Transform Your Rough Recordings Into Released Records, Even If You Only Have a Home Studio

Arrange Like This For Easier Mixes

Welcome to the third part of the Mix-Ready Roadmap, where I show you how to improve your mixes before you even play with a single plug-in!

Yesterday, you learned how important a good song is to your final mix. No plug-in will make your song sound better, so start with the best ingredients if you want better mixes.

Mix-Ready Roadmap: Easy Mixing Through Arrangement

There are two ways to think about an arrangement

  • Song structure
  • Instrumentation

We talked about song structure yesterday so that part should be “Mix-Ready.” But there’s a LOT you can do to make your mixing easier by arranging the right instrumentation throughout your song.

Inside the category of “instrumentation,” there are two ways to think about arranging your instruments:

  1. Arranging contrast in each section.
  2. Arranging the register of the instruments.

Mix-Ready Arrangement: Contrast

You’ve heard this before in almost every hit song:

  • Strong intro with instruments on full blast.
  • Toned down verse with only a couple of instruments and the main vocal.
  • Additional instruments add a layer that lifts the pre-chorus from the verse.
  • The lead vocal explodes into the chorus with every instrument from the intro, plus additional backing vocals.
  • The song tones back down into the second verse, but in contrast to the first verse, you’ll now hear some additional tracks underneath, maybe an extra guitar, a pad, a vocal harmony, etc.
  • The second pre-chorus sounds the same as the first, except the additional layers from the second verse carry into it.
  • The song’s big pay-off fully explodes into high gear in the last chorus, adding additional layers, vocal harmonies, and counter-melodies to make it the biggest part of the arrangement.

As an example, here is a simplified arrangement graphic featuring “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons:

Who says Excel is only for numbers and math?

Once you have an inherently exciting arrangement because of its contrast, the listener is too busy engaging with all the interesting instrumentation throughout the song to care how you EQ’d the drums.

Ultimately, you’re mixing for listeners, not other audio engineers. Listeners care about what they can hear in your production, not how well you balanced everything in the frequency spectrum.

Mix-Ready Registers

The reason your mix is muddy is simple:

You have three different guitar parts: a piano, an organ pad, and the bass guitar, all playing in the same register around the middle C octave.

Therefore, all your instruments are dominating the same fundamental frequency range.

In this case, you have two possible solutions:

  • Heavily EQ all your instruments so they all fit in the low-mids together without clashing.
  • Change the register of some of the instruments so that they naturally separate in the arrangement, either by changing the octave or by having them play different chord inversions.

Although EQ is your best friend while you’re mixing, it’s not always the best tool for the job. Sometimes, the best tool for the job isn’t a tool but a plan that considers all the players and gives everybody the right space in the arrangement.

Next Up: Mix-Ready Tracks

Even with an awesome song and a great arrangement, there’s one final piece of the puzzle that you still need before you consider your production “Mix-Ready.”

We’ll cover that tomorrow, so look in your inbox for the last part of our Mix-Ready Roadmap.

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About me

About Audio Issues and Björgvin Benediktsson

We help musicians transform their recordings into radio-ready and release-worthy records they’re proud to release.

We do this by offering simple and practical music production and success skills they can use immediately to level themselves up – while rejecting negativity and gear-shaming from the industry. A rising tide floats all boats and the ocean is big enough for all of us to surf the sound waves.

Björgvin’s step-by-step mixing process has helped thousands of musicians confidently mix their music from their home studios. If you’d like to join them, check out the best-selling book Step By Step Mixing: How To Create Great Mixes Using Only 5 Plug-ins right here.