When we work with students in our Cosmic Academy bootcamp, the moment we get into their project files with them, we usually can identify a major aspect holding back the quality of their mixdowns immediately: imbalance.
Imbalance in a mix is one of the most common culprits we can point to when a track sounds muddy, unpolished or just not quite “professional.”
Thankfully if you can identify these imbalances, you can easily solve them! Let’s talk about the three most common imbalances we see and how to solve them:
⒈ Volume Is the Most Common Imbalance, but the Easiest to Fix
This one is often overlooked because it sounds “too simple”, but we are constantly reminding our students that VOLUME should be the first place to look when approaching a mix. Often times, producers will reach for more complicated tools like EQs or compressors, when the issue truly lies with plain old volume.
In fact, many experienced mix engineers can get a track sounding pretty close with volume faders alone. If your volumes are set properly—the rest of the mix should come much easier.
When it comes to volume for each element, use reference tracks as a guide!
2. Frequency Imbalances Might Not be Caused by What You Think They're Caused By
This is another very important one. Frequency imbalances can make a mix too muddy and unclear, or too bright and too harsh.
The biggest cause of frequency imbalance in a mix is a phenomenon known as frequency “buildup.” Too many layers or instruments with frequency content in the same region of the spectrum can build up when layered and stacked on top of each other, causing the sum of the entire mix to have too much information in that area.
Our best suggestions to solve this are to remove unnecessary frequencies from your sounds and samples and avoid overlayering!
Use spectrum analyzers and visualizers to compare the frequency balance of your mix to the mixes of your favorite tracks.
3. Stereo Space Imbalances Pop Up in A Few Different Ways
This one can pop up in a few different ways. Maybe there are too many sounds down the middle, cluttering up the mid channel and underutilizing the sides.
Or maybe TOO MANY sounds are pushed out wide, and the mix thins out when played back in mono.
To solve this, be intentional about which sounds should go in the middle (usually the kick, sub, and vocal) versus which sounds should be panned and wide. Make sure to vary it up!