16 Mixing Tips For Beginners

Mixing Tips For Beginners

Are you just starting out as a mixer and want some powerful tips to help you on your journey?

My name is Andrew Aurora and I help artists and producers bring their creative vision to life through Mixing and Mastering

And today I wanna talk about
16 Mixing Tips For Beginners

Let's jump right in

16 Mixing Tips For Beginners I wish I would have known!

1.) Start Creating Templates

This is something I wish I did as a beginner long before I did it 

Recreating your sessions over and over again is a waste of time

Even if all you do is create tracks for elements you normally have in your mix it will save you time

Things like a kick track, snare track, lead vocal track, etc. and one reverb track and one delay track, and a few busses like drum bus, vocal bus, etc. will save you so much time

You don't even need to save plugins if your just starting out, just save some basic tracks and routing and work from there

You have your whole career to build and add to this template, but do not waste hundreds of hours recreating sessions from scratch

And, for example, if you have only one lead vocal track saved in your template and you import a song that has 3 vocal tracks, just duplicate your one vocal track until you have 3 instead of creating 3 vocal tracks.

This will save you so much time, and creating templates is one of the most powerful
mixing tips for beginners that I can share with you

2.) Musical vs Transparent EQ's

Mixing Tips For Beginners

Not every EQ is made the same.

There are different kinds of EQ's out there that are used for different purposes such as linear phase EQ's and dynamic EQ's, but for the sake of this post we are only gonna talk about two types: Musical and transparent

Musical EQ's tend to be used more for boosting frequencies because they add what many engineers call "color" to the sound

These EQ's tend to have their own unique sound and character that is pleasing to the ear when boosted.

An example of this would be the SSL EQ, which is supposed to emulate the SSL channel strip

Then there are transparent EQ's. Though these can be used for boosting, they are more often used for cutting frequencies.

This is because they tend to sound transparent. They don't add the same color to a sound, and when you make the cuts they don't normally sound as much like you took a chunk out of the sound

An example of a transparent EQ would be the Fabfilter Pro Q3

You may not fully understand what I mean right now if you are just a beginner, but try boosting and cutting the same frequencies with different EQ's and see how they both sound

If you do this I'm sure you will notice that different EQ's sound different

I recommend you have at least one colorful EQ you really like, and one surgical EQ you really like

3.) Master your tools

Many beginners fall into the trap of trying to buy a bunch of plugins and gear

Though I think some plugins are worth the purchase, get good with what you have before buying all the nicest stuff

I see some people with every plugin known to man on their computer, but personally I use the same plugins all the time, and rarely buy anything new

Because of this, I am very familiar with the tools I have. It's better to know the tools you have than to have more tools

So find what you like, and only invest in tools you feel like will genuinely improve your workflow or make your life easier

4.) Learn How To Use Busses

Mixing Tips For Beginners

One of the foundational mixing tips for beginners that I can share with you is how to use busses properly

Busses tend to only be used for two things:

 • Routing multiple tracks to one bus so you can process and control all the tracks on one bus track

 • Sending tracks to one bus for parallel processing like reverb and delay FX, parallel compression, parallel distortion, and so forth

Identifying when you should and shouldn't use busses will be a fundamental for you on your mixing journey

If you are wanting to control all your drums and process them together then you will want to route them to a Drum bus

If you are wanting to parallel process your drums then you will want to send them to a drum parallel bus

I remember when I was learning that the whole "sending vs routing" thing confused me

I wasn't sure what the difference was or why you should do one instead of the other

The reason I would route tracks to a bus is because maybe I want to compress, EQ or process all the tracks together, such as my drums or vocals

The reason I would send tracks to a bus is so I can process them separately without compromising the original signal and blend them together

For me personally, I tend to route all my drums to a bus, my Guitars to a bus, my vocals to a bus, and so forth, but I send a copy of my tracks to reverbs, delays, and parallel drum processing, etc.

That's a simplified explanation, but hopefully you are starting to understand the difference

5.) Insert FX VS Send FX

Mixing Tips For Beginners

Sometimes people will insert FX right onto a track instead of sending them to a separate reverb bus or delay bus

Why might they do that? Well, because they sound different.

Sometimes you don't want to change the original sound with reverb or delay and you just want to add to it by blending a reverb or delay in parallel

Other times you might want to modify the original sound and you use the effect to do it

I tend to do this a lot on Lead guitars. I'll take a mono lead guitar and put it on a stereo track so I can use stereo FX like stereo delay or stereo verb right on the track

It's really an artistic decision more than anything

However, sometimes you will send a bunch of tracks to one effect to save CPU power

You also might do it because you want all the elements your sending to that reverb to sound like they are all in the same space

Most of the time I use sends, but sometimes I use inserts for FX depending on what I am wanting to accomplish

6.) Match Delays To BPM

Mixing Tips For Beginners

This is one of the most simple mixing tips for beginners on this list, but match your delays to the bpm or it will mess up your whole song

Many delays have the option to match to the bpm.

If they don't you may have to look up a delay calculator online and do some math to know the perfect numbers to insert into the delay to match the bpm

7.) Master Gain Staging

Gain staging is a fundamental for mixing, and without getting the hang of it you will struggle with every aspect of mixing

Gain staging is basically getting your track volumes and levels set in such a way where everything is hitting exactly where you want it to throughout every stage of your session

There is no one right way to gain stage, but I created a post that makes gain staging stupid simple that you can check out here: 

Gain staging is up there with creating templates in terms of being one of the most important
mixing tips for beginners

8.) Learn key commands

Learning key commands for many mixers who are learning is often an afterthought

You are already trying to learn technical stuff, refine your ear, learn what sounds good, routing, and every other thing that goes into mixing, and now you got to learn and remember key commands too!?

I understand in the beginning it can be overwhelming, so don't stress too much, but key commands will make your life a lot easier and save you countless hours in your career

Start simple, and learn the key commands for things like saving your sessions and undoing and redoing actions

As you get more and more experience, start asking yourself what you do all the time, and if it's possible to set up a key command or a macro for it

Macro's are just multiple key commands done at once with one key command

For example, I have a macro set up to export my session that selects the whole song from beginning to end and pops up the export window all by using one key command

I have another macro set up one for disabling and hiding tracks with one move

I also have key commands for combining tracks to stereo, splitting stereo tracks to mono, deleting tracks, and so forth

All of these commands save me so much time in the long run

Admittedly I should learn even more key commands, and some people have their key commands and macros dialed in so well that they can do almost everything with key commands

It's pretty crazy, but start by learning the essential ones like saving your session and undoing mistakes

9.) Reference Mixes

This is powerful no matter what stage of your career you are in, but this is definitely one of the most helpful mixing tips for beginners when you're starting out and trying to figure out how to make a song sound good

Find some of your favorite songs and mixes of all time and reference those next to your mix

Now of course, try to find something that is similar sonically. Referencing the Beatles while mixing an EDM song probably won't help you much

To get a reference mix, I have heard that there are sites where you may be able to download your favorite songs, but I actually have this software I love to use called Itube studio that let's me download audio from videos off of Youtube.

Unlike sketchy Youtube to mp3 converters online, this is actually a paid software and works very well

To go along with this software I like to use Metric AB to load in these files into my session so I can very easily reference these tracks in my session

This makes life so much easier for referencing

10.) Make Space For Kick And Bass

Mixing Tips For Beginners

If you don't pay attention to your low end, every mix you do will suck

Cut out low frequencies on tracks that don't need it to make room for the kick and bass

Even if you don't think that low end is doing anything - like in a hi hat for example - it is still eating up headroom and muddying up your mix

You also need to make sure your kick and bass are working well together

This can be tricky in untreated rooms without a sub.

It's even still tricky for me sometimes, but analyzers and your car stereo system can be a great way to check your low end if your monitoring environment is less than ideal

I've also heard many people say to check your low end on headphones.

Aside from taking the room sound out of the equation, I have never understood this one

Most headphones aren't capable of producing super low-end frequencies, and this has never really helped me

Point is though, learn to make your low end solid

11.) Don't Over EQ

Mixing Tips For Beginners

Over EQ-ing will destroy a mix, and often times happens when you are mixing in solo too much

Solo is helpful, but no one will hear these tracks in solo, so what they sound like together matters most

If you frequently over EQ, you may just be fighting yourself.

My recommendation is you learn to get good at hearing a sound, identifying what's wrong with it, and making an EQ move quickly and move on

A great exercise is to import a song into your session with no routing or plugins, and do a rough balance of your tracks.

Then put an EQ on every track (or if you have an EQ on every track like in Cubase or logic, use that one) and then go through each track and only allow yourself 15 seconds to EQ each track before moving onto the next one, then see how it sounds afterwards. 

This will teach you how to listen, identify, and fix quickly.

For a more detailed explanation on this exercise, go check out this post I did going over some core exercises for beginners: 

The longer you listen to something, the more your ears will play tricks on you and the more you will start hearing things.

The quicker you can make decisions, the better you will be and the more time you will save

12.) Don't Over Compress

I wanna make something clear here with this tip and the last tip: If it sounds good it is good

If a 10db EQ boost or 10db of compression sounds good, it isn't wrong

Many beginners are terrified of doing too much because they think it's wrong

That said, if you compress too much and it doesn't sound good, it will ruin your mix

Over compressing can bring out too much sibilance and too many breaths from a vocal, kill the transients on your drums, kill the movement on your guitars, bass, or chords, and squash the crap out of your whole mix if it's on the master bus

Over time you will learn to hear how compression bends and pushes and pulls the sound.

It isn't just a tool for bringing loud and quit parts closer together, it's also a creative tool

Compression can be used creatively to create movement and/or add color to a sound depending on what compressor you use

My best recommendation for making sure you don't over compress something is to compress the crap out of it, and then dial the compression back and listen to how different it sounds

13.) Mix At Different Volumes

Your ear will be more sensitive to certain frequencies at certain volumes.

Not only that, but you will want to push your speakers enough that they sound the way they should

Mixing too quiet can often times cause you to not be able to hear all the details of your mix,

But mixing too loud will cause you to think your mix is too bright or harsh because your ears will be more sensitive to those upper-mids and higher frequencies at those louder volumes.

It will also cause your ears to fatigue much quicker, and if you are mixing a lot of songs or spending a lot of time on a mix, you don't want that

I try to mix where I can still talk at a normal volume and hear myself pretty easily.

Once I start getting the mix dialed in, I try to bump it up a little louder for a couple minutes to see if anything really stands out to me, and then I bring it back down

14.) Understand phase

This is something you need to learn early on.

Phase is essentially the relationship between two waveforms

Basically, if a sound is in phase then it will sound good. If it's out of phase, it will sound thin, weak, and perhaps disappear altogether

A perfect example is a snare and snare bottom recording.

Because the snare was recorded with two different mics, each mic will pick up the sound at slightly different times

Because of this, the snare top and bottom are often times out of phase with each other

The solution to this is to flip the phase on the snare top or bottom.

If the sound gets fuller and more audible, it's more in phase. If it get's weaker or sounds worse, it's more out of phase.

There are other situations where you may run into phase issues, such your overhead recordings or parallel processing.

When you do parallel processing, the plugins will be modifying the waveform and potentially introducing low levels of latency that can cause phase issues

A simple way to check this is, once again, to flip the phase

Phase may not be an issue for you very often, especially when working with programmed music, but when it is an issue, it's a big issue, and understanding it and recognizing when it's a problem will save your mix

15.) Learn Balancing

Mixing is basically just using your tools to balance the volumes, frequencies, stereo spectrum, and the dynamics of all the different elements in your mix

Sometimes the issue with your mix is as simple as having one element too hot, like a kick drum being too loud, or vocals that are too quiet

Sometimes all you need to do to make a mix way better is turn something up or down

In my post "The Ultimate EDM Mixing and Mastering guide for beginners" I go over a very simple exercise to help you learn how to balance your tracks

Go check that out if you are struggling with balance and let me know how it's helped you

16.) Sample rate

Mixing Tips For Beginners

This is one of those mixing tips for beginners that I still forget about myself sometimes

Sample rate is pretty simple. Just make sure your session sample rate and track sample rate match every time 

If they don't, the song will sound lower and slower, or higher and faster

Always check this before you start mixing

I have had it happen a few times where I forgot to check this and mixed the whole song thinking it was right, just for the client to tell me it sounded really weird.

I immediately knew what happened, and then I basically had to mix the song again.

However, make sure you match the session sample rate to the tracks, not the other way around

Don't be like me, and make sure they match

I hope you enjoyed this post about 16 Mixing Tips For Beginners

BEFORE YOU GO, I wanted to mention my 'Essentials Guide To Become A BEAST At Mixing & Mastering.'

I created this free resource to help new mixers have a clear guide on what they need to do to be on the fast track to Mixing & Mastering great records.

This resource includes a step-by-step mixing guide, a guide on what you should focus on to get better, my favorite mixing tips and tricks, and my favorite resources to help you build a strong foundation for yourself on your journey

To pick this free resource up, click the button below

Andrew Aurora
Andrew Aurora

I hope you enjoyed this post. I share new content weekly here on my blog on how to bring your creative vision to life so you can start creating amazing music. Please share any content ideas you would like for me to create for you!

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