10 Tips for Clean Audio Mixdown in Ableton

In this tutorial, I will cover some tips when creating mixdown in Ableton that are quick and easy to use, but very useful when trying to achieve super clean sound. First, I will clear out some basic stuff about mixdown. Purpose of mixing down your track is to create clean sound that will be easy to master later on. While mastering is similiar to mixing down, it is important to know the difference. When mixing down, you are working with a group of tracks, but when you are mastering, you are working with a final track. So that means mastering is simply adding that final touch to your track, while mixing down is working all the details and characteristics of the track.

1. Leave Headroom for Mastering

To get the best out of the mastering you need to leave some headroom. It is important because later on, you can accomplish more dynamics in your track. Without proper headroom, you can’t master, which means your music won’t sound good in different sound system. It is probably best to keep your headroom around -6 db. Best way to gain this headroom is lower down individual track volume meter, but not master. Also use EQ to cut out unecessary frequencies and try to use as much as high pass filter.

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2. Use EQ and Filter as much as you can

EQ is one of the most important tools for mixing and mastering. It can help you cleaning up so you can get more space and headroom in track or enhancing some parts of spectrum. If you completely want to remove some frequencies then the best tool for it is filter. But achieving great balance in spectrum by using combinations of EQ and filter is key element in getting a clean mixdown.

3. Sidechain Compressor

Sidechaining is a process in which one sound ‘ducks’ when other kicks in. For example, sidechaining bassline and kick, bassline is rolling through the track, but when kick is appearing through the track, volume of bassline is reducing, thus creating more punchier and louder mixdown. Volume and amount of time when ducking can be set in compressor. For this process, Ableton Compressor is one of the best tools because it is very simple and straightforward, without using much CPU.

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4. Panningand Stereo Image

When mixing down, it is important for sound to have it’s place in stereo image. Think of it as painting, you need to have vision where you want to put your sounds. Automating panning and volume creates interesting combination which can be used for great FX. Although it is also very important to check your mix in mono. Most of the Night clubs and sound systems do have two speakers, but they are both in mono. So if your goal is to play your songs in club, watch out for that.

5. Using Haas Effect

If you want to create mono track into stereo, Haas effect really comes in handy. It is used to create depth in the mix and it’s pretty simple. All you need to do is duplicate your track, then pan one instance all the way to the right and the other all the way to the left. Now delay one of them for about 1-20 ms and that is it. Great for creating interesting effects.

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6. Reference Track

Choose a reference track which you will be using to compare your track with. Study it carefully with spectrum analyzers, stereo imaging tools and VU meters. Altough mastered track. It is also great for not getting ear fatigue and you probably won’t overdo some parameters.

7. Name and Colour Your Tracks

It may seem like a silly tip, but when you have over 50 tracks in your project, colours and names really help your getting your workflow faster and smoother. No one wants to work in messy enviroment, whether it is real world or virtual. Also very frustrating and easy to quit when you don’t know which track you need to EQ or something. Keep your DAW nice and tidy.

8. Grouping Tracks

It’s best to route drums, bass, synths and FX into their own groups. Great when you need to glue or sidechain all the elements. Also makes workflow alot easier.

9. New York Compression

New York compression is type of parallel processing, useful when adding punch to your mix. Best used for drums but you can use it for any element. You just duplicate or export sound you want to apply NY compression to, add any compressor, and set alot of ratio, threshold and slow attack and release. Below is example of how much approximately you need to set values of compressor.

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10. Take Time and Breaks

It is nearly impossible for amateur to mix in one session without breaks. Mixing or producing for a little bit longer and you will deal with the ear fatigue, which means you won’t evaluate correctly how much you need to apply something. Work little bit on mixing down for a few days to get the best results, don’t hurry.