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Learn Music and Audio Production | iZotope Tips and Tutorials

How to Mix a Song from Start to Finish

by iZotope Team June 21, 2019

30+ tools to mix, master, analyze, & repair audio:

Music Production Suite 4.1

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You’re at square one, staring at a session of unmixed tracks. Where do you go from here? In the video below, learn how to mix your track and even get a rough master ready, all with core mixing and mastering tools like Neutron 3 for mixing, Nectar 3 Plus for vocal processing, and Ozone 9 for mastering. Don’t forget to check out all of these amazing tools and more in Music Production Suite 4.1.

Session setup and level balance with Mix Assistant

The first thing to do is import your session files into a blank DAW to get ready for initial level balance, but what do you do from here? What you don’t do is reach for an EQ, dive into compression, or add time-based effects like reverb or delay. The first step is all about setting levels.

Many mix engineers start with an overall level balance of all the tracks to establish a sort of sonic hierarchy. Mix Assistant in Neutron is a great option to quickly balance your mix. Download free session templates to help jump-start the Mix Assistant setup process.

Mix Assistant gives you a starting point for your mix by automatically suggesting initial levels for all the tracks in your session. While analyzing your session, mix elements are bucketed into logical groups (a focus track, vocals, bass, drums, etc.), so you can quickly make broad adjustments. In just a few clicks, you can achieve a roughly balanced mix for even the most complex sessions. Further adjustments can be made on a per-track basis within the Visual Mixer (free with a demo download of Neutron 3 Advanced!) or using the faders in your DAW.

How to mix drums and unmask individual elements

Once you have an initial level balance and your tracks are nicely organized and grouped, a good next step is tackling the drums. Let’s start with the kick tracks, which often perform the same function, to propel the track forward and add power to the track. In the video above, we use Track Enhance in Neutron to jump-start kick drum mixing, before further molding the kick with Sculptor.

A common problem you might encounter when mixing drums is a sense of muddiness between percussive elements. This is called masking, and it can happen when two sound sources have energy in similar frequency ranges. A great tool to help alleviate this is the Masking Meter in Neutron, which gives you visual feedback of the frequencies where masking may occur between your tracks.

Watch the video above to learn more about mixing drums, including adding reverb, molding the snare with Sculptor, and taming hi-hats along with bells.

How to mix bass with Track Enhance in Neutron

If there was a dark art of mixing, it would be mixing bass. In the video above, we use Track Enhance in Neutron to jump-start bass synth mixing before pulling in some dynamic sidechaining to help unmask the bass synth from the kick drum.

How to mix guitar and synths with Sculptor

Neutron 3’s Sculptor module can help you mix and shape your guitar tracks, and mold them toward a perfect target curve of a guitar. Have synth tracks to mix too? Sculptor has you covered. Just choose the appropriate target instrument profile and start shaping!

How to mix vocals with Nectar

In the video above, we use Nectar to help mix a lead vocal. To avoid gain-riding, try the Auto Level Mode in Nectar to automatically keep your target gain around -8 dB or so. Follow along as we balance and pan the chorus and verse vocal doubles with Nectar and Visual Mixer.

How to master a mix with Ozone 

With Ozone 9’s Master Assistant, you can easily jump-start your mastering process—years of studio practice not required. Watch in the video as we use Tonal Balance Control 2 to ensure our tracks translate into the right distribution format, and address any tonal imbalances. Don’t forget to check out all of these amazing tools and more in Music Production Suite 4.

Get more mixing tips to improve your next project:

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