Mixing Techniques - How Do You Approach Your Mix ?

Discussion in 'Mixing & Song Critique' started by Sean G, Feb 8, 2016.


Mixing Techniques - How do you approach your mix ?

  1. I start with the drum tracks first, add bass tracks, add guitar tracks, then add vocal tracks

  2. I start with the vocal tracks, then add drum tracks, add bass tracks, then add guitars

    0 vote(s)
  3. I put all my tracks into the KitchenAid blender and press start

  4. What is this mixing business you speak of ?...are we making cocktails here ???

    0 vote(s)
  1. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member

    Jul 27, 2015
    Sydney, Australia
    I know this has been covered here on RO in a previous thread "How Do You Mix?", but I thought it would be an interesting discussion to have again as the previous thread dates from 2001.

    It would be interesting to hear from members on their style of mixing and the different techniques we use.

    Do you mix from the bottom up, starting from drum tracks and bass tracks, then adding guitar and other tracks, thereby allowing space for your vocal tracks, then bring your vocal mix in over the top ?


    Do you mix from the top down, getting a nice vocal mix happening first, then bringing in your drum tracks, bass tracks then guitar tracks and any additional instruments to suit the level of your vocal mix ?...

    It would be good to hear how everyone approaches their mix, the different techniques we use and what we each do differently to get to our end goal. I'm sure this will make an interesting discussion, whether we mix in mono or stereo, and at what point we like to start introducing EQ, compression and different effects into the mix along the way. Do you have a set procedure you follow at all times ?...a step-by-step approach or a template thats' tried and tested ?...or do you approach each mix on its own merits ?
    Do you mix ITB, mix OTB or a combination of both ?

    Share your thoughts.....the lines are open....lets get this discussion underway !

    - Sean.
  2. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    Jan 23, 2010
    Boulder, Colorado
    Home Page:
    Kick/snare/lead vocal first, then bass, then fit everything else around that skeleton.

    Mixing live tracks is a different beast. You generally have to start with the tracks with the most bleed and work back to the most isolated tracks. If you start with the isolated tracks then their tone will change when you add the tracks with bleed.
    Kurt Foster likes this.
  3. thatjeffguy

    thatjeffguy Active Member

    Oct 31, 2009
    Vashon Island, Washington
    Home Page:
    I have all channels up from the beginning, then address things that aren't fitting right with everything else. I'm a huge believer that 90% of a good mix is accomplished in tracking... proper mic selection, placement and gain staging, and since I personally track everything I mix, I've already accomplished a whole lot by the time it's time to do the final mix.
    Typically the things that I do early on is sort out panning and reverb... placing each sound in its own position on the sound stage. Then, as necessary, I will solo certain tracks to hear what exactly is going on causing it to not fit properly with the others. I will address dynamics and EQ in the context of the whole mix.
    Keep in mind that I specialize exclusively in acoustic music... no VSTi instruments, samples or loops. Everything is tracked from organic instruments that actually vibrate air! The exception is the occasional keyboard. Only about one-third of the time are there drums involved, much of what I record is Singer-Songwriter, Celtic and Folk with relatively simple arrangements. So perhaps my challenge in mixing is not so great as other's may be.
    Personally, I absolutely love mixing, it's where I get to express myself artistically. To me, tracking is craft, but mixing is art!
    Good topic!
  4. Aaron

    Aaron Active Member

    Jan 19, 2015
    Providence, Rhode Island
    Thanks for posting this topic. Although I'm not multi-tracking electric yet, I'm looking forward to read about different genres and approaches to mixing, and I'm sure we'll all have something new to think about with our techniques, somehow.

    I'm recording acoustic too (Classical, Celtic, Bluegrass) and agree with you Jeff, in that it's 'best' strive to capture a sound that's as close as possible to the final result before starting to mix everything. Also regarding the panning, reverb, etc - I recently helped an engineer set up and record multiple tracks for an orchestra and he made a second copy for me to play with in Logic. He also recommended the panning as you do and it just makes complete sense with this type of recording, to put each track in the mix where the mics are directed initially. I mean, there's a reason why we put them there in the first place,right!

  5. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Nov 25, 2012
    Akron/Cleveland, OH
    Home Page:
    I never mix the same way, because each song is different. I'll often start with the vocal first, but as soon as I say that, I think to the times where I've started with acoustic guitar or piano, so go figure. ;)
  6. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member

    Jul 27, 2015
    Sydney, Australia
    Its great to have a good mix (pardon the pun;)) of responses to how we each approach the mixing stage.

    I like to start getting a good solid kick and snare going, then add my bass tracks, then my guitar tracks and other instrument tracks then get my vocal tracks going.

    I know that adding the vocals last you need to be mindful of the levels of your instrument tracks, other wise vocals can get lost in the mix and you can find yourself having to carve out track volumes of other tracks.

    Donny I was always of the opinion that the vocals should come first and I used to mix that way to avoid squashing my vocals with instrument tracks, setting the vocal tracks first so that they were central to track volume levels.

    I also like to get a good mix going in mono with all my levels adjusted before I start to add any EQ or compression or any other effects, then adjust any levels to suit.

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