Creating a Base Mix


-Mute everything and unmute tracks as you set their volume.


-Vocals should be on top. Set the volume of the lead vocal fader so that the peaks are hitting no higher than -5 or -6 dBFS. Bring up any backup vocals to sit just behind the main vocalist.


-In modern mixes, the snare and kick are the next most prominent instruments. Drum transients can exceed the level of the vocals, but the perceived loudness should be slightly lower than the vocals. In previous decades, the kick was mixed slightly lower than the snare still. For music focused on a vocalist as opposed to a band, vocals can be even more above the snare and kick.

-Solo the kick and bass for this step. Bring the bass guitar/synth up so that it sits just under the kick. When the bass and kick drum line up, the kick should feel like it’s pushing the bass or “sending it off” with a punch. if the bass is too loud it steals the punch and weight from the kick. When it’s right, un-solo the vocal tracks and unmute the bass.


-Check that the lead vocal still has clear prominance.

-Next, unmute the hi hats. Pan them to where it seems the hi hat would naturally sit if you were either a) the drummer or b) someone listening to the drummer. (subtle panning is preferred here) Keep in mind that your overheads will also have recorded the hi hats on one side or the other. Make sure they “agree” with each other about where the hi hat is. Bring the volume up so that the hi hats don’t overpower the snare, but “groove” with the snare and kick. When it’s right you should know it.


-Now unmute the overheads, panning them hard left and hard right. bring up the fader slowly until the drum kit feels natural under the vocals.


-Pan your guitars hard right and left, if you have two. If you don’t have two, consider doubling guitar takes (if you are done tracking, you may be able to edit previous takes into another good take) and panning those hard left and right. Guitar can interfere with the vocals if panned centre or close to centre. Keep them away, if possible.


-Now you should have the main body of the sound. If you have other instruments, unmute them and bring the fader up slowly until they feel natural, but still being less loud than the Vocal/Kick/Snare section of the mix.


-For mixes that are not a typical rock band arrangement, apply these priciples to the instruments that best fit the roles.


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