how to mix music

Lets get prepared to discover how to mix music.

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In my opinion, this is the most crucial part of learning how to mix music. Understanding these concepts was part of my mixing discoveries.



Lets say you received a pro tools recording session from a band and your job is to mix it. The first thing you want to do is listen through the song once or twice to get a feel for the song. Some of the things that you are listening for is what the arrangement is, what kind of style and genre the song falls into, the quality of the recording production, and what you will use as a reference. You should also start to consider at this point what the most important instrument in the song is and what the most important section is. Think about mixing approaches, eq and editing ideas, etc… Formulate ideas and take note.

  • Listen to the song once or twice
  • What is the arrangement?
  • Determine the style or genre
  • How does the recording quality sound?
  • What song will you use as a reference?
  • Determine the most important instrument
  • Determine the most important section of the song
  • Take notes

Secondly, learning how to mix music requires you to listen to each track on its own in solo mode and how it relates to the song. Does the track fit the song or would it be better without it? Determine what each track  is and take note if it is properly named. Are there any sonic issues with each track in solo mode? Out of phase, pops and clicks, background noise, etc…? Again, take notes.

  • Listen to each track in solo mode
  • Determine what instrument it is
  • Is the track properly named?
  • Are there any sonic issues on each track?
  • How does the track relate to the song?
  • Take notes

If you determined that the tracks names are visually hard to identify, now is the time to start renaming the tracks so that you can easily recognize which instrument it is. Once that has been corrected, reorder your tracks appropriately so that the same instruments are stacked up next to each other. I find it also important to color the instrument tracks.

Move on to adding a master fader track and a 2-mix/sub mix track, along with at least 4 other auxillary tracks. Most likely more. Then make sure you set up your input and output assignments and properly name them. Nothing is worse then leaving these as the default names.

Add markers for each section of the song, so that you could bounce around from section to section with ease. I would then bring in my reference track into the session.

  • Reorder tracks into instrument order
  • Color code the instrument tracks
  • Add master fader
  • Add auxiliary tracks
  • Set up I/I assignments
  • Add markers for each section of the song.
  • Import reference songs
  • Set up scroll options
  • Learn how to use the zoom in/out and zoom presets

Its time to start the mix. Play the song and start mixing with only the volume faders and the panning. Some tracks may seem to never find the right balance, but do the best you can. Getting a good tight rough mix can make your mix go very smooth. While your doing this rough mix, make sure your 2-mix/sub mix track and master fader tracks are set at unity gain(0), and never touch the volume fader of this track! As your setting your levels and panning position, you will be building a good foundation of gain staging with the master fader track at unity gain. Make sure there is no clipping!

  • Start a rough mix. Just set up volume levels and panning only
  • Build good gain staging
  • Master fader and Sub master are at unity gain
  • No clipping
  • Fix phase issues and any sonic issues
  • Begin mixing starting with most important