should support the overall mix balance. Scheme the frequency spectrum so that your track’s frequency response matches the reference track’s.

With the reference track you get a clear picture of where your track stands actually in terms of tonal balance hence plan what you need to do in order to match it to the reference track.

Make EQ adjustments to the instruments which can contribute to correct the balance of the overall mix. See the bigger picture and think in favor of the whole mix and not a single instrument.

7. Safeguard the instrument balance

Ok, I told you to balance your instruments having the mindset of a music lover. Surely that is the best balance you can ever get as it will move the listeners no doubt about that.

Now if I am saying that it’s the best instrument balance you could ever achieve, then it’s obvious that you would need to preserve it no matter what.

Simply, you need to make some frequency adjustments in the instruments with the EQ but don’t move their fader levels unless something is really abnormal. 

8. Don’t try to make individual instruments sound pretty

Yes, don’t chase every individual instrument to make it sound perfect and awesome. You’re only hurting your mix and wasting time.

The priority of mixing is to only focus on the whole mix. If perfecting an individual instrument serves the overall mix, then by every means go after it but not otherwise.

Now as a general rule of thumb, 80% of the result comes from focusing on the most important 20% of whatever you are doing. It applies everywhere.

9. Take frequent breaks

Your ears are not the most robust organs in your body. They are very delicate and need proper care and rest. Mixing is a job where ears are the only priority.

If you are stretching for long hours, you are risking your hearing ability! Generally it’s advised and also I practice is to work for a maximum of 30 minutes in a single go. I take break after every 30 minutes.

This does two things, it will protect your ears and also you will return back with fresh ears!

2. Use the right type of monitors

It’s a fact that the best sounding monitors will give you the best result and they will allow you to hear every nuance of your mix. But you see, even the top mix engineers don’t get to utilize those monitors always.

They know this and so they develop some good practices so that they always get a consistent output though they may not always get the costliest monitors!

  • Learning the art of listening first, is the only criteria to move further to learn the effects which otherwise doesn’t make sense even if you get a good grip on EQ, compressors etc.

Questions about what treatment your instrument at hand needs is important. Does it need a high end boost? Does it need a little compression? Is it ok to reduce the mids a little? These can’t be answered by your costliest monitors but only by you, your engineer instincts.

Developing this instinct is the first step.

Now if you are a producer who has a bedroom as your studio or have a small studio, it’s suggested that a near field monitor set is the best for you. Near field monitors are built for a short distance use.

The distance of the near field monitors from you can be of about 2 – 3 ft. They are good as they directly send the audio into your ears and are less prone to room reflections because of their short audio range.

Must Read – 41 Mixing Tips – From Grammy Winning Engineers

3. Have supplementary monitors as well.

A supplementary set of monitors is also beneficial because, granted that the near field monitors can get you the full frequency response but they are not capable of giving you a fully reliable output for a commercially eligible mix.

A supplementary set of monitors can be other sort of speakers, headphones etc.

Auratone 5C Super Sound Cube is a good example because it highlights the mid range which is heard by the most larger section of the listeners and it also plays in mono as it has a single driver. It’s free from comb filtering as against the near field ones and its mono playback will reveal any stereo image related problems in your mix. 

Headphones will reveal the stereo image and it eliminates the real listening environment giving you the direct output to judge your mix. It will also uncover if there are any underlying low level technical problems or any side effects of processing.

Cheap Grotbox speakers are also used to emulate the low quality speakers to make sure the mix translates well even on them. This is necessary because the speakers of tv sets and laptops etc. still come under the category of these types and a big portion of listeners are exposed to them.

In order to maintain the consistency of the mix and also that the translation of its sound is the best, you should gather whatever you can and check your mix on all the systems.

4. Prepare the groundwork for your mix

Well, mix preparation is the key to a productive workflow!

To prepare the mix session, the first and foremost requirement is to start afresh! Never mix a project in the same production session. This is very useful practice. It resets your perspective and lets you come at it with fresh ears.

When you come back with fresh ears, you have more objective angle for the mix which will help you take right mixing decisions.

“When I have also recorded the song, I find it very difficult to mix it straight away. I need 10 days or so away from the record to be able to approach it fresh again, and be more objective about things and also not be emotionally attached to things in the mix.” – Rob Kirwan

“Organizing is the key to victory!” says Jaycen Joshua.

Naming the instruments and placing them at their respective places, as discussed earlier will save you from wasting time finding that second short hi hat or that short swoosh fx. When you are organized, you are prone to make fewer mistakes.

Ideas just fly, you know? If you just got an idea about making that wooden perc come more forward, but now you are wasting time finding it.. well in that case now you’re frustrated, even for the rest of the session. That’s horrible I tell you!

Dividing the timeline into sections for sections like verses, choruses etc. will as well save your time as mixing often requires hearing particular sections. Also labeling and color coding the tracks will organize the session more and since our brains respond to colors more quickly, it will help you a lot.

Multing is a practice where you chop your audio into parts and treat each part with different mix processing. This helps with vocals as the energy changes from section to section or even for certain words. Also some instruments that change at different sections.

5. Adjust the timing and tuning

It may happen that the singer may sing slightly out of the groove of the song or in other words, he gets a little slower or a little faster than the tempo of the music at some places or for the whole of it. This may also happen with any instrument player. He may just get pumped up with your outstanding drum groove and may play the guitars a little faster in the chorus.

In such case, the song will sound awful. When something is not tightly synced in a track, the whole experience gets spoiled as the attention goes to that particular sound which is out of sync. So you should adjust the audio track’s timing and make them fit perfectly well with everything else with the help of the grid.

Now, you should thank God for making tuning possible or else there won’t be as many artists as they keep appearing everyday!

Tuning is the technique with which any out-of-tune or wrongly-pitched vocal and instrument is corrected by manually or automatically adjusting their pitch within the notes of the key.

Always use the manual mode of tuning unless it’s your conscious decision to use the automatic mode of pitch correction. The manual mode is musical and gives you more control whereas automatic mode will sound robotic which has its own place.

Melodyne and Autotune are two great examples for carrying out the tuning process. Always pay special attention to the vocals and check if they sound in tune perfectly.

6. Use comping for getting the best version

Comping means having multiple takes of a recording and taking the best parts from those takes to compile them into one single track. This gives you the best version out of your recordings. Comping should be applied almost always on the lead vocal recordings.

The only drawback of comping is that it is a labor intensive process for both the singer and the mix engineer. A mix engineer has to apply full concentration and a huge amount of time to listen each word and then deciding the best parts.

Being so much labor intensive, it also yields the best results. Hence it’s always advisable to perform comping especially for the vocals.

Now what to look for in those takes?

The words and the lines should convey the same emotions and feelings as the lyric is trying to convey. Also if something catches your attention because it’s so beautifully sung or said, just grab that! See there’s no rule except that the end result should sound as fantastic as possible touching the hearts of the listeners.

7. Pay attention to the arrangement

Arrangement is the another most important aspect of the track. Arrangement can make or break the track. I think it is justified to say that a good arrangement mixes itself. A cluttered or mindless arrangement gets spoiled no matter how much effort you put in.

The well thought out arrangement has every instrument perfectly timed and is played with other instruments only where require.

The type of instruments played at specific time in the song, the perfect rhythmic layout of the groove of the track, the harmony notes used across the whole pitch range, the particular performance style of the musicians, all these makes up the whole foundation of the arrangement of a track.

If you want to have the best musical experience, follow the “less is more” rule! Using less elements or decluttering the music helps the listener focus! It’s an added benefit that the instruments sound clear and big when there’s less going on which helps very much in mixing as well.

Also a full production with everything going on may appear to be more satisfying but if there is no contrast, the listener will get bored and will get distracted. Another form of this issue is when there are multiple instruments playing in the same register. They all will fight to get their own space and trying to mix them will only hurt the mix.

A better fix is to assign different register to these instruments. Making one go an octave up or the other an octave down. This way the clash between the same timbres gets eliminated.

7. Establish raw balance first

Getting a raw balance before beginning the actual mixing is a prerequisite for starting the mix for every song. When you are done with balancing the tracks as a music lover, then you are ready to dive in for a detailed operation.

Spending quality time with the faders and taking use of their potential is undervalued by many small studio users. Faders are the deciding factors about how good your mix is going to be.

You can never get a good mix without a good balance. Period! 

The only thing you need to do next is to make more refinements in the instruments.

To get a good balance you can follow a simple guideline which I follow too and it has been the most common practice among the mix engineers –

Lets begin with what to do when..

Begin with the most important section

To start with, the best tip is that you should reach out for the most important section of the song which is the chorus or the busiest section.

When you start with the most important section, you set the tone for the whole song. This becomes the climax (although it already is) for you to take your mix to. 

Prioritizing the task in such a way also saves time and you also now have a reference for the rest of the instruments to work with.

It always works out for me whenever I start with the chorus and no engineer or producer is going to suggest you otherwise.

An added benefit of this is that it also save you CPU power since you have placed your resources to the important section and you kind of unbuild from there for the rest of the sections.

Choose the most important instrument first

There’s no harm in choosing every instrument or a bunch of them and start processing them if you have the experience of a decade or two otherwise my suggestion would be to start it in steps.

It’s an crucial to figure out which instrument drives the song and then building around it. It may be an instrument, it may be the vocal. 

“I’ll start by working on the most important instruments. If the bass drives everything, I’ll start with the bass. If it’s a riff, I’ll work on the riff,” says Philippe Zdar.

An added benefit of this is that it also saves you CPU power since you have placed your resources to the important instrument first which carries the most of the song on its shoulders.

See if you find that a big vocal sound is the main focal point of the song then treating the rhythm guitar with a ton of plugins is a waste of CPU power and time when all they do is only fill the space.

Less time on least important stuff

What we sometimes do in the studio is we spend 90 percent of the time on stuff that’s worth about 10 percent; the absolute detail of every-thing that, at the end of the day, probably doesn’t matter.” – Glen Ballard

With that said, I urge you to save your time everytime by prioritizing the main elements which are the most significant to the record’s value.

Being an engineer or a producer you should understand that time is money!

Personally I don’t even care about the stuff that means trinket in a record. See in every production, practically there are only a few things that carry the commercial value hence you need to discriminate them very consciously.

For example in the pop and RnB styles, the vocals demand a hell lot of share of your time and energy. Whereas the EDM style pays a lot of attention to the kick, bass and the synth or sample hooks.

So it also depends on the style or the genre of the song you are dealing with.

Now let’s discuss balancing..

High pass filtering

The best way to remove the muddiness of the mix is to remove the unnecessary low end from the instruments that don’t need it.

Use a high pass filter and cut the low frequencies from the instruments that are serving the mid to the high end.

Just set the filter on and start raising the cut off frequency higher gradually till you start hearing a change in the sound. Now stop there and back of a little. This should be your approach to high pass the instruments.

Failing to clear the low end is a recipe to a dull and muddy mix.

On the othet hand removing low end from such instruments will make space for the bass and kick. Since the low frequencies are bigger in wavelength, they tend to fight for space and prefer to live alone in their respective regions.


Panning simply is the act of placing the instruments anywhere in the stereo space which extends from left to right for any 2 channel system. Panning is important because in real life we don’t hear in mono. Every sound comes either from left or right and rarely from the center.

Panning also solves the issues of clarity. Panning is a way in which the masking of sounds can be avoided in a stereo system, but if it’s mono, it will still mask. If there are two guitars in your track, you can pan one to the left and one to the right. This way both the guitars can be distinguished easily and won’t create confusion.

Since panning two similar sounds on the opposite sides help them to be heard clearly, a common practice is to pan multiple high frequency sounds at different spots – multiple hi hats and shakers etc. as they have more or less the same frequencies therefore panning separates them.

Extreme panning a mono sound to left or right reduces its level by 3 dB in a mono output.

Another issue with extreme panning is – let’s say if your sound is panned to extreme left and the playback has only the right channel working, then that instrument will be completely absent in this channel.

Set the levels

Levels.. the meat of mixing process! After high passing and panning it’s a good idea to get to the levels now.

What I usually do with the first instrument is set the level of it at around where it is safe for when the rest of the tracks are mixed, there’s still headroom left in my DAW.

Another trick is to mix everything without the thought of headroom and when the levels of all the instruments are set, you can bring the level of them all collectively without disturbing their balance, to a level where you have enough headroom available when everything is playing.

A cool trick I learned when not sure about an instrument’s level to be set. You take the instrument and set its level to totally silent. Now raise it gradually till you hear it reasonably okay and mark that fader position. Next make the instrument very loud (watchout for you ears as well) and then lower the level till this time it sounds reasonable and mark this position as well which gives you a window where you can work the level out a little.

8. Use compression

In mixing you must have seen that there is too much of emphasis being put on using a compressor. Well it is a flexible medium to deal with the instrument’s level as it’s obviously not a static effect. It can move, so to speak. It has a built in intelligence of it’s own, if you will, which makes it to be praised as much as it is, in the mixing universe. So that’s a good enough reason to have it.

In simple terms a compressor reduces the peaks of the sound to flatten the sound and make it more even in amplitude.

Compression generally comes into picture when the faders are just not enough to make the levels behave in the required way.

Must Read – Mixing With Compression – In 13 Steps

Instruments are not static and have ups and downs in their envelop (instead of a few which stay flat). Flat sounds don’t bother you when it comes to setting there levels in a mix.

Things start to change when the sound is more alive and have dynamics in its amplitude. They are peaks, sustains and the tails. What happens is, you cannot find a fix fader position for such dynamic sound, that will solidify its level in the mix so you need compressor that will set the level based on some input it needs to calculate the sweet spot.

Compressor Controls


A threshold of the compressor is the adjustable point within it, which if crossed by the incoming signal, the compressor starts affecting it.

Input gain

The input gain is simply the amplitude if the incoming signal into the compressor. You can adjust it. 

The input gain and the threshold are the two controls which affect when the compressor starts reacting to the sound.


Since a compressor reduces the level of the sound, the ratio determines “how much” or the “degree” of this level or gain reduction will be applied to the incoming signal.

The ratio 2:1 says that a 2 dB of incoming signal gets reduced to 1 dB. Similarly 5:1 turns a 5 dB signal into 1 dB. So this the extent of gain reduction that is applied to the incoming signal which is set by the ratio control.


Attack is, how quickly the compressor starts affecting the incoming signal.

In other words, the point in the envelop of the incoming signal which gets reduced the first is determined by setting the attack of the compressor.

  • Slow to medium attack is best for the drums and transient heavy sounds. So that the initial peaks can pass through with no effect.


Release is when does the compressor lets go off the signal. 

The compressor, when starts affecting the signal, keeps a hold of it for a while and it needs to be set by the release control, when the compressor lifts up its effect from the signal. 

  • Fast attack, fast release = less punchy drums 
  • Fast attack, slow release = more consistent sound
  • Slow attack, slow release = less drum body/sustain 

Makeup gain

A compressor basically reduces the highest amplitude points of a signal therefore making it flatter than before. This has a side effect that the overall signal level gets dropped.

To bring back the level to its original level or even more, the makeup gain control is used.


Along with the above settings, there’s another setting that affects how abruptly or smoothly the signal in the compressor gets affected. It is called the knee.

A soft knee means the signal will be affected more naturally and musically which will be less apparent to your ears whereas a hard knee will affect the signal instantly and you can hear the change very clearly.

Series compression

Using two compressors one after the other gives extra benefit.

When used on vocals, the first compressor makes the vocals more consistent and if there are some peaks poking out, use a second compressor with a fast attack and fast release for just the peaks, thus making the vocals more controlled without hurting them.

Parallel compression

Another cool trick! When you want to have the original signal as well as the compressed one at the same time, use a parallel compressor or (aka) New York compression.

Send the original signal to a return track having the compressor with a little extreme setting on it, hence both the processed and the dry signals blend together giving you the original feel with presence and thickness added to it.

This can be done with a compressor having dry wet control as well. 

9. Use expansion and gating


An expander increases the dynamic range by turning down the quieter sounds even more. It is exact opposite of a compressor.

The controls are also the same except that this time, the the signal below the threshold which is the sub threshold signal gets affected.

Expander before or after compressor?

If you have applied a compressor in your track already, then if an expander is needed, it should be placed before the compressor. The reason is because the outgoing signal from a compressor has the loudest and the quietest sounds come to a more even level.

This makes it hard to set the threshold of an expander and the result is not as effective as you want.

Ofcourse there are exceptions to this as well.

If you want to enhance your drum peaks, placing a limiter or a compressor before the expander will yield better results as they will maintain consistency in the signal reaching the expander threshold.


A gate is a lot like the expander but it does not have a ratio control but has a fixed ratio which is infinity:1. This means it will mute the signal which is below the threshold completely. 

It’s best use is that it eliminates low level background noise between instrument phrases, hi hats spill in mics and the unnecessary tails of some sounds.

10. Use equalization

Equalizers are used to reduce or boost the levels of certain frequencies of any signal. They are used to change the tone of a sound completely.

A tip I can give you about when to use an EQ is that, when you are setting level of a track, you should think that, do you have a perfect fader level for it which will let you hear its each and every frequency very clearly? Does this track leaves space for the frequencies of other more important instruments for them to be heard clearly?

If you agree, then don’t ever use an EQ, but you are bound to use it in an opposite scenario to that of the above.

Mostly in most of the productions, a high pass filter is the only thing you need for mixing. An EQ is used in fewer places.

3 controls


The frequency control is used to select the frequency that you want to manipulate.


The gain control simply controls the level of the selected frequency.

Q Factor 

The Q factor control determines the range of the surrounding frequency that will get affected by the filter.

Types of filters of an EQ

Shelving Filter

A shelving EQ or as it’s called as a shelving filter, is  used to attenuate or boost the high or the low end of the frequency spectrum of any signal.

Its Q control enhances or reduces the steepness of the slope or the transition band.

Peak/Bell Filter

A peak or bell filter is used to boost or attenuate a specified set of frequency range that encapsulates a center frequency.

It has a Q control that widens or narrows the frequency range that surrounds the center frequency.

11. Use distortion

Distortion is… well.. simply distortion! We’re talking about Saturation, but let’s call it distortion since it’s the umbrella term.

Distortion is an unusual way of spicing things up! Distortion adds frequency which are not present in the signal by introducing harmonics into it. These added extra frequencies to the signal generally recide in the upper range of its frequency spectrum.

For example, if you have a pure sine wave as your bass at 40 Hz, it won’t be audible in small speakers so you need to have a little presence. This will happen when you increase the region between 90 Hz to 120 Hz. 

Must Read – Saturation Before Or After Compression – Explained

But the EQ is useless here as there’s nothing to boost in that region as the sine wave is pure sine wave and it has only one frequency active throughout the whole spectrum and that is 40 Hz.

Enters distortion!

This will “add” some additional previously absent frequencies in the upper range by adding harmonics in the sine wave. Now you can EQ that to taste.

Must Read – How To Bass Saturation – The Easy Way!

By the way these new frequencies are somewhat related to the original signal’s frequency. It can be creatively used in enhancing sounds and improving your mix.

12. Use frequency selective dynamics plugins

Frequency Selective Dynamics processors or plugins are those which work in relation to both – time and frequency. Essentially they are used to balance the mix if the imbalance in the frequency changes with time.

Multiband compressor

Multiband compressors are used to apply dynamic control in particular bands of the whole frequency spectrum. The controls of each band are exactly the same as that of a full band compressor.

Its a better medium to compress the sound when you don’t want that the compressor affects the whole frequency spectrum but only a little portion of it.


A De-esser is used to reduce the sibilance. The sibilance is a sound that sounds harsh are piercing to the ears and recides in the 4 kHz to 8 kHz range.

In vocals, these sounds appear when words containing “S” are spoken like his, miss, sit, see etc. These sounds are also present in some high frequency drums like hi hats, cymbals, shakers and the likes.

The controls have the frequency to be reduced and the range till where it should be reduced and the threshold, from which level the effect should be applied. Also there are various frequency bands to choose from.

Dynamic Equalizer

A dynamic equalizer is a parametric equalizer similar to a multiband compressor in a way that it affects the frequencies by either reducing them or raising them, once they cross the threshold. It is more flexible and versatile then the multiband compressor and is specifically meant for precise frequency manipulation.

You can have a peak filter and shelving filter and the Q factor can be controlled as well. The benefit is that you can pin point the exact frequency that you want to tame or enhance. 

13. Use sidechain

The most obvious use of the sidechain facility in dynamic processors can be seen while mixing kick and bass.

What sidechain is, is it’s a method by which a dynamic processor’s working can be controlled by an external signal in order for the processor to affect a signal on which it’s being used.

In a scenario of mixing kick and bass, it’s required that both the sounds, being of the same region, power and prominence can be made to fit well together giving the required space to each other.

This is done by using a sidechain compressor on the bass track which is fed with the kick so that whenever the kick hits, the compressor ducks the bass to give the kick its space.

When other processors are not solving the issue of on sound masking other, sidechain compression can be very helpful.

14. Mix with reverb

Reverb is the series of echoes or duplicate signals of a dry signal that are scattered in the stereo field in a very complex manner that adds a sense of space like rooms, halls etc. to the dry sound.

The goal of mixing is to mimic the real listening environment and guess what, we live in a three dimensional environment. To add this third dimension to your mix, reverb is used.

A reverb is good for the following reasons –

  • Reverb adds depth into the mix. A quality that portrays the front to back relationship among the instruments.
  • Reverb makes the disconnected instruments sound blended with each other into one mix.
  • Reverb makes the instruments sound as they are playing in a large hall or room thus it can add an apparent dimension in your mix.
  • Reverb adds sustain to the dry sounds that may sound small in the mix.
  • Reverberated sounds are spread across the stereo image hence spreads the mix’s stereo image.

It’s best to apply reverb as a send-return effect so that a single reverb can be used for multiple instruments for a better blend.

Main Controls Of A Reverb


This controls how big space do you want to emulate. 


This controls how long the reverberated echo should continue.

Pre Delay

Pre delay controls the delay between the dry signal and the beginning of the echoes.


This controls the frequency of the echo signals and helps eliminate high frequencies and the low ones so that the reverb feels more natural and stays clean.


Dry wet controls the blend of the original and the processes signal.

15. Mix with delay

When you want to add dimension to the instrument without taking more space in the mix, you should go for a delay. A reverb smears the mix a little but a delay sounds clean.

A delay is a duplicate patterned echo of the dry signal that gives it the sense of a perceived three dimensional environment by mimicking the reflections produced in real world. These echo patterns can be selected equal to the note length or as free length in milliseconds.

A delay is best as a send-return effect.

Main Delay Controls

Note length

The note length is the pattern in which the echoed signal will be produced. They can be separately controlled for left and right channel.


Feedback controls how long the delayed signals will keep on repeating. In other words this the number of echoed signals.


Filter controls how much high and low end you want to have or remove from the echoed signal.


The dry wet simply controls the blend of the dry and the echoed signal.

So these are some main controls of the delay. Delays are preferred because of their cleanliness. They don’t smudge the mix and give it a more open sound.

16. Use automation

Automation is a superpower for mixing!

Automation can be used to make all the things in a song evolve as the song progresses.

By definition, automation is the ability to record the parameter changes of the signals or signal processors done by the engineer once, for a certain amount of mix length, which will stay as it is forever until changed. The parameters, during the playback, will now automatically behave as they were recorded.

It’s like someone else is doing the parameter adjustment for you everytime.

You cannot make competing mixes against commercial release without the help of automation. 

There are four basic modes of automation :


Read mode is the mode where the playback of a pre recorded automation is happening. No new parameter adjustment will work in this mode.


Touch mode plays back the pre recorded automation but with the capability of modifying the parameter by adjusting the controls. It’s useful for a few “touch ups” as refinements which gives it the name – Touch mode.


The latch mode plays back the pre recorded automation and allows for modifications as well, but here the moment you release the control after being adjusted, the parameter latches on to that last value.


The write mode is used to record new automation over the last one, deleting it. In other words, the write mode erases any pre existing automation and it does so even if there is no modification is being made.


So in this article I have tried to explain some of the mainstream techniques that can give small studio owners pretty good results in mixing.

I’d be grateful if you would consider helping me to support my family and bear expenses by donating any amount via the Gratitude Kit if you haven’t.

Make sure that you don’t forget to apply the techniques and experiment more so that you come up with your own strategies in order to be better at this art.


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