A lot of people don’t really know how to mix and master their musical projects, so that most music producers continuously search for mastering tools.
I’ve wasted a lot of time mastering my projects, but I’ve also learned many things from these mistakes, and I want to share with you the knowledge that I’ve gathered.
The truth is that mastering and mastering tools are quite useful.
A friend of mine once told me that he was using iZotope Ozone 4.
He would simply insert iZotope Ozone 4, add some presets and boom!
The mastering was done! This is what he was saying:
“It’s very simple to master with iZotope Ozone! You simply insert it and you get a professional sound!”
Excuse me, but this is not mastering!
If you have a plug-in for saturation, limiter/compressor, etc. it’s definitely not enough.
How to master your projects?
Before giving you that answer I would like to tell you that mastering is useless as long as the mix is perfect.
As long as you have professional samples you don’t need to master the track.
If you already have an awesome track and you compress it you won’t improve it, quite the opposite.
The track was already balanced, and by adding a compressor you ruin it’s dynamic range.
There are a few ways to make your songs sound impeccable, but no music producer or sound engineer will tell you this.
This is a secret that not even Google can unravel, so pay attention, because what I’m going to tell you might change the way you interact with music.
I know what you might be thinking.
You are sceptical, probably you don’t believe me or you think that I’m telling you lies.
Believe me, I was in the same situation.
There were many things about music that I didn’t believe which turned out to be true.
Here is how to mix your musical projects
There are a few tips that will make your songs better.
If you have been following this blog, you have already read a previous article in which I told you 5 ways of balancing your sound.
I admit that my approach was a bit vague because I didn’t go in detail, so this time I’ll do my best so that you could understand these things better.
So the first tip is to use timbres or sound shapes that are as tight as possible. What do I mean by tight?
To be more explicit I will show you a few images.
In the first image you can see a “tight”, leveled timbre. Have you noticed it?
The harmonics are very leveled, so that the sound passes from one to another very smoothly.
This is very important, because tight timbres won’t sound bad, worst case scenario they will sound artificial, synthetic, empty, etc, but at least they won’t be unpleasant for the ears.
The timbres that are composed of smooth passes aren’t as picky, they are ideal for beginners.
If you want your projects to sound better you can use this trick.
Do you remember what did the compression do?
It levels the timbre and the sound spectre.
In other words it reduces the power of the transients (transients being the highlighted sounds like the drums).
The transients are the frequencies which are above the average sound level for a short period of time, which makes them sound more powerfully.
Ok, so now you know what a transient is, and why leveled timbres are easier to make to sound better.
I would like to add something as a little introduction for the next section of this article.
Have you noticed that the world in which we live is made up of small things?
The atoms, the molecules compose the ‘analogue’ world in which we live, like a matrix.
Also, the human body is made of trillions of cells, so are the plants and the animals.
Everything in this world is made of small things!
Where am I going with this?
A song is made of thousands of frequencies, each interacting with each other.
When you are listening to a song this is what you hear, thousands of frequencies, which put together compose your favourite songs.
Everything is made of small units which work together to make something bigger.
Let’s return to music. As I was saying, the frequencies are continuously interacting with each other.
If you are using timbres which have big distances between their harmonics it won’t sound as good as it would if you would use tighter harmonics.
How does this kind of timbre look?
I’ve attached 2 images in which you can see these things clearly:
And here is a better example:
Now, do you think that these types of timbres will sound bad? Not necessarily!
In fact, they can be made to sound even better, but you need to apply some unconventional methods.
They are a bit more complex, so we will aproach them in some future articles.
When I realised that I’m depending on other people’s presets and sound libraries I started learning how to make my own.
And I keep trying until I managed to make them.
I could say that I was a rebel.
I preferred following my own vision, and I didn’t regret it at all!
This is what made me become so good at creating my own sound libraries.
I’m an unconventional, nonconformist person that continuously searches for something better.
I don’t like banalities and other small things in music. I prefer looking after the truly important stuff.
How to mix #2 – reduce the power of the high frequencies!
If you have been making music, you probably know that there are much more high frequencies than medium or low.
The “warmth” in a song is given by the medium and high frequencies.
How are the high frequencies different from the medium ones?
The high frequencies have more vibrations per second, which makes them denser, and more “stable”.
Let’s look at the following images:
I guess you’ve noticed the difference between the first and the second sinusoid, the one having less cycles than the second one.
The high frequencies have more energy, thus they need to be damped.
You can also reduce their duration to reduce their energy.
There is an algorithm which helps you to do this properly, which I’ve used so many times and it works, but lately I haven’t used it, at least not for my latest sounds.
I used it just as a caution, to see if my theory was good or not. I don’t recommend using math in your projects.
They will make you limit yourself.
It should be used just as a way of verifying that what you are doing is right.
Here is the golden rule: the higher a frequency is, the more it should be dampened.
The higher the volume of a frequency is, the shorter it’s duration should be.
The most important tool is your ear.
If you’ve made a sound shorter and your ear still tells you that it’s not pleasant you should make it even shorter.
If it sounds good, then let it as it is, or refine it if you want a different result.
A sound engineer once told me that “In mixing you shouldn’t rely as much on math.
You should rely only on what you hear.” He was right, and his advice helped me a lot.
How to mix #3: Use dissonance!
If you’ve watched tutorials on YouTube, I’m certain that you saw many people using this method, but not as much as they could have, and I will explain why shortly.
Before I do that, I would like to tell you what is this dissonance.
If I play the note A (La) then I will produce a sound that vibrates at 440 Hz.
If I add a second sinusoid of 445 Hz, then I get a little dissonance.
The thing is that this shouldn’t be used on medium frequencies, only high one, but make sure to not over do it.
Have you ever used reFX Nexus? If yes, then you probably noticed that some of the leads had too much dissonance.
Look in the “Dance Leads” category in the Default preset pack of reFX Nexus.
The dissonance should not be bigger than 30-35% of a semitone, or it will sound awful.
You will get a fat and unpleasant sound.
Did you know that Sytrus have some sounds made like this called “Fat Saws”?
They are terrible, and I would never use them.
In Toxic Biohazard you can clearly see how to set this dissonance.
I’ve highlighted it with red, those that have the “Detuned” label under them.
The fact that we were talking about ways to balance the sound and I’m talking about dissonance is a bit funny, isn’t it?
Don’t be confused, the method is very good if used properly!
You will expand the stereo field of a sound, and you will make it feel more extensive.
To make you understand better this method I’ve attached 2 sound samples.
The first without dissonance and the second with.
Here they are:
Sound without dissonance:
Sound with dissonance:
Ok, so this is pretty much all I had to say about the dissonance for now.
How to mix your project #4
The dissonance is one thing, but varying the height of a note is something else.
Your purpose is to reduce the power of the high frequencies, to make them vary as volume, to reduce their density.
The high sinusoids need a lot of variation, no matter if it’s volume variation or height variation.
The ideea is that they shouldn’t stay in place.
The next method I want to present you is the concept of frozen sinusoid!
What is a frozen sinusoid?
A frozen sinusoid is a frequency that doesn’t change in the mix. Be very careful!
This is the biggest mistake you can make!
Do not leave a sound fixed! Always make it to vary, in any way possible.
This is the only way it will sound better!
You’ve probably heard of tremolo before. It’s that effect used on the sound that makes it’s height vary.
Some people say that is a guitar effect, but I say that it can be a very good way of balancing the sound.
Here is how this tremolo sounds:
Another way of varying the height of the sound is the glide time.
A simple trick that makes the sound better. I’m certain that I’ve spoken about it before.
The glide time is represented by the slide between two notes.
The faster the slide, the harder it will be to notice it.
If you increase the glide time, you will certainly hear it better
Here is a clear example of how the glide time affects the sound:
Glide time – 0%
Glide time – 30%
Glide time 60%
Now you know how to vary the height of your sounds.
This is another method of making your sounds feel more realistic.
In nature, the sounds vary very much.
You rarely will find “frozen frequencies”.
The sounds produced by old instruments have very much variation and warmth.
We can learn from them things that synths don’t have.
Ok, so until now you’ve learned a lot of things, and I don’t believe that you need any recap.
I’m sorry if you want to leave, but I would like you to read just a bit more, I’m almost done.
I’m pretty sure that you know the next method, but most producers aren’t realising that they are using it.
Do you know what I’m talking about?
How to mix #5 – Add White Noise
The next method that I’m going to present you is the white noise.
A sound that is so complex, and can be used in so many domains.
In order to make a good track you need to fill the sound spectre, and the best way of covering those empty frequencies is by using the white noise.
The white noise is a fabric of sinusoids with random signals.
Be careful not to use too much white noise, or you will dampen the other elements!
Now I will show you how the white noise changes the perception of the track:
Sound without white noise:
Sound with white noise:
The thing is that the white noise doesn’t colour the timbre.
It’s completely transparent, it makes the song sound better without adding transients or other frequencies.
It’s an excellent alternative to mastering your songs.
I’ve told you from the beginning that tight timbres can’t sound bad.
This applies to white noise as well, even though it’s not a harmonic texture, being much more complex.
Here is a visual representation of the white noise:
Do you remember how did old TV sets react when they weren’t receiving any signal?
Black dots would appear on the screen moving randomly, and you would hear a continuous hiss. This is an example of white noise.
These were the 5 methods of balancing the sound.
If you’ve read all the way here, then allow me to congratulate you, and as a present I will give you my collection of electro house leads.
Imagine if you could create any sound that you need, how would it be?
Your creativity wouldn’t be limited any more. I will elaborate more in future articles.
Until next time good luck finding your inspiration.
Read carefully and learn at your own pace, don’t hurry, you will get it.
Now, before you go I would like to ask you, how did these methods of balancing the sound help you?
Please leave a reply in the comment section below!