While mixing a clients project earlier today, I found myself thinking how basic all of the techniques and processing chains I had used were.
On every single group bus besides the main vocal and bass, I had but just two plugins on each, an equaliser and a compressor.
I’ve often found that many of us place an EQ and Compressor on to our channels more out of a formality than because we are consciously aware of how we want the instrument to sound. It’s almost become a habit to use both of these plugins and then start applying more and more until we’re satisfied with the result. I am defiantly guilty of this, especially in the early days of learning the basics of the craft, I never really grasped how to use the two most fundamental tools in music production, and in-turn never came out with any good sounding mixes.
Now, many years later, and a little more experienced, I find myself using less and less but achieving higher quality results. Doing more with less if you will. While I wouldn’t say that I have mastered the EQ and Compressor yet, I would say that this is the key or elusive ‘secret’ to achieving high-quality mixes. It’s not the answer most people want to hear; they think that it must be a secret plugin, technique, or a hidden feature — perhaps this is because they’re hoping for it to be a straightforward answer. But in some ways, it is, because the answer has been right under your nose this whole time.
You can watch any of my tutorials past volume 18 to see this, in these tutorials while I am only using EQ and compression, I’m also just using the stock plugins that come bundled with the software. The stock plugins can get you some great sounding mixes, but I would always recommend investing in higher quality tools that will give you more options to customise the character and tone of your records in the long run.
Everything I’ve just said is quite obviously all ‘on average’. When I’m sent an already good sounding project, all of the above is usually enough to turn it into something quite great. There are of course times when EQ and compression just won’t be enough, but I do believe that these tools are the starting point of any great mix.