A mixdown can be something very abstract when you’re starting out with your productions. The pure theoretical definition is “to combine several tracks of audio into a single file”. In general practice the term “mixdown” or “mixing down” is often used as a way to describe the proces of making the most out of your mix. This means volume leveling, sound processing, panning, editing, compressing etc. All to make sure the final product sounds good. Especially in the beginning this can be very overwhelming. There are so many possibilities and it’s hard to get a good overview of what needs to be done.
Something that can really help is to visualize your track and your mixdown. Think of you track as a 3D box. The box is still empty, but you need to fill it with sounds and frequencies. You can use all three dimensions: top to bottom, left to right and back to front. Your goal is to fill up the box evenly in all 3 dimension, so it’s balanced. The only way to achieve this is to give all the sounds their own respective place in the box.
From bottom to top:
EQ is key here. That’s the easiest way to change the sonic image of a sound. Lows in the bottom: basslines synths and other sounds containing low frequencies. Mids in the middle: synths, vocals, mid ranges of basslines, pads etc, some percussion. Highs on top: Hihats, rides, percussion, air on vocals or synths, sweeps, fx etc. Please keep in mind that these are only some examples.
From left to right:
This one is all about the stereo image. Panning and stereo widening. Look at this as left, center and right for panning or mids and sides for widening. Normally the main vocals are dead center. Same goes for the kick and some percussion. How you fill in the blank space of your box is up to you. Reference other tracks and visualize how they do it.
From the back to the front:
Another important aspect of the 3d visualization is the depth. What do you want going on in the back, which sounds could be somewhere in the middle, and which sounds should be up front? The easiest way to change the depth of a sound is the volume. The higher the volume, the more up front a sound will be. The lower the volume, the more in the back the sound will be. Another way is the use of reverb. Especially when bringing a sound to the back. Other tools like compression or transient shaping can bring a sound more to the front.
Now that you have this 3D visual image of your track, your goal is to fill the spaces of that box using sound. Try to fill it up evenly so the box will be in balance. Just keep in mind which space you are using and what is still left to be used.
Hope this production tip helps you with your tracks. Happy producing!
And if you need any help, you know where to find me! 🙂
Michael de Kooker