Synthesizer sounds have the most flexibility, when it comes to mixing. I love mixing synths, because they allow for so many opportunities. You can EQ synths heavily, drown them in effects, and automate them without ruining their original sound.
I've compiled a list of my personal top 5 tips for mixing synthesizer sounds. The purpose of this article is to encourage new creative mixing techniques for both beginners and veterans. You'll be able to use these mixing tips with Massive, FM8, Razor, Sylenth, Synth1, Gladiator, Omnisphere, and pretty much every synth period! Let's get started!
1. Mix With Your DAW.. Not Just Your Synth
Think of the built in synth effects as a starting point for your mix. They're effective for getting ideas out, but not necessarily great for getting the finished product you want. The effects that come with your synthesizer are alright, but your mixes will be much cleaner if you mix using auxiliary channels and effects.
Using auxiliary channels to mix your synth sounds frees up effects in your synthesizer patch that you can use for other effects. I do this a lot when I make synth patches in Massive. I use Logic's built in Reverb and Delay plugins so I can add more effects using the synth's limited 2 effects slots. The possibilities are limitless when you combine other mixing plugins with your synth patches. HINT: Sylenth is deadly for sound design when mixed using Waves plugins.
2. Distortion Is Your Friend
As long as it's used in moderation, Distortion is a plugin that can bring out any synth sound in the mix. Use caution when introducing Distortion to your synth sounds. The effect will make your synths significantly louder!
There are several types of options for Distortion: Overdrive, Bitcrusher, Phase Distortion, etc. Experiment with different types of distortion and stick with the settings you like best. For the beat below, I used a lot of Logic Pro's Bitcrusher to make the synths sound Lo-Fi and gritty. The grainy synth sounds help to make the beat feel dark and scary.
3. Eliminate Annoying Frequencies
Throw and EQ on your synths and make cuts! Eliminating problem frequencies in your synth patches will make all of the sounds in your beat more cohesive. Always take away frequencies before you boost frequencies. Remember that the vocals are the final instrument and you need to leave room for them in the mix.
Low Pass and High Pass Filters are effective at reducing frequencies that you don't need. Low Pass Filters reduce clarity and make synths sound dark. High Pass Filters increase clarity and make the synths sound small and thin.
4. Add Octaves Or Chords
Adding an Octave to your synth patch is probably the easiest way to make it stand out when mixing. As long as your synth has multiple Oscillators, you can have multiple Octaves playing at once. Add an Oscillator for +12 or -12 to the synth you already have. Adjust the amplitude to your liking.
5. Use Panning To Make All Your Synths Fit
Arrange all of your synth sounds based on importance. Keep your loudest synth sounds towards the middle of your mix and Pan the insignificant ones to the left or the right. If all of your synths are stacked in the middle, it's hard for people to distinguish one layer from the next.
Automation is neat for adding creative panning. Use this feature to have your synth sounds bouncing from right to left or left to right. Don't be lazy!
If you have additional questions or tips, please leave them in the comments section below.
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