In this series of tutorials we are going to be taking you through the step by step process of creating a real remix. I have been remixing for many years and I’ll try to share with you some of the techniques I have used in my studio work.
You can find the previous articles in this series here:
In this penultimate chapter we’ll look at how we can ensure our mix is at its best by performing final tweaks to the arrangement and mix. By making these small adjustments we’ll be making sure our mix is 100% ready for mastering.
At this point we need to go over the whole mix with a fine tooth comb deciding on any last minute adjustments and alterations. I like to start by looking at the transitions; if these are interesting the whole mix is generally improved.
We’ll start with fills and breaks: these mark the start of a new section and will often add energy to your project. The process of deciding where to place extra programming simply involves listening to the track as a whole. After a few passes, the places that need work should jump out at you.
When I do this I break the track up into sections so I can concentrate on bite-sized sections. For instance: the first batch of programming I performed was on the drum intro section and I scanned this for areas to work on first.
I found two areas where extra fills and programming could be used. Around halfway through the intro I added a simple reverb-based break. This was achieved by automating the reverb send level on the main drum loop. I also dropped the accompanying percussion loop at the same point to accentuate the effect.
The reverb-based fill I created in the intro.
The reverb fill:
The second area of the intro that got some attention was the section leading into the first verse. I added a reparative ‘roll’ on both the main loop and percussion loops. This added some interest and made the fill a little more ‘tech’ in nature. I felt it needed something else at this point and that’s what we’ll look at next.
The second fill is enhanced.
The second fill is finished and in place:
I picked these intro fills as an example but the same work was repeated throughout each section of the mix and any further programming that was added can be heard in the full example at the end of this tutorial.
When working on fills and transitions it’s really important that they flow well. Creating fluid transitions is difficult but there are a few techniques that can really make life easier. We have already looked at automation and how changing filter frequencies and effects send amounts can really help but you can also use effects-based samples and patches here as well.
The transition moving into the first verse is pretty good at this point but needed a little more work. I decided a noise-based sample spread across the end of the intro and the start of the chorus would really help to glue the two parts together.
I constructed this effect from scratch using a simple white noise sample, an automated low pass filter and some stereo delay. This approach gives you maximum control over the sound and allows you to sculpt it to your exact specification.
The noise-based effect is constructed.
This effect was re-used throughout the track and really helps to create anticipation and atmosphere. Try experimenting with a few different effects. You can always add extra processing, such as reverb and delay to make things even more atmospheric if needed.
The simple noise-based effect in the first transition:
If you feel that some parts of your track need spicing up you can try adding extra instrumentation or percussion parts. I felt that the chorus needed a little lift and introduced a small percussion loop hit to add a little energy. You can hear the new sound in the clip below.
The loop was treated with some stereo delay, a touch of ambience, some saturation and of course the inevitable low cut to ensure there were no rogue low frequencies interfering with our mix.
The new loop is highlighted in the last section of the mix.
The new loop in the final section:
I also used this extra sound in the intro and outro sections of our mix. You can go even further here and actually add extra instrumentation if you like, but remember not to overcook things. If you mix doesn't sound good with 8 parts adding another 5 probably won't help!
This is also the time to add any repeats or extra edits to your mix. We’ll take a look at this next and I’ll show you some key sections that were altered at this point.
Now check your mix for any final editing, copying and pasting that needs to be done! Luckily there was only one edit I needed to take care of here. One of the vocal parts I’d made in the first chorus was missing from the second chorus and its absence meant there was a lack of energy here.
I simply grabbed the part I’d constructed earlier and copied into the corresponding location in the second chorus section. Simple edits like this can make a huge difference. It’s well worth sitting down to do numerous listening sessions with pen and paper to make notes of anything that needs to be done. You’ve come this far so don’t skimp on the work now!
The vocal part is copied and pasted into place in the second chorus.
As always our final step is to look at the big picture and check where we are at. Play your mix all the way through. Now your edits have been taken care of, all your instrumentation is in place and your transitions are smooth you can focus on the mix.
In this case we have taken care of all the relative levels as we’ve gone along so everything is how it should be. You can hear the evolution of the mix and levels I’ve used if you compare the final examples at each stage of this tutorial.
The entire mix in all its glory.
If you have a mix this large it’s a huge help to use group channels and mix all similar sounds as one instrument. You can see in this mix I have done that with the vocals. There were a pretty large number of vocal tracks and having them in one group was simply a lifesaver. They were all treated with the same compressor and any other effects were send / returns.
The arrangement has finally taken form!
The full mix up until this point:
If you feel you need to alter your mix you can always set up fresh groups with no automation or processing and set up a relative mix with large groups. Whatever you choose to do just make sure that you leave plenty of headroom on the master output, because next up we’ll be getting into some mastering!
You can hear the mix that I had up until this point above... Things have finally come into line and we can now hear the finished structure and arrangement. All that's left to do now is tweak the final sound. Check out the final part of this remix series here.
The song used for this remix series was kindly provided by Church Williams. Please support him by visiting his site.
Church Williams - Touch the Sun
Interested in learning more about how to remix? Check out Olav Basoski's Remixing in Live Tutorial-Video series.