beat mixing 101 5.30.02

aiight first thing you gotta know before you start this process is that it takes a while... almost 2 hours, but the results are worth the effort. also, i am writing this from a fruity loops standpoint, it can be done with hardware beats as well.

alright whatever type of beat your making, it is going to need some essential mixing done to it, as well as a final mastering. and the first thing you need to know is that the 3 most important tools for mixing are these with definition.

compressor - this is basically like putting a ceiling over the track. it raises certain frequencies that are too quiet, and lowers ones that are too loud. it can help with alot of things. such as evening out frequencies so they don't get all cluttered and make your track sound muddy. it also can add a bassy warmth to instruments. it is good for giving it more volume without raising the volume and make your track peak out. if you have a heavy flanger or phaser on an instrument or anything a compressor can come in very handy. have you ever noticed how when it is heavily phased/flanged with feedback it tends to raise parts way to loud. a compressor can take care of that. it is a very very handy tool and a very essential tool, yet fruity loops does not come with one. luckily cool edit pro does.

normalizing - this is basically the volume control. it is metered out by either decible format or percentage format. personally i use the percentage because it is a little easier to visualize how loud it is going to be. now this is hard to judge at how loud a certain instrument should be. and it varys from sample to sample from track to track. for drums i always keep in mind the kick should be louder than the bass like say a bassline is set at 30%, you would set the kick at 80% to 90%. because the kick won't dominate the track like the bass will. and the snare should be under personal preference usually i keep it the same as the kick or a little louder. strings vary as well, it depends on how you want it to stand out. if it is intended to be more backround i keep it about 10% louder than the bass. and if it is stand out keep it about 20% - 40% underneath the drums.

equalizer - this is by far one of the most essential and basic tools of making a track, mixing and mastering wise. it is used to raise or lower certain frequencies. say if you want more bass in your track, you would raise the low end from about 60 Hz to 250Hz is the normal range for bass. here is a (general speaking) chart for what frequencies contain what and how they can improve your track.

Instrument Frequency ranges To understand EQ and its intricacies you need hands-on experience, but to help you get started, here's a table of general uses and the different ranges that EQ can affect. As every sound is different, though, these are necessarily very general guidelines...

Kick Drum
Any apparent muddiness can be rolled off around 300Hz. Try a small boost around 5-7kHz to add some high end.

Freq Effect
50-100Hz Adds bottom to the sound
100-250Hz Adds roundness
250-800Hz Muddiness Area
5-8kHz Adds high end prescence
8-12kHz Adds Hiss

Snare
Try a small boost around 60-120Hz if the sound is a little too wimpy. Try boosting around 6kHz for that 'snappy' sound.

Freq Effect
100-250Hz Fills out the sound
6-8kHz Adds prescence

Hi hats or cymbals
Any apparent muddiness can be rolled off around 300Hz. To add some brightness try a small boost around 3kHz.

Freq Effect
250-800HzMuddiness area
1-6kHz Adds presence
6-8kHz Adds clarity
8-12kHz Adds brightness

Bass
Try boosting around 60Hz to add more body. Any apparent muddiness can be rolled off around 300Hz.If more presence is needed, boost around 6kHz.

Freq Effect
50-100Hz Adds bottom end
100-250HzAdds roundness
250-800HzMuddiness Area
800-1kHz Adds beef to small speakers
1-6kHz Adds presence
6-8kHz Adds high-end presence
8-12kHz Adds hiss

Vocals
This is a difficult one, as it depends on the mic used to record the vocal. However... Apply either cut or boost around 300hz, depending on the mic and song. Apply a very small boost around 6kHz to add some clarity.

Freq Effect
100-250HzAdds 'up-frontness'
250-800HzMuddiness area
1-6kHz Adds presence
6-8kHz Adds sibilance and clarity
8-12kHz Adds brightness

Piano
Any apparent muddiness can be rolled off around 300Hz. Apply a very small boost around 6kHz to add some clarity.

Freq Effect
50-100Hz Adds bottom
100-250Hz Adds roundness
250-1kHz Muddiness area
1-6kHz Adds presence
6-8Khz Adds clarity
8-12kHz Adds hiss

Electric guitars Again this depends on the mix and the recording. Apply either cut or boost around 300hz, depending on the song and sound. Try boosting around 3kHz to add some edge to the sound, or cut to add some transparency. Try boosting around 6kHz to add presence. Try boosting around 10kHz to add brightness.

Freq Effect
100-250Hz Adds body
250-800Hz Muddiness area
1-6Khz Cuts through the mix
6-8kHz Adds clarity
8-12kHz Adds hiss

Acoustic guitar
Any apparent muddiness can be rolled off between 100-300Hz. Apply small amounts of cut around 1-3kHz to push the image higher. Apply small amounts of boost around 5kHz to add some presence.

Freq Effect
100-250Hz Adds body
6-8kHz Adds clarity
8-12kHz Adds brightness

Strings
These depend entirely on the mix and the sound used.

Freq Effect
50-100Hz Adds bottom end
100-250Hz Adds body
250-800Hz Muddiness area
1-6hHz Sounds crunchy
6-8kHz Adds clarity
8-12kHz Adds brightness and that is the simple jist of it. equalizing is a very common way of taking out unneccessary sounds and noises in a sample. say if there is a hiss in a bass sample. you would take out all the high ends and mids.

there are alot of tools used while mixing but those are the most important ones. other ones that are used include reverb, chorus/flange, pan/fade, stereo expander, delay, etc. a reverb is good to use on drums depending on the sound of everything. flange and chorus is good to expand the noise and give it a more three dimensional sound. pan can be used to give your track a more awake sound for the listener. fade is mainly used to fade the track in and out, or you can do an envelope and mess with the attack, sustain, and release. stereo expander can be good for seperating and making an instrument stand out alot more, these effects are hard to find though. delay - well i'm sure you know what a delay is, (an echo).

now to start mixing your beat. first you have to seperate your beat into sections, i'd say the drums (without the hihats, just kicks and snares) -> bassline -> hi sounding instruments -> mid sounding instruments -> low sounding instruments. just like that. save em seperate. save em at 44100 Hz, 16 (or 32) bit, stereo wav or 256 kbps, 16 (or 32) bit mp3. i recommend wav, mp3 tends to add unwanted noise and can morph the quality to sound really shitty.

now that you have saved all your parts seperatly go into cool edit and open up one of your patterns, i usually go drums first. now when you open drums i would do some equalizing. and equalizing can make or break your track. and if over-done can really suck the juice out of the track. so i'd recommend this for a starter equalizing preset. go to the parametric equalizer* by going into [transform -> filters -> parametric equalizer]. then select the preset called "loudness". this is used to turn the low end up a little louder, and the higher end to be turned up, where as the mids stay the same, and in some cases turned down a little bit. now press ok.

* parametric equalizer and graphic equalizer are two seperate types of eq. a parametric eq is like a magnafying glass. it is used to point out certain frequency ranges and you can really zoom in or zoom out on the frequency, where as a regular graphic equalizer specify's general frequencies.

you will notice your drum track will have gone up quite a bit in volume. and has a little more bass feel, with a little more snappy snare drum. but by now your drum track is probably peaking out. which you want to avoid at all cost. but don't worry about that right as of now.

now you want to compress to make sure no frequencies are hogging up the track to give it a muddy sound. so go into [transform->amplitude->dynamics processing]. and here it is your compresser. now don't worry about that little yellow line, that is just helping you by giving a visual by the intensity (or ratio) of the compressor. first you will set your threshold which helps by pointing out where you want that ceiling i mentioned before to be set. now for drums i would recommend you expirement from -3 db to -10 db. because it depends on what your drums actually sound like. now to set the ratio, this determins the intensity of the compressor, how much you want it to even the frequencies out. for drums the ratio needs to be pretty high, because drums take up alot of your mix. so i would recommend for a ratio of 4:1 to 8:1. depending once again on the sound of the drums. you can find both the ratio setting and the threshold setting in the tab labeled "traditional". for the ratio, put it where it has the number, just put between 4 or 8, and for the threshold it is right next to it.

now for what you beatmakers should be familiar with is attack and release. this determins how fast you want your compressor to reach its full state of compression (attack) and how fast you want it to go back to the original uncompressed form (release). you can find the attack and release settings under the tab labeled "attack/release", duh. on drums of course, it would need to be pretty quick, but you want the initial sound to come through uncompressed. so set the attack at 1ms. now you want the release too, so set it at 50ms. and from there you hit ok.

you will notice the loudness of the overall track has gone down. so you have 2 choices here. you can eq again, or if you like the sound of it then you can just go ahead and normalize. if you equalize again i'd go to [transform->filters->graphic equalizer] and would raise the high ends just a little bit. from about 1k up. and that is all you should worry about. because the bass is prolly up enough. then worry about normalizing. and it is all gonna depend on how loud you want your drums. i usually go with 70% - 90%. so in order to normalize you goto [transform->amplify->normalize] make sure where it says "normalize to" and "normalize l/r equally" are the only ones check. then type in your percentage how loud you want your drums to be.

aiight lets review all that.

first equalize [transform->filters->parametric equalizer] then select loudness hit "ok". compress [transform->amplify->dynamics processing] 4:1 to 8:1 ratio, -3 to -10 db, 1ms attack, 50ms release equalize (optional) [transform->filters->graphic equalizer] 1k and up normalize [transform->amplify->normalize] 70% - 90%

now that is the basic mixing. this all right here will make your shit be way better sounding. but notice that sometimes drums come already compressed and don't necessarely need it. and if you don't like the way that compression sounds over it then you can switch around some numbers or 86 the compression, but i do recommend compression highly.

now that i pretty much walked you through the basics of mixing a drumline, i am gonna throw in some extra pointers and other techniques you can expiriment with. and i will also explain how to mix a bass line so that it doesn't dominate the whole track but will spider web all your windows.

and now that you know where every effect is, and how to do the basics of it i am gonna start taking this a little quicker here.

on instruments you may compress, but not too heavily, i'd recommend 2:1, 5ms 50 ms, -8 threshold. this will give alot of your melody a more rich, filled out sound

a good tip i have found on sampling kicks and such if you are looking for a more spacious, windy sound raise from about 8K up about 5 db, this will add a little static and give it a more filled out sound. i have found that alot of basses that i have eq'd in the past just have to much of a low end and not enough of anything else, causing the bass to seperate itself from the track a little to much.

a good effect for expanding stereo is flanging. if you are looking to expand your track, i'd recommend flanging your snares lightly. actually very lightly, with little delay and little feedback. and after you flange add a light reverb to fill out the sound a little more. but do the reverb after you flange so you don't flange the reverb. take the wet down to about 2% - 7%. don't make it very heavy on the snare.

but a heavy reverb on certain instruments can make a track sound beautiful. a heavy reverb on strings and pizzicato's can really tone up a track. also a nice reverb on piano's can fill out the track nicely.

when you are sampling make sure both ends are smoothed out, unless you want a really choppy sound. even smoothing the beginning and ends can still give you a nice choppy without the extra clicks and pops. to do this i just highlight a very small portion of the beginning of the sample, then goto transform>amplify>amplify and select "fade in". this is like adjusting the attack, but i like using cool edit for this, so i get a nice visual of what is going on. and do the same at the end except choose "fade out". and after you fade out put a little reverb on, and it smooth out the fade and fill out the sound nicely.

panning can be effective in tracks to almost wake the listener up. it is almost like spotlighting the sound. but don't use it too often. only on a sound or two. i used to pan about every instrument but the bass, kick, and snare, and it just gets really old and repeptitive so use this effect very very sparingly.

panning can be effective on bass as well. i saw this tip from eternity a while ago from ee.com and i've heard it helps alot. duplicate the bassline so there is 2 different ones, and pan one about 80% to the left, and the other 80% to the right. but make sure they match perfect, so it is an evened out sound. you may just want to wait till you get to cool edit and do it in there. just double up the bass then on one go to transform -> amplify -> amplify, then select type 80% for the left, and on the other bass 80% for the right.

the usual sequence for a beat is a 4 line intro -> 16 line verse -> 8 line chorus -> 16 line verse -> 8 line chorus -> 16 line verse -> 16 line chorus -> 8 line outro. but mix it up, inbetween the second chorus and the 3rd verse put a 8 line switch up, switch the drums, bassline, melody whatever, maybe all three. this can really make a sound stand out, or switch up between the first chorus, and second verse too. if you ever listen to rock songs listen to the sequencing on that. people like different parts in a beat. cuts, switches, solo's, mixing, drops and builds like techno. people just like that .

and normalizing is tough, and different on every track. but if you are planning on having vocals is to make sure that mid sounds are turned down a little bit. i've rapped over alot of beats that just make it impossible to find right volumes and eqing on because there is a constant mid sound that just overides lyrics. make your beats a little more emcee friendly. lol.

mastering is tough but a good general mastering is using "t-racks" and use the preset "suite - gentle master 1". i will write a beat mastering tutorial sometime in the near future. so be on the lookout.

well that is it for mixing a beat right now. if i get any updates i will drop em. i'm tired.

so in conclusion mixing can make or break a track. and in most cases i get complaints about distorting bass and highs. when all it is is taking a little time to mix your shit. this is about a 2 hour process, but professional sound engineers can spend weeks on a track. every track is different, and is very tough to get the right level on every individual sound. you will hear a song where a snare and kick are over riding all the instruments, then hear a track where a guitar is the main focal point and is over everything. people say vocals make or break a song. but without a good beat with nice mixing, vocals don't do shit. so take your time, it takes me about a week on average to create, mix, and master a beat. but the outcome usually pleases me and other people. so if none of this is to your liking it was because that is my process, not john q. public's. but hopefully i gave you a general idea of how every effect for mixing works. if you have questions email me.

 

 

 

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