VSTs require LESS IS MORE in your mixing!
I’ve learned the hard way.
When starting up, I’d open up my EQ, take out some low end with a high pass filter, then get tempted to do a little more…
I’ll dip out EQ in the MID, then boost up the highs, and when I play the whole track together, I realize.. what did I do to my beat/song?
I tried to fix a problem that wasn’t even there lol!
EQ is actually so powerful. It can really make your tracks stand out, or.. it can really wreck your tracks if you are tweaking not in the sweet spots!
The best advice I can give you while starting up mixing is adjust your volumes first. From there maybe take out some low-end of your tracks that don’t need the bass down there. From there.. LISTEN TO YOUR TRACK!. This is such an important point, because how you can mix stuff without hearing it?
Earlier on, and sometimes still, I start to EQ or compress, before I actually hear my track. Listen for what needs fixing, then make your adjustments!
Now, after listening, maybe start panning, or trying to figure out “what is my main instrument.. what needs to stand out?”.
From here, you’ve built yourself a great starting point. (Now you can EQ/compress if things aren’t standing out how you’d like).
Why LESS IS MORE while using VSTs,
VSTi sounds are great to start out with. They are designed to sound good, and are produced with computers and numbers.
Now, when recording live instruments, mixing is quite different, even though, they have the same concepts.
With real drummers, they do not always hit the snare the same volume. So therefore, this is where a compressor actually comes into play, to keep the snare hit at a even level.
But we beat makers use compression to make things louder and stick out better in our mixes. (Or on things that are loud and quiet, and essentially, using the compressor for the same reason as a live drummer — such as an arpeggio).
You record a guitar into a microphone for your beat.
It’s a great recording.. but a human played the instrument. Therefore some notes will be louder, softer, maybe a bit tinny sounding if the player didn’t hold the fret correctly etc. In other words, lots of room for error, and this is where “mixing with EQ and compression” does some big and major things in live recordings.
So.. Since VSTs are digital,
Since the majority of home studio producers use MIDI, it leaves one with so much flexibility where EQ and compression many times aren’t needed! Because of MIDI you are able to make a note louder/quieter and you can adjust how long you want the note to be played. So therefore, they don’t need much EQ and compression because they are great as they are. If anything, just take out some low-end on tracks that don’t need it, listen for what could stand out more, and maybe EQ out some of the highs on the other sound that is preventing it from standing out!
Now.. with synths, you can get a lot of frequency clashing, which is where EQ is great. I find myself doing some pretty extreme EQing if I have 2+ synths in my beat. You may feel while you are EQing the high out of one that it sounds really dull, but if you take away the EQ you will hear that the 2 synths are clashing again. This is a compromise that you have to make, and once you get better with EQ, it will go more and more unnoticeable to you!
Or.. as I mentioned above, if you have an arpeggio, there are a lot of quiet sounds in an arpeggio.. (most of the time). So, you’ll want to use a compressor to grab those quiet part going within the arpeggio. Either a high low threshold, low ratio, or high threshold, high ratio.
But my point is, if you keep feeling you are wrecking your mixes the more you mix.. the kicks are not punchy, and it feels like the track before sounded better, it did sound better before, and it’s probably cause you’re doing too much!
Back to the First Point of the Blog Post,
LESS is MORE in your mixing!
- Adjust your levels, take a step back, and listen.
- What needs to be fixed?
- Does it sound great as it is? Don’t feel you HAVE to EQ something just because you think you should.
- If it sounds great to you, leave it as it is. Take a step back, listen to the mix as a whole, and if it fits in good, sounds like you got the job done! 😉
I’d highly recommend the Final Listen.
Last thing to point,
Earlier on, I found myself EQing a single instrument. I don’t feel this is an effective way to EQ as you have to listen to the instrument in the context of the mix. However, if an instrument is clogging up a lot of space in your track, muting individual instruments is a great way to figure out what track is causing your mix issues.
If you EQ the sound individually, then play all the instruments together, you’re looking at a lot of tweaking/headaches.
Again, adjust your volumes, take a step back and listen.
Hope that gives you a better insight in mixing! (There’s an amazing about of quick fixes and techniques, but listening is probably #1).