4 Powerful Mixing Techniques To Help Take Your Music To The Next Level

Here are a few techniques for aiding mix decisions in poor acoustic environments. It goes without saying your ears have the final say, but a little technological help goes a long way.  

Shane is an SAE certified audio engineer, sound designer, composer, and audio consultant. Working with Tokyo based media agency Ultrasupernew and creative game agency Playbrain, he creates audio for TV, music and sound for product launch events, and web audio content for major multinational firms such as Red Bull, SuperCell, Heineke... Read More

Discussion

Arno
Hi, great article! But is it possible you explain a little bit more about the pink nice mixing. It looks like the article only talks about setting up, not the real mixing process. Cheers!
Shane Berry
Hi Arno, thanks for the kind words,

Basically, this technique uses a pink noise reference level so that you can have an objective noise/audio level to mix against. This eliminates the tendency for your levels to rise as you slowly nudge all elements up in gain to set their place in the mix. It happens to the best of us...

Set up the pink noise reference level as described in the article (in mono or stereo, I work with stereo, others may use mono).

The pink noise reference level can be whatever you like, I used K-14 as an example because that leaves a decent amount of headroom for processing/mastering.

With the pink noise switched on and calibrated to your desired RMS reference level (K-14; LUFS; DBFS*; etc), solo one music element at a time and play it through the pink noise.

It takes a bit of getting used to, but after a while you will get a sense of when a sound is “over” or “under” the pink noise. Mixing is to taste, so there are no magic numbers here.

For example, solo the kick, pull it’s level down to zero gain and then slowly feed the kick into the pink noise until you hear it.

Once you are happy the kick is sitting well within the pink noise, solo the bass and repeat the process, then solo each element until they are mixed relative to the pink noise.

Switch off the pink noise, un-solo everything and listen to the balance of the whole mix.

Now play the whole mix through the pink noise and you may notice some sounds are too low and lost in the noise, and some are standing out too much, adjust each as necessary.

Rinse and repeat.

Of course you will have to fine tune the mix further using your ears - this is not a magic bullet - but besides experienced ears, I have yet to find another technique that gives such a reliable, objective guide to levelling all elements in a mix.

Note: the term reference level is important - use it sparingly, as a check, not a rule.

I hope that helps explain a bit more.

*If you are more serious about levels, look into the various professional loudness standards and see which one suits your needs.

For TV and broadcast, levels at -23 LUFS are standard (and law depending on your country), and for film, a calibrated monitor level of 85dB SPL** is the reference level used in big studios, and 79 dB SPL is used in small/home studios.

Youtube normalizes loudness levels to +/-13 LUFS on most music videos. And Apple seem to have settled on -16LUFS for iTunes radio and Sound Check in iTunes itself.

**A calibrated monitor system at 85 dB SPL means that when you play a pink noise reference level through your system (one speaker at a time) at -20dBFS you will get a slow, C weighted SPL measurement at your listening position of 85 or 79 dB SPL (My home studio is roughly calibrated to 79 dB.)

- Shane
Arno
Thanks Shane for the extensive reply! Keep up the good work!

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