Audio mixing 101: The whole lot you must know to create your first monitor

Audio mixer lit up in LEDs in a dark room.

After an extended, unforgiving journey, you’ve lastly written and recorded that nice tune. Now all you need to do is combine and grasp the tune, which might be intimidating, however don’t fear should you’ve by no means used a digital interface. So long as you’ve got a strong recording, you’ll be able to comply with this audio mixing information to study some mixing phrases and how you can use sure strategies. Let’s dig in and kick begin your subsequent studying expertise.

What’s audio mixing, and why do I must do it?

The back of a person's head wearing headphones positioned in front of a recording microphone. In the background the interface of a DAW is visible.

Audio mixing can flip a set of sounds right into a cohesive tune.

Audio mixing is once you edit, revise, and fine-tune a mixture of tracks which leads to a elegant tune. With out audio mixing, your recording will sound like a tough minimize of a tune thought. To make the enhancing course of simpler, you need to use both studio headphones or a pair of studio displays to combine; these instruments make it simpler so that you can hear an correct illustration of your recording. You need to use this accuracy to tweak your tune by including delicate harmonies or embellishment layers. Studio displays make it simpler so that you can understand stereo sound, which may also help once you need one thing to seem in a selected location within the stereo discipline. Studio displays might be fairly dear although, so a effective pair of headphones ought to do the trick on a extra restricted funds.

Relying on what Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) you utilize to document and edit your tune, you’ll be able to experiment with completely different capabilities and ranging ranges of precision on your edits. Many DAWs are suitable with third-party plugins, that are instruments that carry out particular audio-editing capabilities equivalent to including equalizers or numerous sound results. In case your DAW doesn’t include a instrument that you really want, you’ll possible be capable of discover it someplace.

Can audio mixing save a low-quality recording?

A man plays guitar; this is a darkly lit grayscale image.

The magic occurs within the recording studio, not within the post-processing.

It’s very tough to show a foul recording into a superb tune. In case your recording has points—be it extra background noise, audible plosives and fricatives (“p” and “f” sounds), your tempo is off, you performed a mistaken observe—you need to make a brand new recording earlier than you end this information. You all the time need to start the audio mixing course of with an optimum uncooked recording, as a result of it would prevent a whole lot of hassle and time throughout the post-production section. Learn our information to recording a tune from a house studio for a full rundown of every little thing you must make a high quality recording.

Now, this doesn’t imply your recording needs to be good. Fairly the opposite: there are many fixable imperfections that take simply moments to wash up with software program. Imperfections which might be simple to repair embody a minor quantity of plosives and fricatives, few sibilant sounds (“sh” and “z“), and a small quantity of ambient room noise. Most DAWs allow you to minimize and splice sections of various takes collectively, so if one vocal take for the primary verse of your tune was nice, however a special vocal take for the second verse was higher, you’ll be able to splice the 2 collectively into your last edit.

Study extra: Why does my microphone sound unhealthy?

The higher your bit-depth is when recording, the extra decision you need to edit with in put up manufacturing. Recording at the next bit-depth means much less noise can be launched once you make acquire changes. This ends in a cleaner recording, and no “fuzzy” noises. It’s best to keep in mind that prime bit-depth recordings take up a whole lot of area in your pc. Relying on how severe you’re about producing music, it’s possible you’ll must spend money on a couple of exterior storage drives.

Do you must purchase a mixer?

Audio mixer knobs close up.

Your DAW has all of the instruments you will want to combine your tune.

You don’t want a bodily mixer to provide your tune, nevertheless it’s a luxurious to have one. Your USB interface covers the blending board’s major capabilities, receiving and transmitting audio alerts. Different mixing board capabilities allow you to alter the loudness ranges of tracks and equalize the sound, which you are able to do together with your DAW.

One perk of some mixing boards is that they act as a bigger USB interface than many individuals personal. You possibly can document many tracks without delay, which might be nice should you’re making an attempt to document a full band. What’s extra, perhaps you’re simply an old style sort who enjoys tactile controls—extra energy to you! Should you can afford it, go forward and splurge. Anybody who’s trying to construct a recording studio will recognize the conveniences of a bodily mixer: it could even save time in the long term.

How do you set quantity ranges correctly?

A man plays a full drum kit.

When setting your ranges, it’s all the time a good suggestion to start out with the percussion.

Now that you’ve got a strong recording, it’s time to start out audio mixing. Acceptable quantity ranges and panning changes can accomplish rather a lot, and these fixes get you that a lot nearer to a professional-sounding last minimize.

As a normal rule of thumb, you need to maintain your studio monitor or headphones quantity comparatively low when setting quantity ranges. Not solely does this defend your ears, it additionally offers you a transparent thought of quantity stability between the left and proper channels.

Percussion needs to be the factor you alter, because it types the inspiration of most songs. Whenever you combine a recording with a full drum package, first flip all the amount controllers (faders) all the best way down, after which slowly deliver up the kick drum till it’s at an applicable degree of loudness. (The precise decibel degree will rely in your style, as a result of some genres have a a lot louder kick drum than others relative to the entire tune. You simply need to make certain the entire combine peaks, or hits its most quantity, at round -6dB(FS). It’s best to then combine the snare drum, toms, and the cymbals for the best course of. Afterwards, it’s possible you’ll use this similar approach for the remainder of the tracks in your combine, graduating from percussion to bass guitar, rhythm guitar, lead guitar, after which lead vocals.

Leaving a little bit of headroom makes it simpler so as to add plug-ins later within the course of and helps preserve the standard.

Make certain your grasp fader peaks far beneath 0dB. An excellent commonplace to intention for is round -6dB(FS); this area between the utmost quantity and 0dB is known as headroom. Leaving a little bit of headroom makes it simpler so as to add plug-ins later within the course of and helps preserve the standard, as a result of it avoids audio clipping. You possibly can all the time enhance the grasp quantity later within the mixing and mastering phases.

Double-check your work

This is a screenshot of Fruity Loops Studio

You possibly can mess around with quantity settings and results in your most well-liked DAW.

Loop the tune a number of occasions after which discover the most effective common quantity place for every monitor. Afterwards, you can also make use of the amount automation characteristic, which helps you to fine-tune the amount of various factors on every monitor. For instance, if the lead vocals sound too loud relative to the verse vocals, you’ll be able to alter the amount automation to make it extra uniform.

To check your combine’s stability all through the tune, flip your monitor’s quantity means down and be sure to can nonetheless hear the lead vocals and percussion all through the tune. It’s best to nonetheless hear different components of the tune moreover the lead vocals and percussion; this course of is simply to verify they stand out the from the remainder of your tune. Whenever you do that, you’ll be able to assess if the tune nonetheless seems like a tune when performed at background-music ranges (e.g., espresso store ambiance). It’s also possible to experiment by turning the grasp fader (major quantity controller) down and again up slowly, to see what stands out from the tune.

What’s panning, and the way do you do it?

A man smiles while he plays guitar in an empty room.

Panning an acoustic guitar in stereo may also help fill out your combine.

Whenever you pan a monitor, you distribute the sign from it to a sure location inside the stereo sound discipline. Panning offers your tune dimension, and lets the listener notice a way of auditory area. That is simple to note in songs like Robotic Lovers by Casey Abrams.

Audio mixing doesn’t have a tough and quick rule on how you can set your pans, and a few audio engineers stay through the use of the left, middle, proper technique (LCR)—panning all tracks both 100% left, down the center, or 100% proper. Different audio engineers pan tracks in a spectrum between the audio system.

Let’s say your recording contains drums, guitar, lead vocals, and harmonies. Should you recorded your guitar in stereo, you would possibly pan one of many tracks far to the left and the opposite far to the appropriate. The snare and kick drums are sometimes positioned proper down the middle and the opposite drums might be panned left, proper, or someplace in between in accordance with the format of your drum package, or simply your preferences. Lead vocals are nearly all the time panned proper down the center, except you’re particularly going for a faraway vocal sound, or if the entire tune is sung as a duet.

The right way to add results and plugins

A picture of woman playing guitar and recording it with the Shure SM57 XLR mic.

When you’ve gotten the fundamentals sorted out, it’s time so as to add plug-ins and results.

When you’ve mastered the fundamentals, you can begin so as to add plugins. There are numerous plugins on the market, however we’ll simply cowl the three commonest ones utilized in audio mixing.


Reverb is produced when a sound wave hits onerous surfaces and bounces again to the listener in a wide range of amplitudes and delay occasions, creating a fancy echo-like sound. This differs from an echo impact as a result of consists of a number of reflections, together with early and late, moderately than a single one. Consider the impact music has when performed in a big room with picket flooring and excessive ceilings. When audio engineers need to mimic this impact on a recording, they’ll add reverb plugins.

That is the commonest impact utilized in music as a result of it helps to recreate a extra lifelike, spacious sound like what you’d expertise seeing music carried out stay, and it blends musical sounds collectively to create a extra cohesive sound.


A compressor is a plugin instrument that reduces the dynamic vary, or the distinction in quantity between the quietest and loudest components of an audio waveform. This may stability out the tune, and ensures that the light components of a tune stay audible, and that the bombastic components of a tune aren’t deafening. You must watch out to not get too carried away with heavy compression, particularly on the entire combine. Louder isn’t all the time higher!


An equalizer emphasizes or deemphasizes sure frequencies in a monitor. It may be used to do away with some undesirable frequencies, equivalent to these in sibilant sounds; to make a sure frequency vary louder; and conversely, to make a sure frequency vary quieter. Whenever you apply equalizers, you usually need to make slim reductions, known as surgical cuts, and huge boosts. Equalizers may also help you spotlight the elemental frequencies of an instrument or emphasize a few of its overtones.

Change into an knowledgeable: What’s frequency response and the way does it have an effect on my music?

How else are you able to boost your music?

A person sits on a bed with vinyl records and a record-player.

To create a tune you’ll need to play time and again, it’s possible you’ll need to add some distinctive components.

When you perceive the fundamentals of audio mixing, you can begin to get artistic. One approach famously utilized by artists like Elliot Smith is double-tracked vocals with one monitor panned to the left and the opposite panned to the appropriate. Music manufacturing might be taken in so many alternative instructions, and there are entire genres of music now which might be based mostly on manufacturing, like EDM.

By no means underestimate the significance of mastering. After getting totally combined a tune, you must both grasp if your self or ship it to an expert mastering engineer to verify the tune will stand out when performed in a playlist of professionally produced music.

This text is titled Audio Mixing 101, as a result of it’s an elementary introduction to a particularly specialised discipline of labor that will take a lot a couple of article to cowl respectfully. Remember that apply makes good with audio mixing. When you will not be totally glad together with your first tune, the method can be a studying expertise. Complete books could possibly be written concerning the excellent methods to combine completely different devices and completely different singing kinds. However keep in mind that that is an artwork type, and this text is simply a information, not a algorithm. You might be free to make no matter mixing selections you need.

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