Top 17 Common Music Mixing Mistakes And How To Fix Them!
These are the Top 17 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've mastered over 40,000 songs, and these are the problems I see most often.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), which will ultimately make your mix sound more professional.
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!
#1 WRONG FILE TYPE!
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! Don't send your mastering engineer a 10GB album! It's overkill since CDs are 44.1khz, and mp3s are even lower quality. One exception - You're working with mastering for itunes.
#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 audio 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, and I cannot correct their mistakes.
#3 The Songs Peak Too High, Are Distorted Or They Have No Dynamic Range
There are four thing that make a mix sound fuller.
A. The LOW bass and UPPER-MIDS must have the proper thickness/boominess.
B. The vocal and instrumentation amounts have to be sufficient. For example, four guitars or vocal tracks sound much thicker than two.
C. Don't roll of too much bass from your mid-frequency tracks. I get in a lot of songs where the lead vocal and lead guitars (or synths) are all high bass filtered around 500hz which leaves you with a thin tinny sound. This is very difficult to correct in audio mastering. Yes, some tracks do need to be high pass filtered around 200-300hz, but make sure you're not removing too much bass and left with a thin tinny sound.
D. You tracks are properly panned across the stereo spectrum. If you have 4 guitars all panned dead center, it's going to sound like you have ONE loud mono guitar, which is not a full thick guitar sound.
#5 Bass Too Loud In Mix, Mix Sounds Muddy 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.
As a mastering engineer, it's easy to make a dull song brighter and a set it exactly right where it should be. But a super bright song that requires a big EQ cut, many times will leave you with a flat lifeless master that has no sparkle.
#6 Mix Sounds Bad In A Car, Weak Stereo Field The car is the ultimate judge of the stereo field. If you didn't do a good job with it, your song will sound like its a foot wide, playing right above the stereo, no a full wide sound that blasts out from the left door all the way across to the right door.
Most amateur mixing engineers think stereo reverb is the solution to a mix with a weak stereo field. WRONG! If you pan everything centrally, and then put stereo reverb on it, all you'll have is a weak reverb echo on the outside of the stereo while the meat of the song is all up the middle.
Yes, you can use delays that bounce to the outsides, the Haas effect is great to, BUT the simple rule I learned many years ago and follow is this.
If you want to be able to hear something on the outsides of the stereo field, YOU HAVE TO HAVE SOMETHING PANNED THERE!! For example, if you have two different guitars (or Hass effected) panned L80 and R80, they will play out of the doors and create a nice stereo. If you have one or two guitars panned at 20L and/or 20R, it will sound like its right above the radio.
But sometimes guitars aren't playing. Well, put some background vocals panned L/R, a few hi hat hits can go in there, a light violin or synth pad might work.
I get songs in where the guitars are nice stereo, then when they go off, its a mono song 12 inches wide. As long as something is playing on the outside of the stereo field, you'll have a nice wide sound in the car. So make sure there's always something coming in and out.
NOTE - I almost always go L80 - R80 and higher. Why? A LOT of people use headphones and you have to be careful when you pan full hard L or R. Especially when it's just one side where the track really stands out. You can blow someones ear out if it's too loud. If you do pan hard L or R, realize you might be able to make the volume of the track(s) lower than normal because of this. Listen closely to your mix and just make sure these hard panned tracks aren't too loud.
#7 Mix Sounds Too Harsh, Very Bright Mix Or Tinny Mix
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.
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.
Listen to your mix. If you think your mix is too bright, it probably is.
#8 Boomy Vocals In Mix
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.
#9 Vocals Not Loud Enough In Mix
I would say 50% of the rock songs I get in, the vocal volume is just 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 a WRONG mixing technique!
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! This isn't a word puzzle, it's a song!
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.
#10 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.
#11 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 mixing or mastering engineer that is either inexperienced, is pretty much workingin a corporate straight up cash scam (which is, you're a nobody and we nickel and dime you every penny we can). Not to mention deliver poor results. Who cares, we got your money!
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!
#13 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.
#14 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.
#15 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.
#16 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.
#17 Properly MASTERING Your Song
If you've made it this far, you pretty much know how to MIX your songs properly. Now you need to know how to MASTER your own music properly. It's not all about mixing. EVERY song EVER on the radio has been mastered. Has yours been?
Hello, my name is John Rogers owner of JR mastering and author of the current #1 Best Selling Audio Mastering Book on Amazon.comwhich is now available in a video course! Since 1999, I've mastered over 40,000 songs for over 7,500 clients. I've mastered music for grammy award winners, several songs I mastered charted #1 and top 10 in Europe, and my masters have been played by DJs in many major cities all over the world.
Why am I telling you this? Because I know audio mastering, and I would like to teach you everything I've learned since 1999, in only 4 hours! It's not a $20,000 two year class, or a $3,500 6 month course (a total waste of money), I will teach you everything you need to know in audio mastering in only 4 hours! This course and the PDFs took me over 1.5 years to create. This is some serious stuff!
As an addedBONUS - I will master one of your songs and provide free access to a video of the mastering session. Continue reading for more info....
Note - You can watch the videos on your phone, tablet, laptop, desktop, whatever your device is you can watch the videos.Also, video courses are genre/style specific. Course times vary depending on your genre/style of music, but you will get over 3 hours of video in all courses.
1. Audio Master Laws, Tips, and Advice (46:36) Several videos that fill in the missing pieces that are not in other parts of the course. Tips, advice and absolute LAWS that you cannot break. Break a few of these laws, and I will guarantee your CD project will be a disaster. 45 minutes of strong advice.
2. The 4 Bands In Audio Mastering (9:32) In audio mastering, we work in Bands. Here's a quick overview.
3. Analyzing A .Wav File Before Mastering (11:58) This is the first step in audio mastering (after importing the song).
4. How To Correctly Set Your Song Volumes (8:10) How do I get all my songs the same volume? How loud is my song supposed to be? Is my song too loud? All these questions are answered in this quick 8 min video.
5. Compression Made Easy (19:49) I've listen to over 1,000 clients attempts at mastering, and masters from other studios (some charging $100 a song). 75% of what I heard, they have NO CLUE how to compress a song. Usually, they don't apply any compression at all (they just make the song louder and call that mastering) and the song breaks up miserably when played back loud. Or the extreme, they compress it to death and it has no dynamic range and it's distorted.
In this video I explain what compression is, your goals, how to use compressors, everything you need to know about compression in audio mastering is in this 20 min video!
6. Understanding Equalization And Spectral Enhancement (27:05) Which processors are used for EQ? Most people don't know a compressor is one of them. When do you use them, what are your goals, what's the difference between EQ and spectral enhancement? Almost a half hour of priceless information you want find anywhere else.
7. "Your Genre Of Music" Step by Step Mastering Sessions (3-4 songs) (between 1:00-1:30) In this video I master 3-4 songs in a live mastering session. You'll see I always use the same simple steps with every song, to bring it up to commercial radio standards. I also include bonus tips and advice while going through my step progression. This video brings everything together, when you can actually see me doing what I've talked about earlier, and what you've read in the PDFs or in my book.
You Can Quickly Become An Audio Mastering Expert I've worked with sooooo many clients and studios. I've heard their mastering attempts. I've read 1,000 blog posts and watched 100 hours of free youtube video made by guys with "very little" commercial mastering experience or they're a kid living in their mom's basement (usually both).
That all being said, if you read my PDFs (why not buy the full book too) and watch all of my videos, I can just about guarantee you will be better than 75% of the audio mastering engineers online! This includes some from major recording studios. I know this because I've heard their masters and 75% are clueless in several major areas, and you will know more than them.
Now, I can't exactly "guarantee" results. That's like someone selling exercise videos and guaranteeing you will lose weight. Yes, if you do the program, guaranteed you will. But if you never turn the video on, the weight loss program won't work for you. Same thing here.
MASTERING ISN'T A TEST! Too many people think, oh well I got some advice from this kid, and three other guys, now I'm going to master the CD that took me A YEAR to write and record. Really? Here's why this doesn't work.
I'll be generous. 20% of the information from engineers who have never done anything (other than work on their own stuff) is absolutely WRONG. Sometimes even the opposite. They make up these odd ball theories based on nothing. I've even had a few hip hop engineers make mastering decisions based on what their grandma told them about their songs. I'm not joking here, they told me their grandma said the bass was too low, so they cranked it above distortion.
Well, so what if you get a few processes wrong? You'll get 80% of your CD mastering right. That's a grade B, right? WRONG! It's an "F."
If you get your loudness wrong, you get an "F." If you get your compression wrong, you get an "F." Maybe you don't know how to increase clarity, set your bass levels, get all your songs the same level, all "F."
You could get ONE critical area wrong, and be 90% right with the rest, and your CD will be a JOKE when played against commercial songs, at the club, even your family and friends will laugh at you after leave. Ha!
Let me give you information that is 100% correct! Based on the over 40,000 songs I've mastered that have actually been played on the radio, and in clubs around the world.
Get an "A+" on all of your projects! Why not? Isn't you music career worth this small investment?
You get 90 pages of PDFs from mycurrent #1 Best Selling Audio Mastering Book on Amazon.com.From setting up your listening environment, my graph of solutions to common problems, how to master different genres, to how to correctly set your song volumes, this course is packed with valuable information. You can spend 100 hours on youtube looking for free videos and half the information in my course, you'll never find it anywhere! And, even better, you won't get any "wrong" information from my course either, that will ruin your project.
Note - This option available with the FULL course only.
I want you to succeed with your audio mastering, your music career or your sound engineering business!
What better way than for you to be able to watch a video of me mastering one of your songs? You'll also get the mastered song as a reference track for the rest of your project. Lastly, if there are any major errors in your mix, I will tell you how to fix them. So, we can get a great mastering result. This is a $250 value by itself alone!
Note - How it works is after ordering the course, you can email me a song (any genre/style regardless of the course you purchased) and within 7 business days I will email you a link with access to watch your song's mastering session. If there are any errors in your mix for you to correct, you will be notified prior to your video session being created.
So, how much is my course?
SAVE AN ADDITIONAL 15% THIS WEEK ONLY! COUPON CODE - 15apr (enter discount code middle right of first page, above total)
How about only $49* for the 3.5 hour course (no video of your song). Or $151* (comes with the live video session of your song being mastered). *Prices after using the 15% off coupon
Note - You can watch the videos on any device smart phone, tablet, laptop, desktop, whatever.
IMPORTANT - Also, you will be directed to Yondo website to create an account and make payment. You will be sent a verification email or you can just go to https://jrmastering.yondo.com/login to log in and start watching the videos and download the PDFs. The entire process is very simple and the video interface is AMAZING! Very easy to use, fast, and well organized.
If Your Genre/Style Of Music Isn't Available, It Will Be Soon HARD ROCK - Will be available April 25th - Email me if you would like to be notified