Are you trying to make everything louder than everything else?
Maybe you’re constantly frustrated that all your sounds aren’t coming through with the clarity that you want. Or you can’t decide what level each sound should be at. Or maybe you sometimes feel like you’re chasing your tail:
- Turn up the drums. Now the bass is too quiet, so turn that up
- Now you can’t hear your pads, so they come up too
- Now the vocals are drowned out, so bring them up too
- Now your drums aren’t punching through any more, so go back to step 1…
It’s a common beginner’s mistake. You’ve lovingly crafted each sound, so of course you want every sound to be heard clearly and appreciated by your listener. The problem is that most mixes don’t have enough space to feature every sound (the exception is very sparse mixes that only have a handful of instruments).
What your mix needs is focus. You need to swallow your pride and make some hard decisions. Some sounds must be placed in the foreground, other sounds must be placed in the background. In most kinds of music, the vocals, drums and bass are in the foreground. That’s all. Other sounds sit behind them, and may be partially masked by them. I’ve written about this before – it’s called depth.
What if you still want to draw your listener’s attention to your lovingly crafted background sounds? You can do this be having pauses or breakdown sections in your music. This is where some of the foreground instruments are not playing, allowing the listener to hear the sounds behind them in more detail.