Axel Björkqvist shared some really nice music production techniques on Facebook, so I decided to share them here for you (with his permission, of course). Hope you will find them interesting and useful 🙂
1. Find samples that are audible and relatively clear in the mix before they even have been processed. They will be much easier to mix then.
2. If a synth lead line doesn’t fit in the mix, no matter how much you process it, try moving it an octave up/down or change the notes where necessary. You can also try a new synth sound with different harmonics. FM synthesis, such as Operator or FM8, is useful for this.
3. Before mixing a kick and sub together with EQ etc, listen for phase problems. You can flip the phase of things using the Utility device in Ableton. For maximum phase control: synthesize the low end of the kick using a sine wave with a pitch envelope control. Layer the bottom end of the kick with a high passed kick drum sample and compress the two parts to glue them together.
Low end tip: Low pass the sub and the kick together to more easily focus on problems in the low end section.
For subtractive EQ in the low end section of things, use a narrow Q. For additive EQ, use a wider Q. Also; have in mind that EQ slightly changes the phase of a sound, so be careful when EQing the low end.
4. To make a reverb sound “larger”: use a higher pre delay. Don’t use a higher decay than necessary in the mix. The decay only determines the length of the reverb, not the vastness. A good reverb plugin will produce a reverb that is clear and realistic, not granular sounding. It will glue the mix together much more than a “bad” reverb would.
5. Don’t try and squeeze in frequencies in areas where there is plenty of them already. For example: a section with white noise and hihats doesn’t necessarily need more high freq layering. Lower the volume of the hihats and the white noise at a certain point if you wish to add a huge cymbal in that section.
6. Think of the EQ as a tool for positioning things further away or closer in the mix. Frequencies around 300 – 500 hz, 2khz, 10khz and upwards make sounds appear “closer”. Scooping these out will place things further away. A good technique if you want something to sound bigger, a pad for example.
7. If a drum break lacks groove, try adjusting the pitch, decay, attack and sustain of the samples used.
8. For “longer” and more sustained sounds, an RMS compression setting with a slower attack and a slower release can do the job if the sound is too dynamic.
9. Using parallel compression on the drum bus after reverb will glue the drums together nicely. The Glue compressor has some nice presets.
10. To make a drum kit/drum sample sound super powerful, use a compressor setting with a really short attack, a really short release, a low threshold and a high ratio (Limiting basically).
11. If you are layering kick drums; use a short transient for a long tail and a long transient for a short tail.
12. Using downward compression around 300 Hz (Ableton’s multiband dynamics) on a muddy drum break can make the break more punchy and clear sounding (great for Drum n Bass breaks btw).