Mixing First Aid For EDM

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Mixing First Aid For EDM

In this tutorial, I will show you a simple and very basic mixing technique/approach which may help you to create ok sounding mixes. I’m using it every time I mix my own music and I’ve been quite satisfied with the end results. (If you’ve been watching my tutorials, you’ve probably seen me using it many times.)

Here’s an example. Mixed with this technique.

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This technique is no secret: it’s the very first step you take in the mixing process, but very important nonetheless. And I’m talking about setting the volume levels between different sounds in balance.

When you make music and are in the middle of inspiration, you probably throw in all kinds of sounds and instruments to the mix and set their volume levels roughly in balance (at least that’s what I usually do). And the mix may already sound quite alright at this point.

However, the following method MAY help you to make it sound even better.

Try this: at some point in your producing session, take a short break to let your ears rest & recover a bit. This is important because hours of continuous music listening (especially on higher volume levels) makes your ears (or brains) tired and you just don’t hear things in the same way you do when your ears are “fresh”.

Next, after the break, get back to your mix and leave your kick drum volume level to 0.0dB, but drop all the other instrument volume levels to INF (silent).

Kick to 0, Others To INF

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Play back your mix (only kick playing) and adjust the volume levels of your monitors (or headphones) so that you can hear the kick clearly.

Next, start increasing the volume levels of your other percussion sounds: clap/snare for example. If you have a standard four-to-the-floor beat where the clap/snare is hitting on every other beat, listen it against the kick and increase it’s volume level so that you can hear the clap/snare clearly, while not letting it go over or drown the kick. Make sure you can still hear the ‘snap’ of your kick and that the whole kick is still the most prominent sound in your mix.

Mix In Snare

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Of course, you need to let your ears to be the final judge how you set the exact levels. But listening everything against the kick is a good basis.

Also, if you wonder: why drop the sounds to INF and start mixing from there and why not just start straight from the rough mix and decrease the levels when needed? Well, it might be easier approach for your ears. Of course, you can mix anyway you feel comfortable with, but I’ve personally found I get better results doing it this way. I think mixing from silent to louder makes it easier for your hearing/brains to adjust to the changes and stay in balance than doing the opposite. At least try it.

Now, while this tutorial is focusing just on the volume levels, I DID use a little EQ on the clap/snare sound. I rolled off the low end and boosted the mids and highs with the mixer track EQ.

Snare EQ

Ok, back to the subject.

Continue mixing in your percussion sounds: closed hihat perhaps. How loud your closed hihat should be? Again, listen it against your kick. Set it to a level where it is supporting your kick instead of competing with it.

Mix In Closed Hihat

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After your kick and percussion sounds are in balance, you might want to mix in your bassline.

Bass is one of the hardest elements to mix in EDM because it is usually working largely in the same frequency area as your kick. But even so, you need to begin by setting it’s volume level. Again, focus on listening your kick and increase the bassline level to the point where you can hear it clearly, but not letting it take over the kick.

Mix In The Bass

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Now this is where you usually may encounter a problem: as the bassline is probably the next most important thing alongside kick in EDM, you would like it to be heard clearly in the mix, but if it’s a low end heavy bass sound and you raise it’s volume level too much, it will mash with the kick and you experience all kinds of artifacts such as loosing the punch, muddy low end, clipping, etc. This is where you usually need to start consider whether to use sidechain compression, EQ, change your bass sound to something different, etc.

Here’s a one way to cope with this without using tons of EQ or compression: pay attention to how you sequence your bassline. Don’t place a note to places where your kick hits. Here’s an image of an example sequence (this is the sequence I am using in this example song):

Bass Sequence

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And as you noticed, I didn’t use sidechain compression or any other methods in the basslines mixer track at all. Just a certain type of sequence and setting the volume level in balance with the kick was enough.

Next: the (possible) supporting sounds for the bassline. Of course, you may don’t have those in your mix, but often times you may layer sounds played on higher notes and other sounds with a very light low end or no low end at all on top of your bass sound to make the bass melody to be more prominent. How to mix these kind of sounds? Again, listen to the kick, but this time also pay attention to your bassline. Don’t let the supporting sounds take over your kick and bassline. Make them support.

Mix In Supporting Sounds For Bass

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Next, the lead sound/melody (if you have one, but usually there’s some sort of dominant melody theme line in the mix). How to mix that? If it’s something that is essential part of your song, don’t leave it on the background. Instead, bring it on front. So again, while listening to your kick, try to bring the lead on a par with it while avoiding burying it.

Mix In The Lead

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Now, while you mix, you might experience clipping in your Master track. If that happens, just drop the Master track volume level fader few dB’s and increase the volume of your monitors/headphones to compensate.

If It Clips, Drop The Master Level

So in a nutshell: finding the balance between the sound volume levels in your mix is very important. Often times, if you have choosed a right set of sounds and samples, you may don’t need to do a lot of EQ’ing or other processing to make your mix sound good. And remember, try mix everything against your kick. Let the kick rule!

Watch the video version below and download the .flp file:

Download Mixing First Aid .flp (Requires FL Studio 11.0.4 or later to open properly. Note that you are free to use the .flp project any way you like!)

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About Author

Petri Suhonen is an electronic music hobbyist. He has been producing music with computers over a decade on such styles as trance, downtempo, ambient & experimental electronic using FL Studio.

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33 Comments on "Mixing First Aid For EDM"

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Redline
2 years 9 months ago

thanks for this amazing tutorial and great melody

ThisisNell
2 years 9 months ago

This is very Helpful. Thanks for the FLP too.

covurt
covurt
2 years 9 months ago

Must say men this tut came at the right tym…. coz am just in the middle of making a dancehall mixtape
Thx alot coz i was tryna figure out this part.
lots O Gratitude

covurt
covurt
2 years 9 months ago

BTW didn’t knw dat sidechain could be used to balance da bassline /make it sound out,
plus da tip about ”reducing master sound channel and adding speaker sound”
Thumbs up

waydez
waydez
2 years 8 months ago

One of the clearest and well presented website.
Thanks for your tutorials… subscribed!

rezafm
rezafm
2 years 8 months ago

ps thank you train bro

Jay
Jay
2 years 8 months ago

I wish that I would of found this site years ago.
Thank you very much.

Bucio
Bucio
2 years 8 months ago

Here’s one of my tracks called “Psytrance” http://sendfile.pl/130211/Bucio_-_Psytrance.mp3

The name may be wrong, because it’s not typical psychodelic trance, but… it’s some kind of EDM for sure 😉

Big thanks to You Petri. I learned a lot from your tutorials. What’s best about them is that they are explained very simply and most od the sounds are made with basic plugins from scratch

You make mostly EDM but tips & tricks from EDM can also be useful in other genres – it’s great thing too

Dj Clima
Dj Clima
2 years 8 months ago

Thanks for this great tutorial. Thumbs up \o/

DJ Stella
DJ Stella
2 years 8 months ago

Really great job here. Excellent info, all presented in a realistic and friendly way. Nice work! Thanks a ton for making it available. Cheers!

amir
amir
2 years 8 months ago

Hi petri …tnx for your fantastic works….everytime i read your tut it enlights me so bad ;)!!!
would you plz do me (us) a favor and explain about “main key” of a song and how to lengthen the track
i can make somewhat good beats and chords but i’m so weak to continue the song and always its about 30 to 40 seconds…stuck!!!..love u bro 😉

Rodrigo
Rodrigo
2 years 8 months ago

Hello Petri,
I have to tell that your tutorials are very good and its so harmonic, the way you use the screenshots and the text its simple and well arranged.
Appreciate the technique and sure i’ll try it, in theory its better to mix from quiet to louder, it gives your ears some room. Let’s try the action.

Petri, this website was the way I could join the world of music production, I have to thank you so much for the priceless job youve been doing here!

Thanks for another one!

Greetings from Brazil

part ii
part ii
2 years 7 months ago

this site is amazing. dunno how i ended up here, but now i cant leave!!!

Styles
Styles
2 years 7 months ago

Great tips as usual. Petri, your website is a first aid in general for edm. Glad to come back every once in awhile and still find you going strong.

Dimitry
Dimitry
2 years 3 months ago

Do not mix with the kick at 0db. Give yourself at least 6db of headroom. I understand that your DAW might have some extra headroom, but not only that it’s a very bad practice, but also a lot of chain effects don’t respond well to a signal that is over a DB. Also check your levels between your chains.

Jay
Jay
2 years 3 months ago

So that means I’ve been doing it wrong all along?

Alboz
Alboz
2 years 1 month ago
@ Petri Suhonen you are doing everything right,but you are explaining little bit wrong.. when you say you start mixing kick 0 db.. thats not right ..your starting point is – 8 db.. if u see in corner… in mixer channel you are 100 % or 0 db,but in pattern channel your volume is much lower 79 % = -8 db. there are some rulls about mixing.. you cant start 0 db ,cause u dont have headroom if u do that. that means when you start mixing the kick must be – 6 or lower other instruments must be under… Read more »
Delas
Delas
2 years 1 month ago

Wow, this is amazing, pal!!

Cheers!

Bennu
Bennu
2 years 6 days ago

Great tips and great site.
Great effort you put in this site, man! Kudos!

david
david
1 year 8 months ago

but what if you have automated volume levels in the project you cant turn that all to 0 if you know what i mean

chris
chris
1 year 6 months ago

David- having automated levels is super common in EDM. Best workaround I’ve seen for this is to automate your levels using a plugin with an output control, so your channel levels can be set for mixing.

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