3. Micro panning
Finding movement is paramount to a successful mix. A tiny degree of panning, almost too little to hear unless you solo the source, can go a long way in this regard.
This is a go-to move for sequenced hi-hats (I’ll tend to pan quickly). And very useful for background pads/noises as well (a slightly slower pan is usually good for the sustainy sounds). Delay returns are also a great place to play with moving pan positions.
4. Subtle volume rides at section changes
Volume automation is not just good for evening things out — it can also be great for creating contrast. Next time you’re going from the verse of a song to the chorus try a few of these little techniques.
Bump the chorus up on your submix/master fader channel by 1 dB. Bump the very first moment of the chorus up 1 dB above that, and quickly return it back down. Find a sustaining element right before the chorus and start pulling it up a bit in level creating a subtle crescendo movement.
Even the vocal reverb/delay return can be good to bump right at that transition point.
5. EQ/compression/distortion on reverb and delay returns
I have a cool video tutorial on this but felt that it was worth mentioning here.
Reverb/delay returns are elements in the mix just like anything else. Coloring the ambience in a slightly unique way can help create tonal complexity and augment the sense of depth.
6. Removal of unwanted sounds
A great deal of what you’re hearing in a great mix is what you’re not hearing.
The removal of bleed and mouth noises, the reduction of breathes, the taming of plosives and sibilance. All of these excess sounds add up to one things: distraction.
Not to say breath noises don’t have their place — but you’re the master of the playback so be decisive about what you don’t want, what you do want and how much.
Ultimately we as engineers are doing our best to get the music through the speakers in the most captivating way possible. Sometimes that’s about the big picture. But it’s also about all the little things, the subtle decisions we make, that amount to something bigger than the sum of its parts. That’s why I may do things that the average listener probably won’t consciously hear.
Matthew Weiss engineers from his private facility in Philadelphia, PA. A list of clients and credits are available at Weiss-Sound.com. To get a taste of The Maio Collection, the debut drum library from Matthew, check out The Maio Sampler Pack by entering your email here and pressing “Download.”
Also be sure to visit The Pro Audio Files for more great recording content. To comment or ask questions about this article, go here.