Ask any drum n bass producer what’s the hardest part of drum n bass production and 9 out of 10 will tell you its the mixdown. So with that in mind I thought I’d share a few mixing tips I’ve managed to pick up along the way.
1. Compression, now before everyone gets their knickers in a knot. I’m not talking about squeezing the life out of your
drums. I’m talking about using a compressor on your drum buss to help glue all your drum sounds together. Its important to make your drums sound like one uniform cohesive sound and compression will do the trick quite well.
2. Try to separate all your drums onto their own tracks. This makes it nice and easy for level changes but also if something needs replacing later in the mix as well.
3. Try adding a touch of reverb to your drums to bring them to life and to make them sound more natural.
4. Try adding an envelope shaper to hits to bring out more attack or to round out the sound more. Works great with snares and kicks and you can even use it on your master buss!
5. If your having trouble with your kick and snare getting lost in the mix try bussing them to their own group first with a separate compressor/eq etc then sending them to the drum buss.
6. Try adding a little distortion to your drums, bass, fx etc. Distortion is awesome and can add that bit of dirt your tune might be lacking. Try using it as a send and insert effect.
7. Take a break every 2 hours or so. You need to give your ears a chance to rest especially if you’re monitoring at loud volumes. Always check your mixes the NEXT morning with a fresh set of ears.
8. Try to cut with EQ first before boost.
9. Generally EQ after compression. This way you don’t undo what the compression has done! If you’re applying EQ on a surgical level ( like removing rumble from a vocal) then place the EQ before compression.
10. When compressing a sound make to use the bypass button to check on what compression your applying.
11. Play around with your fx/vst plugins chains. A reverb after a delay sounds different to a delay after reverb.
12. Layering isn’t always about putting 9 basslines on top of each other. Sometimes it can be subtle like duplicating a drum track, added compression and blending that back in with the original.
13. However, layering in drum n bass is critical in getting that “sound” for your drums and bass. If your drums or bass are sounding weak, its time to layer up!
14. Make sure to apply bass cut to a channel when you can. Its so important to freeing up some headroom and making space in your mix. You an analyzer if you can as well to check if you have any rogue frequencies down in the sub area you don’t need.
15. If your unsure what a certain know or switch or fader does on a plugin or fx or synth test the extreme settings on it and listen to whats happening to the sound. When you’ve worked out what’s going on bring it down to a sensible level.
16. Sidechaining is becoming popular in drum n bass production as well so if your having trouble getting your kick and bass to punch through together try sidechaining them.
17. Sidechaining is not only reserved for the your kick and bass you can get excellent results sidechaing some pads with your kick etc.
18. Don’t be afraid to go into the red a little when your mixing down your track. 3db should be okay but use your ears when you do so.
19. If 2 sounds or more are fighting for the same frequency range try panning them a little left and right. This will help with the separation a lot.
20. Don’t be afraid to use a limiter on your master buss to squeeze out some more db. I’d say 98% of drum n bass producers use limiters in one way or another. So you might as start learning about what they do and how they sound now!
21. When using EQ first sweep the frequency bands slowly and listen out for any horrible resonant frequencies that jump out at you. Then use EQ cut to remove those frequencies. A little here and there can make a huge difference to the overall sound.
Okay then, 21 drum n bass production mixing tips as promised. However, most of these tips can be applied to any genre of music you might make so get cracking!
see you on the dancefloor.