Some useful mix techniques / ideas

My friend is having some trouble with his mixes, so I wrote him an email describing some good techniques to make your mixes sound clearer and punchier. It’s very rough (written in 10min), but I thought I’d post it just in case it might be interesting to someone.
There are many things I forgot to mention, like making sure the volume of your sound before and after compression is the same (using make up gain), maybe next time.

The description below is predominantly aimed at bass driven Dance music with lots of layers and elements and nothing is a rule. just my approach.

Its gonna be difficult if you’ve been doing it for ages and haven’t finished.
When you’re mixing, you have to do it quick, otherwise it becomes difficult to understand if it’s good or not.

My advice is RESET all your mixer parameters and start from 0.

First you bring in the kick and the bass, make sure they don’t clash. Start with kick at -7 or -10dB.
Then the rest of the drum sounds, one by one in order of importance.
Make sure your drums are banging and you could listen to them forever alone.
Also, make sure your kick and snare are tuned right, sometimes they sound shit if they’re in the wrong key.
Make sure they’re in the same key your track is.

Don’t pan anything to the center, only Kick, snare and Bass. Add a bit of reverb to bass top (not sub).
Side chain a little bit of the bass to the kick if they play at the same time and share the same frequency.

Slowly bring in parts in order of importance. and make sure they don’t clash, pan a lot of stuff left and right to make sure only important sounds hit centre. change arrangement so you never have more than 4 loud elements playing at once and only 1 or 2 of them are important.

Have 2 or 3 send reverbs. 1 short (about 1ms) 1 longish (about 2ms), depends on your bpm and send layered sounds to the same reverb. for drums only add a little bit of reverb: if you can hear it, it’s too much. if you can’t hear it, but notice something is different when you turn it off, that’s perfect.
Make sure you cut all lows on all or most of your reverbs and delays and send effects.
Cut all lows on all elements except for kick and sub. even if it looks like there’s no Low, still cut it, cos sometimes there’s noise that takes your headroom.

When you feel something is noisy, use analyser to check what frequency is fucking with what frequency from what sound and EQ that frequency DOWN on one of the tracks. In general, when you EQ, don’t ADD, always CUT.
Compress related sounds together. Drums together, synth layers together.
Then Compress your master Channel, long attack, short release at about 2:1 ratio and maybe 3-4 threshhold, only enough to stop peaks.
Don’t put a limiter on it.
Use sidechain compression on your risers and pads and sidechain filtering on bass heavy sounds to cut where the kicks hit. just a little bit.
When you’re finished, your master peak should not be higher that about -3dB.
If it’s higher, then select ALL tracks except GROUP channels and Send channels and LOWER everything together until it’s -3dB. If you’ve compressed everything correctly, your kick and snare faders will be around -17 to -12dB. Not higher. depending on how many channels you have.

You need to pan a lot to mix stuff well, NOT just left and right, but find positions that are empty. To do this, you need to MONO your mix and pan in MONO, when the position is free, suddenly the sound will become very clear. if the sound is stereo, and doesn’t become clear when you pan it, you need to make it narrower, using L/R dual panner. Then when you found the position and want to make it sound stereo, send a little bit of the sound to a reverb instead of spreading it.

This is a good way to mix IMO. Try it out.