Tips and Techniques #003: Bringing life to a mix, a beat maker’s world

During the first part of the Sean Paine Workshop (credits: Gucci, Future, Young Thug, 2Chainz, Migos, Fetty Wap, Waka, Sosa, and more) at RAC, Sean spoke about his journey through the industry and how he started, followed by revealing some of his own techniques. As most engineers start out, Sean stuck to a certain guideline of what to do/not to do, until his mentors taught him a few tricks of the trade.

With the number of young beat makers rising, more content is being sold to artist and produced into songs. Mixing engineers are now challenged to mix sessions with a beat bounced to a single stereo track, versus a traditional multitrack session that would exceed hundreds of tracks. How’s this an issue? Keep on reading…

What makes a mix exciting, enjoyable, memorable?

A mix is a craft, no matter what the genre or product is. The little subtleties, FX or volume automation is what makes a mix sound alive. Submitting to an engineer a single stereo bounce stops him from being creative. Worst of all, submitting a mix in mono just takes out all the fun.

Limitations you’ve restricted an engineer by submitting a stereo bounce!

The common practice is an artist would purchase a beat and record vocals on top, creating a song. The main issue with having the beat being a single bounce, is that the engineer cannot manipulate any of the instruments/FX. If the drums are too loud or soft, you cannot adjust the level. If theres a vocal melody you hate recorded onto the song, you cannot remove it! Artists should be looking into receiving a multitrack whenever they want to purchase a beat, the same way beat makers should promote this option.

If my beat is going to be played in a club should I bounce it in mono?

The use of mono is a great tool to see if a mix is in phase, with no cancellations. However, most club sound systems aren’t properly configured. More often than not one side of the room wouldn’t hear what’s going on in the other. So, with all of these potential issues in play should I bounce to mono? Absolutely not! Circling back to the start of this article, What makes a mix memorable? Its the subtleties, the way you panned a voice to the side, the ambience and use of delays you applied throughout the song. Having a mix in mono is plain boring. No one in a club would even realize that they are listening to one side of a mix, but someone who is listening to your track on headphones or with home/studio speakers will call you out right away.

Creating ambiences and when is it too much?

Your at the mix stage, panning instruments/voices to the side, adding reverbs, delays maybe a ping pong delay. The mix is moving, but how do I know when to stop? The use of effects is a personal preference. You can have a vocal sound absolutely wet or completely dry, there is no right or wrong way. A general guide is to not have it sounding too crazy, people are easily distracted so don’t guide the listener away from the essence of the song which are the lyrics. You can add the supertap delay on the last word of the verse before a hook, or pan the ad-lib vocal tracks to the side during the chorus with a ping pong delay. However, having a delay bouncing side to side throughout a song would be too distracting for example. I personally find a vocal drowning in reverb would sound washy and you’d lose intelligibility of the lyrics being sung.

A good reference for use of delays would be Travis Scott’s "Antidote". Notice how clean the track sounds, the minimal use of effects but enough to keep the listener engaged. Check it out:


Remember to be creative and subtle, but don’t be afraid to take chances.

Happy Mixing!

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