How to mix beats is a very broad topic to discuss. It covers so many different genres and individual preferences that I could sit here all day going through all the techniques out there. Talk about information overload!
But really, the most important thing to remember about mixing beats is that less is more. The perfect arrangement and sound selection will require little processing.
Below, I’ve listed four easy ways to improve your mixing in no time.
Gain-staging your mix correctly is the most important step to mixing beats as it ensures your beats won’t clip and become ruined.
Clipping happens when a track gets louder than 0dB. When clipping happens, the daw audio interface can’t contain it, so everything that is above 0dB gets cut, and this causes weird distortion and artifacts.
Clipping also runs your masters, as it affects how you will be able to use a limiter. The limiter’s function is to keep everything below a certain level.
If a track gets louder than 0dB by 5dB for example, it will turn everything down by 5dB. This becomes a problem when your kick/808s hit.
When the kick/808s hit, they crank up the master gain. This causes the limiter to turn everything down for a couple of milliseconds before returning to normal. This leads to an unbalanced and unprofessional sounding beat.
But don’t worry, preventing clipping is quite easy. Just make sure that each one of your channels peaks below -12dB. This gives you enough freedom to level your channels however you want, without having to panic about passing that 0dB barrier.
However, I recommend not using the mixer to do this, but the channel rack volume. This gives you a fresh start with balanced mixer channels.
Using Mixer Channels
To use effects such as reverb, compression, and EQ you’ll need to assign each channel to a mixer channel. This is so you can level everything easily and have full control over each channel.
To assign something to a mixer channel in FL Studio, click it in the channel rack, and then click the small arrow at the top left corner, before clicking ‘assign free mixer track.’
Level Everything in The Mixer According to The Kick
After you’ve linked every track to the mixer, you can now start leveling each one of the mixer channels to create a balanced sound.
There are so many ways to level a mix, that there is no right or wrong way to do it. However, this is the best way to eliminate clipping and achieve a well-balanced mix.
Even if you apply effects to it, always keep the kick’s peak at -12dB. This gives you a great leveling starting point to count on, as well as making sure your mix will never clip and give you enough space for the mastering in the end. This also applies to boosting the master’s bus channel volume.
Making the kicks & 808s hit right is considered one of the hardest parts of mixing, but also the most important.
I believe they are the best place to start because if they are balanced correctly it gives you a much clearer image of the mix and a chance to prepare its base parts.
I recommend leveling with a bottom-top method. This means that you start at the base (808, kick, drums, etc), then go to the mid parts (chords, pads, etc), and then finally level the top elements (vocals, leads, etc).
While this is my recommendation, you can level your tracks whatever way you wish. As long as you don’t change the kick’s volume, you’re good to go.
Once everything is leveled, you can go ahead and lower the master’s bus channel volume back to its default (0dB).
EQ Each of The Channels
Now it’s time to EQ each of the channels in your mix. EQing is all about boosting and reducing certain frequencies. This could be boosting the bass, cutting the high-end, reducing the mid-range, and more.
The point of EQing is to make space for each one of your elements in the mix. It helps to think of your mix as three boxes. One low-end, the other mid-range, and the other high-end, and these three boxes are inside one big box.
To fit all of your elements nicely, you need to make sure there is enough space in the individual boxes, as well as in the larger box.
For example, if I want to fit an 808 in the mix, I need to make sure that none of the elements that are not supposed to be in the low-end have low-end frequencies. This gives the 808 enough space to fit in without muddiness or clipping.
Or, if I wanted to fit in an acoustic guitar that has a very prominent nid-range, I need to make sure that all the other elements don’t have a similarly prominent mid-range by reducing the mid-range of the other elements.
Following these simple rules will make you a master at EQing in no time! However, I do have a few more tips that will also help you with EQing.
Before you start EQing, consider how you want the final version of the beat to sound like and prepare accordingly.
If you want the beat to be punchy and heavy, boost the high-end of the kick and lower its low-end to give the heaviness of the 808 more space to come in.
The most important thing to keep in mind is the context of each channel, and how they relate and react to the other channels. Also, changes you make may sound great solo, but this doesn’t always mean they will sound good in the mix.
So I advise avoiding this as much as possible. The only time you should listen to something in solo is when you’re attempting to remove resonating frequencies, as this is when you’re reshaping the sound of the element.
Once you’ve removed frequencies that are too strong, make room for other frequencies to shine. Doing this may make you realize you didn’t need to boost anything at all! Before you boost, always cut and reduce to achieve a balanced sound.