In this months article, I’d like to talk about something that I see people struggle with on a daily basis with both my clients, and every-day producers; mixing in EDM production. More specifically, leveling.
Leveling is very important to a mix, yet so subtle and basic, that not a lot of producers know how to do it and do it well. Mixing starts at leveling, leveling is all about making sure each of your multitracks is balanced so you get a full mix, with little processing. If you can nail your levels, the post processing is going to sound 10x better.
The leveling technique I’m going to teach you today is going to make the mixing process a hell of a lot easier; it might even make it more exciting!
EDM Production: Mixing with Pink Noise
Pink noise is where our journey is going to begin.
The very first thing I start with when I pull open a client’s project, after importing multitracks, is a audio file of pink noise which sits under the entire track.
Take a look at the waveform of pink noise above. This is relatively how the waveform of your track should look, when you are finished with leveling. Now, it really doesn’t have to be exact, but what you are going for is a big boost in the low end, roll off to the mids, start to plateau, and finally a roll off in the highs (about 17k range).
This is no foreign technique. However, this might be completely new to some of you newer producers.
Unlike, white noise, pink noise has an equal amount of noise energy per octave. This means that it’s pushing more energy in the low-end, which is why you see such a massive spike in the waveform.
Because of the tonal balance in pink noise, and since we want the best balance in a mix, pink noise is one of the best tools to use for mixing. Whereas white noise carries the exact same amount of energy per octave, which gives you a “flat” frequency response.
This is perfect for tuning equipment, but terrible for mixing.
EDM Production: Mixing Through The Leveling Process
Now that you’ve had your brief history lesson, let’s get into the good stuff! Be sure to mix at a LOW LOW LOW volume…
I try to always mix between -50 and -65db.
The first thing you’ll want to do after loading your pink noise sample, is to turn all of your elements down. We’re going to start with silence.
Then, I like to start with my kick, snare and sub. The way I was taught, and the way I like to mix, is to have my kick, snare and sub as the loudest elements within the mix. I’ll first set my kick to -10db and match my snare with my kick. Now listen to those elements with your pink noise.
Your kick and snare should be standing just above your pink noise, maybe even significantly more.
Once that is set, mute the pink noise and turn your sub up to -10db to start. Listen to all 3 of your elements together and make sure the sub isn’t overpowering everything. Set it so the kick and snare are punching through the sub, but the sub still sits well in the mix.
Once those are set, we’re ready to move on to the next part. Solo the pink noise and then solo the next element down your list of multitracks. Grab your fader and start pulling up.
The goal here is to get your sound to sit JUST above the pink noise. You want to just barely start to notice the sound sitting over the pink noise.
Move down your list one by one using this technique. Once I get to all of my FX sounds, i.e. white noise sweeps, risers, crashes etc. etc.
I’ll usually turn those up fairly loud without using my pink noise.
The reason I do this, is because so many of these elements are just too difficult to notice in the pink noise. They get drown out and a lot of the time you’ll have to sit there on repeat for a few minutes. It can kill your creativity time and just takes too long.
Once you get to the end, BOOM! Your track should be fairly balanced at this point, if not, entirely balanced.
I always pull open the SPAN Analyzer on my master channel to take a look at my frequency spectrum to take a look at how everything is sitting.
EDM Production: Mixing The Finishing Touches
This is the biggest and longest step in leveling. At this point, you should go take a 30 minute break. Listening to all that pink noise with all of those other elements can be EXHAUSTING on your ears.
Don’t forget, you should always take a 20 – 30 minute break, per hour you produce, mix or master.
Once you come back to your project, spend about 30 – 45 minutes on adjusting your levels a little. Make sure the elements you want to stick out, are where they need to be. Some might need to be turned up, some down, more specifically, your FX sounds.
Congratulations! You’ve just created your first (or your 100th) balanced mix! This technique was the single technique that transformed my mixing. It made me realize how easy and fun mixing really is.
I hope this will do the same for you! Take your time with this process and really feel everything out, especially with leveling. A lot of leveling is listening and feeling.
Does this sound stick out the way it should, am I hearing this how I want to?
Mixing at a low level will definitely help you judge which sounds stick out like a sore thumb, and which ones sit perfectly!
Need a pink noise wav file to use while mixing? Click the button below and signup for my newsletter and grab a free copy of the exact pink noise that I use!