Want to be a better mixer? Work with better tracks!

This article, taken from Nashville Demo Mixing v1, shows us the key to creating great mixes. More importantly, it shows us the importance of working with great material from the start. Let’s jump in as we work through getting the perfect country kick drum:

Dean: Let’s start with a little bit of compression on this kick drum. There’s a compressor made by Waves called the V-Compressor that is great for drums in just about any genre.

I like to just start by listening to the Kick 1 preset – that’s usually a good place to start. We are definitely going to want to tweak it, but this sets us up with a good sound from the start.

Adan: Let’s take a look at what they’ve got here because you may not have the V-Compressor, so what’s your overall approach for country song like this? Obviously compressing a kick drum for country is different that compressing a kick drum for hip hop.

So do you start with fast attacks? Slow attacks? Fast release, slow release?

Dean: I generally like to set it to auto and see what it does, a lot of these plugins will have an auto release option. And sometimes you’ll want to make it faster or slower depending on how you want that compressor to react.

Adan: Like if you want it to be punchy or a little bit more sustained?

PresetDean: Exactly! I usually set it to auto and if it starts giving me problems I’ll mess with it. If I want a punchier, dryer sound, I’ll set a faster release time. This let’s the kick (or any drum, for that matter), decay quicker. For more sustained tracks, a longer release works great.

Adan: It is amazing how much time and effort they have spent working with various top engineers to get to where the presets give you a good starting point. If you think about it, it’s a lot harder to have to start from scratch on these.

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Now of course sometimes your kick drum preset is not going to work so well, but at least having that starting point can be a real time saver when you’re trying to mix.

Dean: So let’s start by listening to what this does to it. One thing I’m paying attention to is this meter here which I have set to “gain reduction.”

VcompYou’ll want to hit around -6dB on this compressor for a good tight country kick drum. Some genres call for even more compression, and some for less. I’ve found that, with this compressor, that’s a good place to start.

I’m just gonna go ahead and change this out a little bit. Let’s “A-B” it. One thing I like to do a lot is “A-B” the plugins’ because you can really tell what it’s doing to your tracks.

It’s definitely adding a lot more “click” to it, which will help it cut through the mix.

Adan: Absolutely, and in this case you’re just bypassing and un-bypassing with the simple “command-click” on the plug-in insert. Depending on what DAW you’re using, you may have a different way to bypass your plug-ins. The ability to bypass the plugin and un-bypass it is very common and super handy to make sure that you’re not tricking yourself.

And that’s always a key – if you are sitting there clicking and the change are so subtle that you can’t hear it, you might check and make sure you are even bypassing the correct plugin on the right track.

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Dean: I’m actually pretty happy with how this sounds now, again I’m just basically setting up a really good foundation, I might come back later and decide this needs a little more “punch” or “sustain” in the mix.

Adan: Now of course something to mention is that, you’re probably wondering, “how is that all they did to get that great sound?” Well, we did a lot of work in producing the track to get that initial sound.

Once you have already built a really solid kick drum with the way you produce it with the samples you use, it’s a lot easier to get a great mix.

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When you’ve got good tracks and you spend the time on the front end to produce great tracks, then it’s a lot easier to get a great mix.

So spend good time producing clean good tracks and you’ll find the mix certainly is a lot easier to get through.

This excerpt comes from Nashville Demo Mixing v1: Country. Learn even more about creating great tracks in Nashville Demo Production v2: Indie Rock.

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