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Song Mixing:
More Guidelines From
The Mastering Viewpoint

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Great song mixing is all about keeping the excitement!

Things like:

  • Dynamics and contrast between verse and chorus.
  • Drama and climax from the opening intro to the final chords.
  • ENGAGING your listeners!

Keep those things in mind.

Whether you mix on your own or hire someone, following these guidelines will make mastering results a real enhancement for your music - instead of a repair session!

song mixing

Check for Mono Compatibility


Mono didn't fade away after stereo and surround sound took over. It's as important as ever for many reasons.

Why Is Mono So Important?

You have absolutely no control over how someone listens to your tracks.

  • Listeners could have mis-wired systems playing back in mono
  • Laptops really don’t give out good stereo at all.
  • Headphones may not be plugged in properly on iDevices!

You want your song to have that important first impression as much as possible no matter how it's played back.

Regain control!! Read more here.

Silence Is Golden: Use The Mute

Mute portions of tracks where the instrumentalists or vocalists are not playing. This helps avoid the buildup of residual noise that can happen – with amps or effects units, for example.

It will also eliminate the 'mouth' noises from singers while they're waiting for their next entry.

Mastering can bring out those noises if they're not muted during the mixing process. Thanks to Ashton Price of Morph Productions for highlighting that point to me.

This too can save time and money when I master your songs by avoiding restoration charges for removing hiss and clicks.

Mix ‘n’ Match

If your music style matches a commercial release, then A/B your song mixing progress along with that track.

But remember this:

  • Most commercial tracks released these days (with some rare exceptions) are mastered very loud – too loud if you ask me. To make a fair comparison between your mix and the commercial track, bring down the level of the commercial track till it matches your song mixing levels.

Here are some benefits:

  • This will avoid ruining your entire mix with buss compression and limiting, attempting to match what is probably an insane level anyway.
  • It will avoid distorting and clipping your mixes especially at the most critical moments.
  • This will make my job much easier for you by focusing on making your music sound its best!!
  • It will keep your levels lower, and give your mix headroom that will be needed to prevent inter-sample or reconstruction overs.

Speaking Of Headroom...

Your final mix should have from 3 - 6 dB of headroom.

So bring down the master faders till you do get that headroom. This lets you know you're not clipping and distorting during your final song mixing process.

But don't go overboard, either, trying to maintain that headroom exactly. The odd peak to -1 or -2 dB below zero should not cause problems, especially in the case of something like ballads, which are generally a overall quieter level.

One of the complaints I get from clients when I offer this tip is: “My mix won't be loud enough!”

Well that's true! But it'll also be free from clipping and distortion. And it'll be way easier to deal with in the mastering stage.

But if your mix sounds too quiet after you turn down the master faders, simply turn up the controls to your playback monitors to compensate.

Final Thoughts on Song Mixing

Mix at listening levels you're comfortable with.

Let your ears tell you what's right. Give them a rest now and then, too, to avoid making bad judgements.

Stop worrying about how loud your song should be! (That gets taken care of in mastering). Make it great, first!

Get a 3rd party perspective.

This is where mastering can help you.

Not only will I ensure your mix is ready to master, I can creatively enhance your song mix to a whole new level and keep your listeners engaged!

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