The Fastest Way to Clean Up A Mix: Ableton Live Tutorial

Two Minute Ableton Live Tip #25: How To Clean Up Your Mixes

One of the biggest problems a producer will encounter is how to produce a clean mix.  Often mixes are too muddy in the bass or too harsh in the highs.  This 2 Minute Ableton Live Tip will reveal the fastest way to clean up your mixes: cut unnecessary frequencies.

Each instrument has its own area it occupies in the frequency spectrum.  Here's a super helpful chart I like to use.  It gives you an idea of the sonic range of different instruments, with respect to the audible frequency range and the keys on the piano.

Less is More

Music is funny, one would think that the more instruments you put into a recording, the larger it will sound.  But often the opposite is true.  In my early days of recording, I thought if I wanted the guitars to sound huge, I'd layer 5 of them together.  I'd be left scratching my head wondering why the track sounded much larger with only one or two.  The reason is every instrument is fighting for its place in the frequency spectrum.  Have you ever noticed that in some minimal tracks, the individual instruments have such huge presence?  Check out how huge the guitars and drums sound in this track by Sleigh Bells.  It's because there is really nothing else going on, so these two parts can take up MASSIVE amounts of frequency real estate.

Each Track is Part of a Sonic Puzzle

I like to think of mixing as part jigsaw puzzle, part sculpting.  Each instrument should have its own place on the frequency spectrum.  If you want a huge bassy kick drum, you might want to take some of those sub bass frequencies out of your bass line (otherwise give Sidechaining a try).  If you want a guitar solo to sound huge, ease back on or cut some of the mids out the rhythm guitars a little bit.  Figure out what frequencies are most important in a track and make sure there aren't too many other tracks competing for that same sonic space.

Start Carving Away Frequencies You Don't Need

The easiest way to clean things up is to cut away frequencies you do not need.  Put a low pass filter on the kick drum and cut the highs until you start to notice it.  Put a high pass filter on the cymbals and bring it up just to where it starts to affect the sound. You may be surprised at how much you can cut before you notice it, especially in the context of a full mix.  Making room in these tracks will allow the tracks that really need that space to cut through!

How do you clean up your mixes?  Leave your tips and advice in the comments!

Ableton Instruments from the Video

If you liked the sounds from the video, it comes from a new track I am working on that features a few of my Premium Ableton Live Packs:  The Alpha Juno 2 Pack and the Juno 106 Pack. Both packs are Ableton ready and will give you sounds some nice analog warmth!

Roland Juno 106 Ableton Live Pack

The Roland Juno 106 is a classic analog poly synth from the 1980s.  It melts the ears with beautiful analog warm and character.  Now these classic sounds are available to you in Ableton Live!  Harness the power of the Juno and take it to new levels with the power of Ableton Live's Instrument racks and audio effects. 

-22 Ableton Live Instrument Racks
-Requires Live 8 and higher

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