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The One Timing Trick That Will Instantly Produce Tighter Mixes


Have you ever wondered why your mixes never sound as tight as the references you use? You’re doing all the EQ, compression, and saturation, then sweeten the mix with reverb and delay buy yet… Something is missing.

A couple of years ago, I discovered a very simple technique that instantly produced tighter mixes. Since then, it’s become an integral part of my mix workflow.

You can apply this technique to any musical style, in any DAW, in all your mixes.

Want tighter mixes? Then let’s roll!

When recording, you make sure your musicians are playing in time, right? Mixing a band with badly recorded (or edited) timing wouldn’t give you a tight mix, no matter what!

Now, what if I told you that timing is something you can apply to your plug-ins too?

Check out the following table – it’s been done using this BPM to ms converter.

Tighter mixes - Sengspiel Audio BPM table

By its looks, the Sengspiel BPM converter is probably one of the oldest on the internet…

This table assigns a time (in ms) and a frequency (in Hz) to various musical note durations at a tempo of 120 BPM.

So what do I do with these numbers?

It’s ridiculous how simple it is.

When setting any time or frequency-based parameter, use a number that corresponds to a musical note duration in your song’s BPM.

Here are some examples. I’ll assume that our song’s pulse is at 120 BPM:

  • Reverb decay: I usually start somewhere around 1 second. Three values from the above table correspond nicely (750, 1000, and 1500 ms). In a 120 BPM song, I might use a decay of 750 ms for a small room verb, 1000 ms for the drum reverb, and 1500 ms for the vocals.
  • Reverb pre-delay: 50 ms is my generic starting point. Looking at the table, 41.6 or 62.5 ms are alternatives that line up with the beat. If you want to separate reverb from direct sound, you can try a higher value like 83.3 or even 125 ms.
  • Compressor attack and decay: My compressor default setting has a slow (~50 ms) attack and a medium to fast (~200 ms) decay. In our 120BPM song example, I might tweak these values to 41.6 ms for the attack and 187.5 ms for the release.
  • Synthesizer attack, decay, and release: Timing these three parameters to the beat of the music will produce synths that rise and fall perfectly in line with the rhythm! For a string pad, I might use a 1000 ms attack, 750 ms decay, and 1500 ms release.
  • Synthesizer LFOs: Next time you program a tremolo, vibrato, or filter sweep with an LFO, use one of the frequencies listed in the table above and hear the synth move with the pulse of the song! On a side note – if you want a quick run-through on how to program a synth, check out this post

In a nutshell

Time your plug-in parameters to the song’s BPM, and your mix will sound tighter. It’s a subtle effect. If you just apply it to one compressor or a single reverb, you won’t notice much of a difference.

The secret is to time ALL your plug-ins to the rhythm of the song.

ABOUT NORBERT

Norbert is a sound designer, composer, and engineer. He’s always up for a chat – say Hello on Insta (@norbertweiher) or head over to norbertweiher.com to check out his work.


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About Audio Issues and Björgvin Benediktsson

At Audio Issues you’ll learn simple and practical audio production tips you can use right away to improve your music from your home recording studio.  Björgvin is the best-selling author of Step By Step Mixing and the founder of Audio Issues. He helps musicians and producers turn amateur demos into professionally produced records they can be proud to release.

We help home studio musicians and project studio producers make a greater musical impact in their lives by teaching them the skills needed to grow their hobbies and careers. We do this by offering simple and practical music production and success skills they can use right away 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.

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