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Filling Out a Thin Mix

written by: •edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 1/19/2010

Mixing is usually about crowd control. But sometimes you'll have a thin mix of maybe two or three instruments. How can you fill it out to make it sound good and full? Reverb? Sure, if your target audience is people in shopping malls and elevators. But if you want people to actually listen, read on .

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    One plus One equals Five

    In this little exercise we're going to take a max of two instruments and turn it into five. In REAPER you can do this quite easily using that program's channel splitting and routing capabilities. If you're using another DAW it should still be possible to achieve this outcome, but you'll need to create a lot of extra tracks and use one or more likely two busses.

    The trick is to turn one of our instruments into two and the other one into three, then spread them neatly across the panning spectrum, from left to right. Let's put some flesh on these bones. We've got a banjo and a guitar.

    First decide which one you want to feature more. Let's say it's the banjo. In this case, then the guitar is the secondary instrument. We'll work on that first.

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    Creating the Effect

    Select the track containing your secondary instrument and follow the procedure shown in Mixing Sense 5: Brightening a Dull Instrument. Your track setup will now be similar to that shown in the first illustration. In this example, the original guitar track is panned about 40% left and the copy about 40% right. We'll assume that you've done the same.

    Now for the more featured instrument, our banjo.

    Pan it dead center. Open the routing window for this track and create two Post-Fader/Post Pan sends, one to each of your guitar tracks. In each case, start with a level of about -5dB and pan the send the opposite side to the track to which it is being sent. Thus, the send to the original guitar track will in this example be panned 100% right and the send to the copy track will be 100% left. This is shown in our second illustration.

    Play the song. You'll notice how much fuller it sounds, without loss of clarity or separation. As you play it tweak any of your settings to get the best results.

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    Track layout for this exampleTrack routing the featured track

Develop Your Mixing Sense

A series of articles intended to help you develop your mixing sense. Includes tips and tricks on finding the right balance in your mix, fleshing out thin sounds and more.
  1. Mixing Sense: What's It All About?
  2. The Sound Spectrum & Analysis Tools
  3. Height as a Dimension of Sound
  4. Width as a Dimension of Sound
  5. How to Use Audio Panning to Make Tracks Sound Fuller
  6. Filling Out Vocals with the Channel Splitting Technique
  7. Filling Out a Thin Mix