1. Create Separation/Placement Using Equalisation
Each sound in your mix will sit within a certain range in the frequency spectrum. It’s useful to always remember and consider this when mixing. If there are two sounds that cross over or occupy the same area in the frequency spectrum, it is not always a bad thing. Their interaction can even be beneficial. However, problems can begin to arise once two prominent sounds at the forefront of the mix begin to jostle for the same spot in the frequency spectrum. This could be the lead vocal and a synth hook for example. Or commonly in Drum & Bass: elements of Drums (such as Hi-Hats) clashing with Resonant Tones/High Frequencies in Bass/Synth/Vocal parts. An adjustment using EQ can effectively separate the sounds and solve this problem. Alternatively, you can look to making an adjustment in the Stereo Field to separate the two sounds. To help identify frequency clashing you can use a frequency analyser or an EQ with a visual display on all of your channels as you go. Try to keep an eye out for when two parts are sitting in the same band, then review how they are interacting and take steps to solve the problem from there.
2. Create Separation/Placement Using The Stereo Field
One of the key ways to separate sounds that are clashing is by using the Stereo Field. Applying panning or widening FX such as Sample Delay, Stereo Delay or Reverb will effectively separate two sounds and help eliminate clashing. Do not rely too heavily on this technique though, as it can negatively affect how well your mix translates to mono if you place too much in the stereo field. Imaging plugins can indicate the activity of the stereo field in your mix.
3. Improve Vocal Clarity Using Dynamic FX Processing
Applying a DeEsser to eliminate problematic sibilance will help to clean up a vocal and make it sound smoother and clearer. Applying compression will help to stabilise a vocals volume level and keep it consistent and loud at a level the listener expects. There is always space for creativity in the mixing process and Dynamics processing is no exception. Consider adopting Sidechain Compression to create some movement between the vocal and the Drums – sidechaining the vocal to the kick is a popular technique and can even be a pleasing and unique effect with extreme settings. Heavy compression settings applied via a send can introduce some pleasurable distortion effects when overdriven – if the heavier distorted vocal is not what you are going for, this technique can also help to give presence and power to a Vocal with lighter settings. Placing reverb on a send will allow you to sidechain the wet signal to the vocal signal itself, reducing the reverb volume when the vocal is playing – this can help clear up a vocals clarity and keep it powerful and centred.
4. Use Saturation & EQ To Add Power
The Classic Breaks are a mainstay in Drum & Bass production. When working with them it’s important to remember the following: Many of the Classic Breaks were recorded a long time ago using Vintage Analogue Equipment that attenuates higher frequencies. It’s easy to see this high-frequency attenuation on a frequency analyser plugin – it will be clear that the high end has been reduced as a result of the vintage recording equipment. Each situation will be unique and you will have to evaluate what FX may be able to improve the sound of the break, consider applying either a High Shelf EQ boost or saturation to introduce new harmonics and help to fill out more of the frequency spectrum. Sometimes that vintage classic raw sound is desirable so you might want to leave them alone. However, if you are looking for a cleaner and more powerful modern sound whilst still using a classic break, the two tips can go a long way in improving their strength.
5. Perfect How The Kick And Bass Interact
When mixing Dance Music, the low frequencies are very important to get right. First, you need to ensure that everything below ~ 100Hz is in mono. In the context of Drum & Bass: The bass plays a pivotal central role in a track and mixing decisions made regarding it can truly make or break a track’s vibe. The kick drum will likely sit in the same area as your Bass sounds. As mentioned before, frequency clashing is a problem. Having the two of them playing at once will likely introduce phasing issues. These are better off avoided.
There are two key approaches to perfecting the Kick and Bass interaction:
- Sidechain your Sub Bass to the KickThe idea here is that when the Kick plays, the volume of the Bass is muted/reduced drastically so that they don’t ever play together or introduce Phasing. When applied correctly it shouldn’t even be noticeable to the listener.
- Make sure the Kick sits outside of the Sub Bass FrequenciesYou might make the creative decision of using a light Kick that naturally sits outside of the Sub Bass frequencies in your track and so naturally avoids Phasing. This is a technique Drum & Bass producers might use when working with a powerful Reese Bass for example which sounds great just left to dominate the lower frequencies on its own.
6. Introduce Excitement And Detail
Electronically produced music can begin to sound synthetic and devoid of the intricacies and complexity of sound found in the real world. In a club environment, the listener is not going to be as tuned in to the finer details of your composition. However, in the home listening environment, the details matter much more. Layering Foley and Textures into your track is a powerful technique for adding detail and your own unique signature to your work. It can help add more presence across areas of the frequency spectrum that are lacking in your mix. It can also transform and bring static dead-sounding Drums to life!
7. Use A Variety Of Reference Tracks From Multiple Genres
Using a reference track is essential during the mix-down process. Without one, you are far more prone to going down strange rabbit holes and wandering off with the levels and placements of instruments. This can ruin a mix! Many Producers use a track from the genre they are creating and immersed in as their reference. This is great and it’s what you should do. Our tip here is to expand on this: consider looking toward other dance music genres and use multiple reference tracks during your mixdowns. When selecting reference tracks it’s important to consider the following: What are the lead characteristics of your track and what do you want in the centre stage? From this, you will be able to categorise the track as being Vocal-Led for example. So in this case, select a reference track that is also Vocal-Led.