10 Quick Production Tips | #10
1. Tighter bass guitar
If you've got a bass guitar with loose sounding sub frequencies that you need to tighten up, cut them out with a high pass filter, then run the signal into a bass enhancer plugin like RBass or Maxxbass. Use this to put the sub frequencies back in. Often, the synthesised low end will be tighter than what you had before
2. De-ess manually
When you’re working on vocals, always de-ess them manually before you decide to use a de-esser plugin. To do this, either automate the clip gain or put a gain plugin at the start of your processing and automate the level on there every time there’s an excessing piece of sibilance or plosive. The result will be far cleaner than just using a plugin.
3. Don’t make everything sound exciting
If every element of your mix is sculpted to sound big and exciting, nothing will. There needs to be contrast. Some elements need to intentionally sound a bit thin, dull or pushed back to make the key parts stand out and sound huge. Instead of making everything sound super impressive in solo, focus on creating contrast, space and depth across the whole mix.
4. Mix as quickly as you can
The more time you spend mixing a song, the more you lose your perspective and intentionality. To make sure you’re moving fast, use templates, save your own presets, colour code your tracks and don’t use too many plugins - limit yourself a little.
5. Align your backing vocals to the lead
If you’ve got a song full of harmonies and doubles, make sure you align them with the lead vocal. The best way to do this is with Flex-Time (in Logic), Elastic Audio (in Pro Tools) or whatever your DAW’s version of this is called. Place your backing vocal next to the lead and use the markers to stretch it in line with the lead, making sure all phrases and words start and end at the same time. You can also do this manually through simple cut and slide editing, but it requires a really tight performance.
6. Don’t be afraid to use a limiter instead of a compressor
We’re often told that limiters are just for mastering, but if you’re trying to really tame the dynamics of something in your mix, a limiter knocking off 2-3db can often sound better than a compressor that might need to do double the gain reduction to get you into the ballpark. I often use a limiter on my vocal bus to catch peaks and really pull all of my vocals together!
7. Use mono reverbs
Often we default to using expansive, stereo reverbs that fill a big space in the mix. However, with too many of these the mix can quickly become clouded and drowned in reverb. If this is happening to you, try switching some of them to mono so that they take up less space. Once you’ve done this, you can even try panning them to create some interesting textures in your mix!
8. dB Meter app
We all know that mixing too loudly can not only damage your hearing, but will also skew your perception of what you’re hearing. But how can we make sure we’re not going too loud? A great way is with the free dB Meter app for iPhone. Download it, set it to read dB-C and make sure you’re not going above 85db in a larger room, or 75db in a smaller room. Check this regularly to be safe and improve your mixes!
9. Keep that snare centred
If you look at a drum kit face on, or from the drummers perspective, the snare is always slightly off centre. This makes some musicians believe they should pan the snare in the mix to replicate this, which quickly leads to a slightly disjointed, awkward drum sound. To keep it sounding punchy and modern, make sure your snare is straight down the middle.
10. Free plugin - Tape Cassette 2
Finally, here’s a free plugin that I love! Tape Cassette 2 is an audio plugin that emulates the warmth, noise and character of old tape cassettes. You can get really experimental with this and make otherwise bland production elements like guitars and pianos sound really interesting and engaging in a fun, lo-fi way. Check it out here!