3 Reasons Why Your Mix Sounds Flat

When a producer hears the words “that sounds flat”, they could be hearing it from anyone. Hearing it from an Engineer or Label owner is bad enough, but hearing it from a fan or someone who buys your music is worse.  I am going to try to clear up what a ‘flat mix’ actually means.

Flat – does not mean your track sucks on a creative level.  Think of flat as a flat tire.  No life in it. Life in music is often referred to spatial effects, sense of movement and audio treatment.  Flat mixes generally sound like all sounds in your track are essentially occupying the exact same space.  So when you play that track – it sounds like a pancake of sound.  Drowning in overlapping frequencies.

Here are 3 ways to avoid the F word that nobody wants to hear when they have submitted their masterpiece.

  1. Spatial Effects: Sound is 3 Dimensional (duh), well you think it is a ‘duh’, but many producers throw that out the window because they don’t embrace the science and theory side. Think of sound a circle in this case.  Draw a line across the circle.  In that circle you will see room for space.  Depth and width and height.a) Using Reverb can give your music/selective tracks a sense of depth.  It essentially works as a way to emulate echo harmonics.  When used correctly – Reverb can give your sound that bigger open feeling with just the right amount of space.  Used incorrectly, Reverb can make your track sound like you are at a club but listening to the music from the bathroom.  (Just turn up a dry wet signal on a track to 100% to achieve that to understand what I mean)

b) Delay – essentially is the other side of echo harmonics.  Delay is the amount of time it takes for     a sound to reach a surface and return.  This is a desired effect!! By adding delay, not only are you     adding depth, but also movement.  Although it is used as an effect, from a engineering                       standpoint, delay gives brief nanosecond breaks where other frequencies can break through.           Used correctly, it can help fix a flat mix.

c) Panning – There a reason why panning is so important!! Think of panning as pushing sounds out      of the way so that the main elements can poke through.  Essentially giving EACH track within              your song it’s own space.  Panning can be gentle (5 to 10%) or extreme (full hard right or left).          The point being, this creates space and your track breathes.

2. Sense of Movement: Although ‘sense of movement’ is often interpreted as something to keep the listener engaged (think of a splash effect here, or noise effect there, transitional effects) it can also refer to a bland or flat mix.  If a track has no sense of movement, that track is likely also to have been mixed in a flat way.  Sense of movement again creates sometimes – and most of the time – tiny microseconds of where certain sounds trail off and those gaps allow other sounds to come      through.  Refer back to spatial effects to understand. Study why this is so vital. Don’t just use the effects, understand why.

3) AUDIO TREATMENT!! Compression and EQ’ing. Flat mixes much of the time can come simply from completely over-compressed tracks that destroy the transients and life within the mix.  They can create muddiness and dull the sounds themselves.  Compression and EQ working together in conjunction with spatial effects will ensure that not only will your sounds have their own space, but they will be able to poke through without stepping on the toes of it’s closest neighbor.  Also it is important to note that REVERB & DELAY can reintroduce frequencies – especially in the lower end. So it is wise to use an EQ to roll off.  For example, if you have a Reverb on your master percussion bus, roll it off to say 200hz to ensure that there is no low end rumble.  Most Reverb and Delay plugins or hardware allow you to do this.  You SHOULD do this and again understand why.

The caveat here is: Used correctly.  Which will take you time based on your experience level and desire for knowledge.

I will be going into more detail over the next few weeks on these specific topics.  But this should get you going to help you identify and correct problems, and FIX THAT FLAT MIX!!

 

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See what you hear, hear what you see. Mastering done properly.

In the world of post production audio engineering and mixing, no matter how good your tools are your ears will never be Superman precise.  SPECTRAL AUDIO ANALYSIS. One of the biggest mistakes that producers make in the mastering process is a lack of visual representation of the changes you are making to your music in the mastering process.  Almost all DAW’s have spectral analyzers.  USE THEM.  They are critically important because it allows you to see the changes you are making to your sound, it can help you identify unwanted artifacts, peaks, clips and pops.

It can also help you get a good idea of what your track should look like when weighed against professionally mastered productions.  The type of mastering reserved for the heavyweights of the music industry with access to the finest audio engineers and equipment money can buy.  Visually compare your track to a commercial release in the same or similar genre.

Programs like Izotope Ozone allow you to take a snapshot of a waveform which can then be used for reference.  ALWAYS use your ears to master, but use your eyes like you would a VST plugin.

Visualize your sound!!  You would be surprised by what you learn.

Be Like Me! An article on how to be yourself as a Music Producer.

I know, I get it.  There are tens of millions of ‘producers’ out there now.  It can be absolutely frustrating getting your music heard over the cacophony.  But what is more important isn’t your competition – it’s what you are making.  Before the internet it was much harder to make a name for yourself in the music industry. It required incredible amounts of leg work and effort that most people take for granted now because social media makes it easier.  So much work in many cases that it was deter a large portion of producers from truly pushing forward.  Only the strong survive right?

What does Elivis have in common with Jimi Hendrix? What do the Rolling Stones have in common with the Beatles? What does Sting have in common with Sir Paul Mccartney? Aside from huge bank accounts, they all had their own sound.

They broke the mold.  They made their own mold.  They were trailblazers.  Not path followers.  In short they made music that nobody had ever heard before.  They put a spin on a genre that nobody had ever done before.  They created their own legend and legacy from owning a sound that nobody could replicate no matter how hard they tried.

If your goal is to be as big as Calvin Harris or Deadmau5 – you have to think this way.  Take inspiration from artists you love -but your ‘sound’ must be your own.  Don’t just experience the future of music – BE the future of music. Take risks and learn techniques. Be patient and treat your music like an audio sculpture. Don’t be afraid to be different.  Different works.