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In a few words, I know how to mix a fairly simple track (drums, bass, guitar, vocals...). This means that I know how to blend things together because each "instrument" is quite easy to isolate in terms of frequencies.

Now, my question would be: how do you get from a fairly simple mix to a more advanced one? By advanced, I mean a track where lots of tracks belong in the same frequency range, where lots of instruments have to be panned, where each instrument somehow has its importance and can't be put in the background... etc.

This question implies several other ones like:

  • How do you blend together similar instruments without altering their individual tone
  • How do you use panning in a track where lots of instruments are present
  • How do you decide which instruments will have to stay behind in order to keep the mix clear and crisp

This might seem like an endless discussion but I'll still give it a shot, thanks for your input.

  • What's your question, exactly? Is it "What techniques do the pro's mainly use to get the nice tight sound they want?" – David Boshton Apr 22 '15 at 14:59
  • No, because I know how to mix a "simple" song that mostly contains the usual tracks I described earlier. My question would rather be, if we had to simplify: how do you mix a "complex" song that has a lot of tracks (which necessarily involves conflicts in terms of frequencies, panning, etc.). – morgi Apr 22 '15 at 15:07
  • It's all interleaved :-) – David Boshton Apr 22 '15 at 15:08
  • To answer bullet one: you don't. Alter their individual tone, that's part of the job/art. Overall, this book revolutionized my mixing: amazon.com/Mixing-Secrets-Small-Studio-Senior/dp/0240815807 – Todd Wilcox May 23 '15 at 19:10
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There is no right or wrongs when it comes to mixing. You probably heard this a million times but its the truth.

If you and me would listen to the same song we would both "hear" it differently. At the moment when sound gets translated into neural signals and sent through our brain its all up to perception, and that is something highly subjective.

If you like what you hear, someone else probably will too. So do not be afraid to experiment and find what you like, without considering if your method is correct or incorrect, advanced or simple.

The reason i repeat this is because i believe this to be the foundation of mixing. You might need strategies, technical tools and methods to reach your sonic goal, but in the end its all about what you like. Don't let your method stop you, instead use it to get what you like.

Instead of mentioning a few methods advance mixing engineers use, I will recommend you to check out the free mixing advice's at Grahams blog "The Recording Revolution". There you can find effective strategies to use while mixing, strategies that is used by advanced mixers everyday. He does a great jobb at explaining too, pedagogically.

The blog: http://therecordingrevolution.com/blog/

Hope this helps

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-seperational eq / multiband compression

-lots of panning (not sure what type of music you're mixing but if it has strings and orchestral instruments look up orchestral panning and stage positioning for panning guidelines)

-limiting frequencies in less important instruments (high and low pass filter can be used on pads to free up those frequencies for more important instruments)

-lots of automation for instruments during their featured moments

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The way to get an excellent sound stage is to make choices that musically work together. The first thing to think about is the arrangement, and what you want to convey. Should the drums be really loud in the mix? What should be leading? Should there always be a lead? What's driving the rhythm?

Once you know what it's supposed to sound like, start by putting things together, bringing things forward (louder) in the mix. Instruments that aren't driving the rhythm (like not the kick or bass) can be panned to add some space to the mix and lessen frequency conflicts. There's a mix (which I should find) of Joyful Joyful, where nothing is exactly in the centre apart from the lead vocal and it really brings the ear to focus on the voice in a way you don't often hear because of "the way things are done".

The pros will also separate out frequencies by applying subtle eq filtering and multi-band compression to avoid multiple parts fighting for the same space in the sound stage. Compression on various instruments can also make them blend in better, creating a tighter sound and a cleaner sound stage. I know this violates your desire not to change the tone of anything, but realistically you need to think about making everything sound good together, not each individual instrument on its own. Flour tastes rubbish on its own, but when you add eggs, fat, sugar and heat it can be quite nice.

Another technique to push things back in a mix is to add a small amount of reverb which has a delay of around 20 ms or so. Not enough to hear, but enough to make the ear think that the instrument is further back than before.

Ultimately you just need to experiment. Add in a technique at a time, get the most out of each technique that you can before adding in another one. You can do really nice mixes just with panning. This just takes time.

Does that make sense? Ultimately you need to experiment, in

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