Where Each Instrument Fits In The Mix

By Kade Young

Most assume achieving a great mix is simply a matter of moving faders up and down. But, if you have been mixing for long, you know better.  You not only have to possess a wide array of technical knowledge, but you also need an understanding of where each instrument fits in the mix.

On top of this, every song is different.  If you feel overwhelmed with it all, you are not alone.  Good news is, once you understand where each instrument fits in the mix, it all becomes a whole lot easier.

Mixing Console worship

The Foundation: Bass Guitar & Kick Drum

A great mix is built upon a solid foundation.  The first thing you should listen for is the kick drum and bass guitar.  Here are a few questions to ask yourself to get these right:

  1. Are the kick and bass married together – or is one louder than the other?
  2. Is the energy in the room where you want it to be?  If not, you need more kick and bass (or maybe better subs).
  3. Are the kick and bass getting lost in the mix?  If so, bring them up as they should always be heard (they are the foundation after all).

It’s quite the phenomenon…it may seem like the electric guitar is too loud when the real problem is that the bass guitar is too quiet.  Bottom line, set your foundation first, then move on to the rest.

The Background: Instruments, Vocals, Toms & Cymbals

Most songs have one lead instrument and one lead vocal.  Lets consider everything else (other than the bass and kick) ‘background’.  After you have your foundation set, it is time to blend together your background instruments and vocals.

If you have a well-trained band, your background instruments will be playing in different areas of the frequency spectrum.  For example, your rhythm electric guitar will be filling up the lower mid-range with bar chords while the piano player is playing an arpeggiated pattern in the upper mid-range.  This makes it easy to fill up the full frequency spectrum with background instruments and vocals.

Bottom line, mix your background instruments, background vocals, toms and cymbals on about the same playing field.  Bring them up until they are audible and then dial back a bit until they blend with the rest of the mix.

The Foreground: Lead Instrument & Snare

Songs generally have one lead instrument (occasionally you will have two). For example, on the song Wake by Hillsong Young and Free, the synth is the lead instrument whereas the lead instrument on Grace on Top of Grace by Fellowship Creative is the electric guitar.

To achieve a great mix, you must first pay attention to what the lead instrument is in a specific song.  Then, mix it right on top of the background instruments/vocals.

The snare drum should also sit right on top of the background instruments and vocals.  A lot of energy in music comes from the kick and snare combined, so it is important to have these mixed right.

On the Top: Lead Vocal

Last but not least, it is time to bring up your lead vocal until it sits on top of everything else.  One of the most irritating things for the congregation is when they can’t understand the lead vocal – so, work hard to make sure this doesn’t happen.

If you have a hard time keeping your lead vocal above the mix, check out this post: How to Make Lead Vocals Sound Amazing.

The original post is here.

About Mark Cole

Jesus follower, Husband, Father, Worship Leader, Writer, Pastor, Church Consultant, Founding Arranger for Praisecharts.com, squash & tennis player, blogger & outdoor enthusiast.. (biking, hiking, skiing). Twitter: @MarkMCole Facebook: mmcole
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