5 Ways to Fix a Song’s Mix That Doesn’t Translate

by Andre Gonsalves

Your mix doesn’t translate well. We’ve all been there. So how you can you easily fix it and get back to finishing your album?

Earlier this year, I took you to task for not having a good listening environment. Give that a read to get a beginner’s perspective on sound design.

Okay you’re back. Here are 5 more things you can do to improve your song’s mix.

5. Your Mix Has Too Much Going On

Just as when I first learned to rap, I thought the more words I said, the better my raps were. Boy was I wrong! New producers seem to think the more sounds they can cram into into a beat, the better it will sound. This is like saying, the more pants I wear the better I will look.

Does this guy look good to you?

Does this guy look good to you?

Listen to the biggest songs and count how many sounds are in them. I’ll wait. Actually I’ll tell you, excluding the drums and bass, you’re probably looking at about 2 to 3 sounds that make up the main melody. Think of a song as a building with 5 floors, each sound should occupy a floor. If two or more sounds are occupying the same floor you’re mix isn’t going to work. Now replace the word floor with frequency. Each frequency band should only really have one sound in it and when we do things like dynamic compression we are only working with really four or five bands. So really only four or five sounds are needed! Remember the best strategy is to keep things simple. Every hit song is dead simple. It’s their simplicity which make them work.

4. Your Vocals Make People Laugh

The most successful non-singer of all time.

The most successful non-singer of all time.

Even if you can’t sing, as in hit the correct notes, you could still make a good vocal melody by how you phrase your words. For example, early 50 Cent. On the flip side, you can be a great singer and have a horrible vocal melody because your song’s lyrics do not have the right phrasing to go with the beat. A good way to overcome this is to play your beat and just record without writing down any lyrics until you find that catchy melody. Our brains are naturally wired to recognize when a note is out of place, for example, just sing the alphabet song off key for any child and they’ll laugh at you and tell you how you’re doing it all wrong (Pro Tip: Do not sing for any kids you do not personally know as you may end up in jail or with a black eye).

The reason some singers don’t know they can’t sing is because they are too busy focusing on what they’re saying and not how they’re saying it. Remember this is music, not an English paper you write the night before it’s due.

3. Your Bass Is Too Loud

Anybody that does this with headphones shouldn't be mixing your song.

Anybody that does this with headphones shouldn’t be mixing your song.

You’ve probably either spent too much time in a club fist pumping or in a car with the music turned up way too loud as you think the louder your bass the better your song. Next time you make a beat or mix a song, turn down the bass. Now watch, or rather listen to your song spring back to life. This is because you’re giving more room to your mid and top range to breathe. Also when you send your song for mastering your mastering engineer will be able to turn your bass frequencies up and they wont sound distorted or overwhelm your mix.

2. You Picked The Wrong Sounds

This guy picked the right major and the right sounds.

This guy picked the right major and the right sounds.

When you pick the wrong major in university you’re screwed for life, when you pick the wrong sounds in your music, you can usually just replace them with better quality sounds. You can’t just pick any old bass, kick, snare, piano, I don’t know, tabla sounds and expect for it to sound like Timbaland. Listen to this song there’s only drums and a synth and it sounds like the greatest thing ever (at least it did in 1996). This is why Dr. Dre has some of the best mixes, because he uses the best sounds. Every great mix starts with great sounds.

1. Your Arrangement is Deranged

I believe you can pretty much take any song and make it work as long as your arrangement is on point. What is arrangement? Well if you don’t even know what song arrangement is then you’re pretty much screwed yourself of ever having a decent mix. Hyperbole. Sorry.

Your arrangement is how your production and vocals work together to create an interesting and entertaining piece of music. The way your sounds are arranged to compliment each other and evoke different moods is the key. Music is all about creating an emotion that is felt in the listener, if you can do that, you’re on your way to a great mix and perhaps a great music career. Now go translate that mix for the world to hear (I know cheesy)!



Andre is the head audio engineer at ADG Mastering, which he helped found in 2012. For the last 10 years, he has made it his mission to empower aspiring artists and musicians from around the world. You can see more of Andre's writings on our Blog.

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