Are you a preset-mixer?
Do you find a preset for every instrument, hoping that it will make your tracks better?
It’s a great way to start, but if you don’t go beyond preset-mixing, you’ll never get better.
Presets are a great way for the beginner to get a feel for what the “right” type of sound is.
Whether it’s compression presets, EQ, or reverbs, using presets is definitely a good starting point in your mix.
But it doesn’t end there.
Presets weren’t made for your mix in mind. -Click to Tweet!
They are general, overall templates that work in some situations. But you need to tweak them if you want them to apply to your mix.
They are just the starting point, and you need to do fix them to get to the finish line.
Most compressors come with a few great starter presets for whatever it is you are compressing. If you want a “tight kick drum” or a “punchy vocal”, chances are your compressor has something similar.
But you’ll still need to tweak the parameters to suit the particular waveform that you are mixing. The preset designer probably had something else in mind when he/she created it.
I rarely use EQ presets. The presets in Logic boost more than I like, so I stay away from them.
I’d rather concentrate on cutting the lower frequencies to get the apparent boost in highs than actually cranking up all the high-end. Then later, if I need a little boost here and there, I can do that. But cut first, before you boost everything out of proportion.
One thing I like doing, which I demonstrate in the videos, is how you can flip the high-boost presets into a more controlled, subtractive EQ curve. If you look at a typical preset that has very big boosts you can just simply invert the boosts into cuts. That way you don’t introduce unnecessary distortion or phase issues.
You really need to go through your reverb presets to find the right one for the track. Reverb can seem overwhelmingly complex to the untrained eye, so browsing through the presets can usually save you from information overload.
Take your time when you’re selecting reverbs. It can take a while finding the perfect one for your vocal, or drum sound, or snare, or guitar solo etc.
A different reverb preset can make a big difference to the overall sound of your track.
Presets are Just a Starting Point
It’s nice to use presets as templates. You might want a thumping kick drum sound and therefore choose the “Kick Thump” preset to start off.
But since the engineers that created those presets might not have had your particular kick drum recording in mind, it might not sound like anything YOU had in mind.
Don’t just blindly put a preset on every track and call yourself a mixing engineer.
This mistake similar to the last mistake of not listening to your compressor. You need to put your presets in context to your own tracks.
Don’t put blind faith into presets, but do use them to guide you in the right direction.
In the next lesson we’ll be looking at the all-important foundation of a mix, the drum sound. Specifically we’ll discuss some techniques on pushing the drums back in the mix without losing punch and presence.
I set out to create a guide of simple music production tips like this with Recording & Mixing Strategies.
If you want a guide that shows you how to reach the sounds you hear in your head, check out the Strategies Bundle right here.