Audio Mixing on the Go: Professional Sound Without the Studio | King Arthur DJ | Skillshare

Audio Mixing on the Go: Professional Sound Without the Studio skillshare originals badge

King Arthur DJ, DJ / Producer

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6 Lessons (49m)
    • 1. Introduction

      2:27
    • 2. Preparation

      6:49
    • 3. Song Elements

      4:04
    • 4. Mixing Part 1

      15:40
    • 5. Mixing Part 2

      17:14
    • 6. Mixing Part 3

      2:46
96 students are watching this class

About This Class

Learn to mix tracks and achieve professional quality music, all through a laptop and a basic set of headphones.

On the road most of the year, renowned DJ and producer King Arthur has turned mixing music on the go into an art form. In this 30-minute class, King Arthur teaches you to mix your own music by:

  • Referencing existing tracks you love and matching their levels
  • Breaking down your track’s layers and frequencies
  • Utilizing filters to isolate specific elements of the track
  • Detailing the relationship between each instrument and sound

You'll finish this class with the ability to add a professional touch to your tracks, allowing DJs to give you spins and more people to enjoy your music.

Be sure to check out King Arthur's first Skillshare class, Remixing Dance Music: Digital Production Basics.

Transcripts

1. Introduction: Hey, guys. It's King Arthur here again, and today's class is going to be about mixing down your tracks. It's one thing to create a beautiful idea, it's another thing to have it sound good and sound professional. So, this is a track that I am working on with a guy named Sam Feldt. He's doing huge things right now, and this is a collaboration we're working on. When I talk about mixing, what I'm saying is how all the elements in your song are balanced against each other with loudness, brightness, how big, how soft, how fat, how wide. All those things come together to make a really good sounding mix down. One thing that I've been forced to do is I'm doing a lot of traveling and playing shows around the world right now that I have had to learn how to produce, mix, and master everything on the road. My last single that came out a couple of weeks ago, I mixed and mastered the whole thing on iPod headphones because it's all about referencing. I'm going to hopefully teach you guys some skills where no matter what setup you guys have, you're going to learn how to reference your material against the songs that you love and are kind of the industry standard, so that we can bring the best out of you as an artist, whether you have iPod headphones, whether you had Beats headphones, whether you have Bose headphones, or you have wonderful monitors and a beautiful studio. All of those things are great options, but what is important is whatever environment you're going to mix your track in, you need to make sure you're listening to lots and lots of music from other people in that environment, so you can start to train your ear and have an understanding of how your room sounds, or your headphones sound, so that when you go to mix down your track, you know what the standard is that you're trying to achieve. It's really important when you sit down to mix a track, you need to have a goal in mind of, "I want this to be in the same ballpark as this track that I really love." Find a DJ or a producer that you love and pick a track of theirs that you love that you want your song to sound like. Not melodically, not idea-wise, but professionally. Does it sound really big and fat in the low end? Is it a bit punchier? Is it really wide? Is it really warm sounding? These are all things that you're going to want to start taking notice of so that you have a goal of what you're trying to shoot for. 2. Preparation: So, this section of the class we're going to call, "Preparation" because it's all about preparing everything for your mix. You need to know what you want to sound like, where you're trying to go, and part of that preparation is picking your reference song or songs. So, I've picked a couple of tracks that I know I want my song to stand up next to. I don't want to sound exactly like it, but it needs to be in the same ballpark as those tracks. So, I'm going to play you a rough clip of this really raw version of my song and then I'm going to show you some of the reference tracks so you guys can get an idea of what I'm talking about. That's a really raw snippet of the song. I'm actually going to have to really put all this stuff to the test. I've never been in this studio before. I've never listened to music on these monitors before, so I'm not just teaching you this class, just throwing this information out there, I'm actually going to practice this stuff today while I mix this track down. So, I need to check the kick in the baseline levels. I think the mid bass might be too loud, I'm not sure. The piano is sitting right in the mix and the lead isn't cutting through the mix like I want it to, and I definitely know the vocals, they still need to be mixed in properly and I need to do some work on those. But there are things that are synced out. So I think, it sounds a bit flat. It's not as punchy as that needs to be. It sounds a bit muddy as far as the way that the elements are playing off each other. So, I know that each element needs to have its own space in the mix while coming together to form something beautiful. So, I listen to these songs and I think the lead needs to be really looked at, the bass line and the kick, and the vocals are the big things that stick out to me. Now I'm, going to look at some of the other tracks that I want to reference that can help guide me in getting my track sound where it needs to be. So, the first one is actually my last single that just came out and I'm only talking about this one because Sam, who asked me to do this collaboration, he loves this song, and he said he loves the way the track sounded and everything and the track is doing really well so I know that that is a benchmark that I want to achieve again. So, the big things that stick out to me from this mix because this is a brand new room and I've never heard music on these monitors before, is the way a kick in the baseline sit on these monitors is very different than what I'm used to, and also the way that the highs come through. So, those are things that I'm going to really have to take into consideration. But it's interesting to hear it on these monitors because it's very different than what I'm used to hearing the song. So, it's really important to take note of just how the lead seems to be really on top of everything and the kick in the bass line seem to be sunk back in a bit. But this is where it's really important to get to know the system that you're listening to music on, whether it's headphones, or monitors, these are characteristics that you really need to know. So the second song, I'm going listen to the Sagala song and we'll check this one out right now. So this one, this has been a radio hit worldwide. It's really important to listen to the way the vocals set. These radio songs, the vocal is always the most important thing. So, I was listening a lot to how the vocal was sitting in the mix down with everything. I also noticed the kick in the bass line thing again that the way these monitors are. The kick in the baselines seemed a bit more sunk back so I just need to keep that in my mind when I'm going to get them on the track. The last track, this one I know goes off in the club. It's one of our favorite songs to play out live. It's got great chord stabs and everything, so I'm going to play this and listen to how it sounds on these monitors as well. So, what I noticed in this track is the piano was way more prominent than the other tracks and the percussion sits back a bit more. It's not as in your face, but the chord stab, piano stab, is really at the forefront. After listening to those and starting to get a better idea of what the monitors in the studio sound like, I'm going to come back into my track and I'm going to constantly be bouncing back and forth between my song and these reference songs. I'll reference different songs for different elements of my song. So when I listen to the vocal, I'm going to be really conscious of how the vocal sets in the radio song. When they kick in the baseline, I'm going to be really conscious of how the Eagle Eyes song sounds because that one works really well in the clubs. Maybe take notes, write down some different things that you want your track to sound like in those reference songs. So, get your reference songs, get them ready, get your project ready, and let's dig into this and see what we can make happen. 3. Song Elements: So, let's start dissecting the track and to do this, there are a couple of things that I always do every single time. I always look at the loudness, how loud the track is as a whole and how loud different elements are in the mix. So, how loud the lead sound is compared to the kick drum, how loud the clap is compared to the high hat. These are all really important things to know because the loudness or volume level of things is going to make a huge difference in your mix down. Another thing that I look at is how bright a track is. Every element in the song can't be super bright but the track as a whole needs to sound super bright and so it's about piecing everything together to make that the end product. Another thing that I look at is fullness. What I mean by fullness is, does the track have body to it? Does it have beef? Is there something there that really gives the track some power? If your track is missing some mids or some lows, it's going to really miss a lot of the body of what makes up a really good mix down in a song. It's like we've got a box and we're trying to fit a bunch of stuff into it and if we don't fill it up all the way, you're going to feel like it's missing something and stuff is going to shake around when you move the box. So we want to be compact and in there but not trying to blow the box open and make it explode by having too much on the inside. So low-end is super important, especially for anyone who's making dance music or stuff that is going to be played by DJs in the clubs because the low-end is what carries the weight of a song. When I listen to the low-end, I think, how deep does it go? How loud is the kick drum? How loud is the baseline? How loud are they compared to each other? Is there enough presence in the low-end where it can carry the track without overpowering the track? If you have too much low-end, your track is going to sound really muddy and it's going to sound really, really weird. But if you don't have enough, it's going to sound really, really thin and it also will have an impact when you play the song out. So, we need to make sure that the kick and the baseline are sounding really full and really clean because that is going to carry your song. Width is something that is a little bit trickier but is also really important because it can create so much space in cleaning up a mix down. So, when I mean width, we hear sound from right ear all the way around to the left ear. So, if something is really wide, it's coming from out here. If it's really narrow, it's coming from in here. So, some sounds that you are going to have in your mix down, you're going to want to be right in the middle. Your kick and your baseline to be right in the middle every single time because those will punch and hit you right in the face and that's really important. Now, strings or some lead elements and even some backing vocals, really, really wide is really great and it makes your track sound really enormous and massive but also creates a lot of space. So anything that's in the middle can really, really stick out. You've got to remember that you've got a lot of space to work with. You don't have to fill up the whole space but just know that the more space you give each sound, the better it's going to make your mix down sound because nothing will be competing with each other. So, definitely remember that. The last element that I look at is depth and when I'm talking about depth, I focus on relationship of sounds to each other and part of depth has to do with width as well. So if you make a sound really wide, you can sit it really quietly because it's so wide and nothing is competing with it out here. But if you keep everything here in the middle, it's going to be really hard to create any sort of depth because everything is competing for the same space. So remember, the difference between volume and width is going to help create this depth and perception where you want to give your mix some dynamic. So it's not flat and just smash you in the face but it has some room and some character to it. 4. Mixing Part 1: So, now it's time to get into the track. You've got your reference songs, you've got an idea of what you want to do, where you want to go with the mixdown and so, now it's important to start actually applying all the notes you've taken to your song. So, the first thing that I always try and do, I take my kick drum and my sub-bass, and I play them together. Okay. Cool. Those sound all right. Let's listen to these tracks and see how their kick and bassline are sitting. Okay. So, out of all of these tracks, my track talking about love has the loudest bassline and this is something I purposely do in a lot of my tracks. This is a tip for you guys, is your kick and your bassline, they are competing a lot for the same space. So, if you have a really big kick drum, your sub-bass is not going to be very prominent because if there's too much low end, it ruins your whole track. If you have a really short punchy kick, you can have a really, really prominent sub-bass. One thing that I love in my tracks and just one of my signature things is I have a certain kick drum that I've made and it allows me to really boost the low end of tracks on my tracks on a really warm in the clubs and so, I notice that the bass line in my track is louder than the other two references, but the kick drum especially in the Eagle Eyes remix, is little much bigger and louder than mine. So, I've got the same kick in this project as the other one. So, I listen that, I think I can compare to the others, I can push the bass line up a little bit more. Okay. So, the next thing that I'll do, really quickly and important thing is the volume level which you listen when you mix down has a huge impact on how you perceive the sound. If you listen to this super loud, it's going to be so hard to hear the difference between sounds. If you listen quietly, it's going to be really easy to pick out the difference between where your lead is sitting compared to your pads and your percussion. Your high hat sits next to your clap. So, I really recommend that when you're mixing down a track, it's no longer about making it, listen to a super loud and getting into the emotion of it all, it's about being really technical and really precise and so, keeping at a volume level where you can hear every element clearly and it's not going to make your ears too tired. So, that's why I have this volume level. There will be times where I turn it up to make sure the kick in the bass line are really punching through, but that's only for short periods of time for very very specific reason. So, let's look at more of the mixdown stuff. So, I've got my kick and my baseline sitting how I want them to so far, and I'm going add in what I call my mid bass. It's the layer I put on top of my sub-base that gives it more body and it's another sound that I've added that gives it a bit more character. So let's listen to those together. My mid bass is definitely too loud. It's taking over everything where I have a feeling when I put in the other elements, it's going to be really loud compared to everything and then kind of take over the track. So, I'm going to just turn the volume down on this a couple DB and just listen again. Okay, I'm liking how that sounding. Now I'm going to add in the piano which is a really, it's an important part of the song is because it carries the chords. The bass line is a nice chord progression but this is carrying the chords of the track. So, I'm going to bring that and we're going to listen to that on top of everything else. Okay, so now the piano is, I think the piano can get turned down a little bit as well. I actually think I could turn the mid bass up just a little bit more now that the piano is back in, because the mid bass adds a lot of character. The other important thing to notice about this so far is the piano by itself. It has some width to it which is good because the mid bass is much more the body of it is in the middle. So, if I had the piano a little bit wider, it allows them to sit on top of each other in a way that is really comfortable I guess, is the way that I would put it. They compliment each other really well to create a really good meat to the track. Put the bass line. So, I'm really liking how this is sounding. So, the next element that gets added to this is our kind of pluck Marimba. So, this is three different sounds together and it's pluck blocky sound that I made. This is the actual marimba. The last section, I think, is a snare drum that I shortened a lot. So, that it, no I changed it to more of a really shortened tam. First, I had a snare and there is the tam now to help. If you ever have a sound or lead sound the effect is missing some sharpness through the cut through the beginning, may either take white noise or some percussive sound, and make it really short, and just short through as it snaps right at the beginning. So, I'll play all three of them together. I'll take it without I'll play without the percussive element, and you hear a huge difference at the beginning of the sound. Now, add that back in. This is a little trick to help make certain elements pop out, and so I listen to this and I think, "Okay. The way these three elements sit together, it's good but I feel like the marimba needs to cut through a bit more, because it has the marimbas are beautiful, and they're very popular right now. So, I have those three layered together hearing in my head. What's important about this sound, is that it needs to be bright, and I used this term before, but it does seem to be bright because this is the lead that sits on top of everything. So, if it doesn't cut through very well, it'd be really hard to hear this in the mixdown, it'd be very hard to get to sit properly. So, what I've done, I've grouped all three of them together, and then I've, it's really simply you have cut out a lot of the low end bits below, I think what have in here 182 hertz I've cut everything out, and then I've bumped 2,100, sorry. Like three and a half DB, just to give a little bit of brightness so that when it sits on top of everything, there's nothing from the bottom of the mixdown or the bottom of those elements that's getting in the way of the rest of the track. So, let's listen to everything together now as far as all of the melodic elements. So, I brought a little bit more of the blocky plucked sound back in, because it helps the sound as a whole really cut through for the lead. Okay. So, now we're going to have this is a really good foundation. We've got the kick in the baseline, which are super important, and that we started to build all the melodic levels on top of that. The next aspect we're going to bring in, is we're going to start bringing in some of the percussion. So, it's really simple to do a high hat and a clap. So, I remember how the other reference tracks are. The clap in my song right now, is a bit too loud. So, I'm going to bring it down just a little bit. I am going to bring the high hat down just a little bit as well. So, I'm going to pull up the eagle eyes remix and just listen. Then I'll listen the other tracks just to get an idea. Make sure you keep going back to the reference songs so you can hear the progress you're making, and making sure you're going in the right direction. Okay, cool. So, we've got a good idea. So, I'm going to throw in all the percussion now, and start listening to where things are. I feel like the levels that I had were pretty good. They're right in that same ballpark. I could adjust a little bit either way, to make it a little bit louder, a little little bit quieter based on preference, but now I'm going to put all the percussion in just so we get a good idea of how everything sounds together. So, I'm liking how it's sounding. I think the elements are, they are really close to the other track, it's right in the same ballpark. As far as brightness it's not too sharp, but it's also not too dull where it sounds flat. The one thing that I am noticing, is I think there's a little bit of body missing from my track, and it's something I'm going to try and work on in the mix, where I think maybe turning the mid base up a little, add a little more, back into the track. One or two elements can change the whole outcome of a mixdown. Taking that mid-base and turning it up 3-DB has made the track have much more presence. It sounds a lot more full than it did before. The one thing that I'm missing from this track compared to the other ones, is the additional is like, what I call support percussion, the stuff is not the high hat with the clap, it's a bit more prominent. 5. Mixing Part 2: So, we've got the core of the track where everything that's going on in the song is sitting in the mixdown. So, now I need to start bringing the vocals in. The vocals are a huge part of this song. They're going to be the element in the song that people remember and sing along to. So, I want to make sure these are sitting right in the mix. So, I threw them in. I thought I had them in a place that was sounding okay in the mixdown. So, we're going to go down to the breakdown where the vocals come in and let's listen to where they sit compared to the piano and everything. I'm going to turn it up in the decks a little bit, just to see if it makes a difference, as far as I'm cutting through and being really clean. So, the volume, when I brought the vocals up on the track, I started to notice that the vocals, it's a bit sharp, it's a bit too bright, and it's cutting through at a place that, when loud, will be really harsh to listen to. If you really listen carefully you can hear how, and this is my friend Michael, he's got an amazing voice and he's very bluesy with a lot of character to it, but my processing sometimes brings out a sharpness to his voice that isn't actually there. So, I have to be really conscious to make sure that anytime I process things the way where it becomes too sharp that I bring it back down, so it's not too bright. So, bringing up the volume definitely made that stick out more. So, let's listen to how I had it before, just so you can hear the brightness to it. So, I've used Mike on multiple tracks. So, I have a preset that I use on his voice, where it dips down about 60 beats from 530 or 5,300 hertz upwards to 20K. I drop at about six DBs, so it rolls off some of that sharpness and gives his voice a bit more body, like it naturally has. So, this is what it sounds like that. This is without that. I'm going to roll it back off. So, let's listen to it again, now that it's been equeued correctly. Let's listen back to the volume level in relation to everything else. So, I'm going to listen to the vocals in the other tracks so I can get an idea of the level of the relationship of the vocal to the piano which is in all the track. So, we can really start to get the depth from the mixdown of this section if correct. Okay, let's listen to this one. Okay, so let's listen to this one. Okay, so, what I've noticed from these monitors is the vocals actually sit deeper than I have in my mixdown. So, what I've done is I've made the vocals way too loud in the mix, not that way too loud, but they're too loud compared to the reference track. So, even though in my head I think it should sound this way, I'm not used to this room, I'm not used to the way that things are set up here so, I have to go back to things that I do know, which is the reference songs, and I'm going to trust the way that those ones are mixed because they're amazing records. I'm going to try and make mine sound just like that. So, I'm going to bring the volume down on the vocal in the mix and see if it starts to sit better compared to the other tracks. So, that to me is starting to sit much better compared to those other reference songs. When I had it before, it was just the vocals was sitting too much on top of everything else, and now it really feels a part of the mixdown. So, I'm going to go through and make sure I have the EQ on every one of them, to be the same. Okay. I noticed on those strings that I have in there, they're too loud. So, I'm going to bring them a little bit more back in the mix. Anytime that I have vocals in a breakdown, they are mixed one way and anytime there vocals on top of full-on production, I mix them a different way. One thing I've done, is I've changed the EQ and I need to adjust the EQ back down a little bit because it's a little bit too sharp. A really important thing, and this is a really simple trick that you may or may not already know, but when you have vocals on top of full production, you're going to want to side chain them but just a little bit. So, I've got this LFO plugin, I use it all the time for shaping my side chains, because they're wonderful for just ducking the vocal a little bit when the kit comes in. So, it's a little tips that are going to clean your mix down up. So, I'm going to turn the LFO off so you can hear it. Now, I'm going to turn LFO back on. So, I don't know if you can hear it too much, but a way to tell with the vocal on top of the production is the snap of the kick drum. We'll, it should be cleaner when you side-chain just a little bit of the vocal. Then what you can also do is you can drop the vocal in the mix a little bit more because it's pumping a bit, and so, these are little simple tricks I'm going to make your mix down sound really clean, that take two seconds to do. So, side-chain vocals just a little bit. Now, I think the lead's a little bit too loud. So, I'll just go and listen to how the purposive fill right before the drop is in the mix. So, if it is louder, if it's wider away of sitting. I really like the volume of that. It's prominent, it needs to be there and have impact, but it's not too in my face. So, I'm really liking how this mix down is sounding. Something that's really important to do, and now actually I'm going to do this right now is, I'm going to turn the volume up and make sure the kick in the baseline are sounding really clean together. It's important that your kick in your baseline sound really clean together because they're such prominent elements in your mix down that if you're kicking your baseline or in any way shape or form, clashing or competing with each other or embodying each other, it's going to mess up your whole mix down. So, it's always good to go back and make sure the kick in the baseline are sitting really well together and then having everything built on top of that. So, let's just listen to everything as a whole when it kicks back and again. Actually, I think I have to listen to it again, the kick can go up a little bit in the mix down. So, we'll turn up PDB, it's really important the kick is there. I'm really liking how this is sounding. So, let's go back and listen to the reference songs again just to make sure we're still in the right direction in the right ballpark. I'm going to turn the piano up. So, since I turned the volume up on the piano a little bit, I need to make sure I make the adjustments back to the vocals because that was a key relationship between the vocals sitting on top of the piano. So, I move the piano up like half a DB. So, let's just make sure I bump up all the vocals, but half the DB. So, it keeps the same relationship. So, I really like how this sounds and so what I would do is, the next step in my process is I would take this, I would save it. I would bounce it first to save it and I'd go step away from the computer for an hour, two hours maybe until tomorrow. It's important to come back with fresh ears. Sometimes what happens is you get so stuck in on the mix down, you're hearing things in your head that aren't actually the way they sound and so it's really good to get a fresh start. So, what I would do is I feel like I've made some really good progress in the mix down, I would bounce it, I would save the file, I'll close it, I'd go get a workout in go hang out with friends, maybe go take a nap or go to bed if it's nighttime and then listen back with fresh ears tomorrow and keep going back and forth. Reference your your tracks that you've picked that you want to sound like. Make sure it's sounding bright but also for making sure nothing's clashing and keep at it and be really really precise. Be really really particularly because the better your track sounds, the better success you're going to have as a producer. 6. Mixing Part 3: All right, guys. So, the last thing we're going to do is we're going to listen and compare how the track was mixed before and after I did the mix down session today. So, I've got both songs in here. I've got one that's the original mix and then one that's the mix that I did today. So, let's listen to the original first and then I'll bounce to the mixed one. The one in yellow is the one that's going to be being played. So, let's check this out. You can hear the huge difference in the vocal level right there and the way that the vocal sits in the mix down. They're so much cleaner in the new version that we have. The mid base is sitting a bit better. The vocal's sitting better in the mix as well. The lead sounds really good on this one. Let's bounce to the other one. Here, the lead in this one is just way too quiet. The strings are a bit more sunk in on this mix but I think it fits with what we're trying to do. So, I hope these processes really helped you guys learn some tips and tricks to start to train your ear on what to be looking for because when I first started out mixing down my own tracks, I had a really hard time because I had no idea what I was trying to do. So hopefully, these are some skills that I've learned over the years that can be used for you guys in your mix down process, so you have a really good idea of what to be looking for and can start to speed up the process of taking a mix down from its original state to helping it become more professional to a point where you might be able to start releasing some music which would be wonderful for you guys. So, I hope you guys have enjoyed it. Hit me up with any questions and I'll continue to be a resource for you guys. Thanks for tuning into the class and good luck with everything.