These are the 15 most common music mixing mistakes I see daily. Correcting them could will improve your audio mastering results and make your mixes sound more professional.
I'm not going to get into advanced mixing techniques in this article, but I will mention a few basic solutions for the most common music mixing mistakes I see daily (in no specific order).
I want your music to sound the very best it can. And if you follow these tips they will greatly improve your audio mastering results. And hopefully, you'll use me at JR MASTERING when you're ready to master your CD project!
What To Submit - .WAV File - 44.1 or 48khz / 16-32bit (preferably 24bit) OR .Aiff file
No one wants (or needs) to work with a HUGE 1GB 96khz file.
#2 Plug-Ins On The Stereo Out (Main Out)
If your songs are going to be mastered, NOTHING should be on your stereo/ main out. No limiter, no loudness maximizer, no EQ, no spectral enhancer. This is my job in the mastering process. I set everything where it needs to be based on your style of music. Then you tell me if you feel it needs a little more a less of something, and I'll adjust as necessary. I don't need you to partially master the song for me. Most of the time when a client tries to do this, they go way over on several sonic qualities.
#3 The Songs Peak Too High Or They Have No Dynamic Range
Roughly 25% of the mixes I get in, the client cranks up the high-end EQ or overuses a spectral enhancer, thinking they're getting that clear professional radio quality sound. This mix will never make a great master because it's already much brighter than it needs to be.
I'm not saying you shouldn't EQ your mixes at all, just remember a slightly dull mix can be turned into a great master, but an overly bright one can't. If you think your mix is too bright, it probably is.
When I have to cut a lot of high-end EQ, the song loses its sparkle and clarity. It also prevents me from using frequency phase correcting tools. I'm not saying you shouldn't EQ your mixes at all, just remember a slightly dull mix can be turned into a great master, but an overly bright one can't. If you think your mix is too bright, it probably is.
#5 Tracks Not Ready For Mixing
Tracks not synced, fades, which effects to use, how much compression, etc. is covered on this page -
I had to throw this in here. Ha! Too many people, for whatever reason, choose a mastering engineer that is either inexperienced, or pretty much a corporate straight up cash scam. Go with an engineer that has worked with over 7,500 clients, treats your music like it's his own, and delivers fast amazing results. ME!! Thanks for checking out my low rates! I'll do an amazing job for you!
#7 Bass Too Loud In Mix Or Too Boomy
35% of the hip hop songs I get in are very bass heavy, they go over 0 level, have no dynamic range, and are usually distorted too. The big bass you're looking for is added in the mastering process, along with a boost in overall song volume level. There's no need to make your bass super loud during mixing.
Mixes that sound dull are actually good for mastering! Listen to the BEFORE mix samples on my before and after samples page. Notice how the mixes are either average brightness and bass, or dull (slightly muffled). This type of mix allows me to put it where it should be.
#8 Mixes Not Checked At High Volume Levels
During audio mastering, most (if not all) songs are going to be volume boosted to some extent. This magnifies whatever is in your mix.
Many times a client sends me a song mix that's very low level, maybe -8dbs to -12dbs headroom. If it's a decent mix, the audio mastering results will be very good. But what usually happens is when I crank up the volume real loud, the song mix is super bright. Way brighter than a commercial industry standard song. Sometimes the song is a trainwreck when cranked up loud.
Why is this so common? Since the song was mixed and monitored at such a low volume level, the sound engineer can't tell what it will sound like when turned up much louder.
Solution - If your songs were mixed at a low level, you must crank up your system volume output loud to hear how it sounds, and then adjust your mix as needed. If it's unbearable bright or has super bass that runs over the entire song, you have to correct this.
And I repeat, If you think your mix is too bright, it probably is.
#9 Boomy Vocals
Problem - The vocals are too boomy and interfere with the kick and bass clarity.
Solution - Roll off the bass in your vocals. Use a high pass filter on your vocal track anywhere from 150hz-300hz. Move around in that range to see what sounds best. Unless you're singing like Barry White, you don't need that low frequency in your vocal track.
#10 Vocals Simply Too Low In Volume
I would say 50% of the rock songs I get in, the vocal volume is too low. Maybe 25% when it comes to hip hop.
This is a common technique in rock music since many times the singer is poor and tries to hide his vocals under the music. If I can't understand HALF of what you are singing, this is WRONG!
You don't know how many times I've pointed out this error to a client, telling them I honestly can't understand HALF the vocals in the song. I couldn't even guess them. And the reply, "Oh, that's ok. We want the listener to have figure out some of the vocals?" REALLY? I can see a few words, but how many songs on the radio have you heard where half the vocals are impossible to understand? The answer is NEVER!
Probably the worst song I've ever heard on the radio, maybe 10% of the words were tough to understand. And many times that was because of a phrasing irregularity, not the vocal volume level being -5dbs too low.
#11 Noisy Tracks Or Noisy Song Mix
Problem - There's a constant low-end hum or high-end hiss on an instrument track. This track noise eats up space, slightly clouding up the entire song.
Solution - Listen through your entire song for noise. Sometimes the cause is a mic being boosted to loud during recording or an instrument gained or boosted to high. Find your noisy tracks and either eliminate them, or EQ high or low pass filter them. Or use a noise gate.
Noise/hiss is easily noticed at the beginning and sometimes at the end of songs when instrumentation is low (or has ended). It's not as noticeable when the meat of the song is playing, but that noise is always present and is slightly clouding up your entire song.
#12 Kick Drum And Bass Guitar Are On Top Of Each Other In The Same Frequency Range
Problem - Both the bass guitar and kick drum are in the same low-frequency range (50hz-75hz). They're washing (phase canceling) each other out and one or both can't be heard very clearly.
Solution - When you initially arrange your songs, you have to decide which instrument will be in the low-frequency 50-75hz range (usually the kick) and which will be in the mid-low 100hz-250hz (usually the bass). If the kick is low, then the bass needs to be mid-low (and vice versa) not both in the same frequency range. This is just the basics.
Note - This is more of an "arrangement" problem than it is a "mixing" problem. You have to select the right instruments in the correct frequency ranges in the first place.
#13 High/Sharp Instrument Becoming An Annoyance
When mixing, remember that after I master your songs, they'll be a lot louder and clearer. There's no need to make higher frequency instruments (synth, violin, chimes, etc.) real loud. These bright instruments don't compete with too much in the mix, so they have no problem cutting through. Many times the sound engineer doesn't factor this in and mixes them in too loud.
Remember, if these instruments are still too bright after mastering, you can upload a new adjusted mix and I'll swap it out at no extra charge.
Solution - If the Sss sounds in your vocals is the least bit sharp before mastering, it will be unbearable after mastering. Apply a De-esser to your vocal track if needed.
#14 Vocals With Sharp Ssss Sound
If the Sss sounds in your vocals is the least bit sharp before mastering, it will be unbearable after mastering. Crank up you mix loud and apply a De-esser to your vocal track if needed.
Note - The good thing about a de-esser is it's pretty much non-destructive. If you were to use it moderately on a vocal track and really didn't need it, it won't affect it much because there's no Ssss problem for it to fix.
#15 Properly MASTERING Your Song
If you've made it this far, you pretty much know how to MIX your song properly. Now you need to know how to MASTER your own music properly.