Mix is often an unappreciated element of music production. Unfortunately I know it myself from experience, as even a few years back I've regarded it as a totally needles and unnecessary addition. Because, if I've found an interesting sample, cut it properly and recorded specific lines, starting with the base and ending with leads, then what was there more to ask for?
It's all about the music and not the way it sounds. And if anyone's interested in this then sooner or later he'll mix and master the material for me. This feels right, but unfortunately really isn't. The era of demo tapes recorded in garages, which became the starting points of huge careers is behind us for quite some time now, and it will probably never come back. It's worth noticing that the competition is now larger than ever and will most surely grow even bigger. The listener probably won't be patient enough to search for some deeper meaning in our music, when hearing thousands of similar songs which appear more interesting. Good examples of the importance of a mix are surely all of the best and most classic albums in the world. Who could imagine such artists as DJ Premier, Pete Rock, AC DC or J Dilla, without their distinctive sounds?
Check out the samples inspired by the sound of DJ Premier: CLICK HERE
I am willing to bet myself, that many of the producers reading this article have already produced a few beats in their careers, which are equally as good as some of DJ Premier's productions. And yet, no one seems to go nuts for them. Why? Primarily the sound. It's not about engaging in this whole “volume war” and attempts to be equal to the most popular top hits in the “production clearness”, but rather about giving character to your recordings. The main fields for this, in sampled beats, are primarily the base and drum elements.
Useful drum sets: CLICK HERE
It is of course also wise to pimp out the samples themselves, but a good beat will be that with a good drum and base line, rather than a well mixed sample. Count's lecture, which I had the pleasure of attending to, was probably the most important part of my learning in terms of music production. I remember the moment when he turned on his session and it was a real shock. There wasn't really anything special about the music or the accompanying rapping, but the song had that special SOMETHING! He turned the music on, and I knew there was something to it because you could feel the kick. Then he said something that gave me lots to think about and changed the direction of my music production at 180 degrees. He said: “Production is 90% mixing. The remaining factors are the 10%. You make a good mix, and it will probably be a good recording. Not the other way around.”
And it gave me something to think about, because such a master of production most surely knows what he's talking about. After a lot of thinking and studying the subject, it turned out he was absolutely right. I often made beats basing on, for example, basic presets of VST instruments not doing much with the sound. And I constantly believed that I simply must work on a better melody and cut the samples better to become a good producer.
A collection of hip-hop and trap presets: CLICK HERE
When I started to do it the other way around the effects finally met my expectations. With a well adjusted thick sound of the synthesizer there is sometimes just one or two notes needed for the beat to sound really interesting. So I think it's wise to devote some time to studying the subject from a more technical, and not an artistic side. That will be more or less all in terms of an introduction. The following posts will be more specific and useful in terms of practice, but for now I encourage you to think about the issue and to consider primarily the mix and sound of all the songs of your favorite performers. You will surely notice that each and every one of them has its own distinctive character, so it's time to start to strive for that to.