If you’re a budding metal artist or are in a metal band, you may have thought about recording new music for your fans, in between practicing for live performances. Of course, this won't be a problem if you have the cash to get professional audio mixing services. If you're not that lucky, you have to do with recording, mixing and mastering your stuff on your computer which is in itself a complex process. To help you along, we compiled the following 5 audio mixing tips for heavy metal artists. But first things first.
What is Sound Mixing?
So what is sound mixing? Sound or audio mixing is the process of mixing different sounds into one cohesive unit. This involves manipulating their individual and collective dynamics, volume levels and frequency contents. In metal music raw audio mixing, the multiple guitars, snares, drums and vocals are combined to give the ultimate metal sound.
1. Watch Your Reverbs
Heavy metal music is usually a fast and superbly chaotic mix of chugging and bass guitars, audio effects, pile-driving drums and the vocals. If you're not careful, your song's clarity may get lost in the midst of all that, leaving it sounding loud and distorted. While audio mixing, you can try to prevent this by using fewer reverbs. Ideally, select one setting that sits perfectly with your instruments and where one is not enough, you may use two, not more. This helps you maintain a balanced output and the audio clarity.
2. Quality Inputs
A lot of people wrongly think that using plugins while mixing tracks solves everything and that they need not do anything else. However, the quality of your source tone, as well as that of your guitars and vocals, determines to a large extent how your track will pan out, plugins notwithstanding. Simply put, you need to put in place quality control measures right from the recording process and if possible, use multitrack songs to make the mixing process simpler. Also, cheap plugins won't do you much good, invest in premium ones for a more cohesive sound.
3. Make Your Room Suitable for Audio Mixing
As you start to mix your own music, you will get to a point where your mixes sound great in the speakers in your room but whack everywhere else. In some cases, your speakers may be at fault, but often, your room may have some tonal imbalances which affects your ability to notice sound defects. Thus, you may need to do the mixing at a professional studio or, better, 'correct' your room by determining the sweet spot and the right spots to place your speakers. For this, you can use software such as Sonarworks Ref 3, Dirac Live and IK Multimedia's ARC. Be prepared, however, to part with a premium in the process.
4. Go Guitar
Extreme guitars are the foundation of hard metal and rock music mix. As you go about mixing your stuff, aspire to get a full, explosive, guitar sound through the effective use of A.D.T, double tracking, and panning guitars. We recommend panning the lead guitar off to one side to take center stage and spread the others on the spectrum depending on the desired sound. If you’re not satisfied with how you guitars sound, you can pass both the clean and dirty version through an effects channel for fine-tuning.
5. Develop a Good Ear for Sound
Ever wondered how two different producers can come up with audios that vary in quality even when using the same tools? The key is in how one interprets sound arrangements in songs and their knowledge of various instruments and techniques. No one can teach you how a great snare or bass guitar sounds like. You get it by listening to a wide variety of music from different generations and through trial and error. For you to learn how to make songs, you need to listen to lots of them first. A good way to do that is to find some relevant tech reviews.
Metal music is a favorite of many people. Whether you love the melodic jams or the characteristically loud ones, we can all agree that nothing sounds as good as heavy metal music. We believe that being a metal producer is a calling and that our tips above give you some pointers on how to mix audio.
What are your favorite techniques when mixing heavy metal audio? Tell us in the comments.
About the author: Lucas M. Cappel is a part-time tutor and a freelance writer with experience in human culture and education. He enjoys sharing his articles with various audiences.