Composition & Arranging are the first steps of Mixing

Posted: February 2, 2011 in Composing, Mixing

look at the title, and ask yourself, did you really planned your composition and arrangement the best way ?
are  any of the instruments might make problems in the mixing stage ?
can I do anything in the composing or arranging stage to make it easier to mix later and sound better ?


this a very basic thought, and to answer those question you definitely have to try number of variations in the composing & arranging stage.
it is not hard and actually quite fun, but it will take some time before your ears will be able to find the perfect instrument without even trying.
lets start with the first most important step, which is choosing the right instruments.
lets say I have this lovely drum loop and I want to start building my piece from this specific loop. Drum_Loop

now I feel like adding a bass instrument,
I will add the most basic part of hiphop bass so it will be easier to judge,
here I added 5 bass lines, and turned on and off each one alone with the drum track,
listen how some of the bass sounds, combine good with the drums and some feels like they don’t belong to the drums at all. Bass_1.mp3 Bass_2.mp3 Bass_3.mp3 Bass_4.mp3 Bass_5.mp3

I feel more comfortable with bass part 4.
may be you chose other sounds and that’s ok, Music is an ART, and there are no rights and wrongs.

remember this:
choosing the better sounds (to your taste) will make it easier for you to mix later.

I must add here, that sometimes there will be a sound that you really think can add something to the beat,
but when played the basic part with the the other instruments it is not making good impression,
the way to blend these sounds, is to write a different part for them that will compliment the other instruments,
for example :

this synth, sounds nice. Bass_1.mp3

but the part it is playing is not working very well,
so we should change it, may be to something like that: Bass_1_Var.mp3

just to make it fit better and compliment the bass we chose, like this: 2_Basses.mp3

probably this is not the best choice, and there are 2000 more sounds you can choose from and make the beat sound better,
in the real world you will have to spend more time searching the right sounds, and writing the right parts.

one more point before we continue,
listen to the new sound you want to add while the other sounds are still playing, you need to hear the relationships in real time, to make the right judgment.

lets add some carpets to this beat to achieve more depth (from a compositional perspective). Pad_1.mp3 Pad_2.mp3 Pad_3.mp3

I find Pad number 3 most suitable for the atmosphere of the beat.

now I will try to change the width and weight of the chord, and find out what makes the chord sound better.

I made 8 versions to choose from, and I am going to compare them and choose the one that I believe sounds better.

the normal voicing Pad_3.mp3
voices/notes of the chord have a greater distance between them version 1 Pad_3_space_down.mp3
voices/notes of the chord have a greater distance between them version 2 Pad_3_space_up.mp3
4 voices/notes chord, note added to the higher octave Pad_3_4_up.mp3
4 voices/notes chord, note added to the lower octave Pad_3_4_down.mp3
5 voices/notes chord Pad_3_5.mp3
two voices of the chord Pad_3_2.mp3
one voice of the chord Pad_3_1.mp3

I find the “greater distance between notes version 1” to sit better on the beat.

voices/notes of the chord have a greater distance between them version 1 Pad_3_space_down.mp3

this is a very good way to work on a project, because you test sounds against other sounds in real time so you actually hear if they mix together naturally.

sounds that mix together naturally, will be very easy to mix later on.
if you want to save time in the process, you may play the sounds in real time on a midi keyboard while the other parts playing.

don’t get confused, this is only one way to work, out of thousand other ways you can choose from, and even better, find your own way to work on a project.

I will have to end the project here, because of its time consumption,
but I will get back to this subject, because it is so important, so stay close.

I hope the ideas in this article are clear enough for you to practice,
and if you have any question and suggestion you can always feel free to contact me :

please notice,

that the “emotional connection” series will give you more tools to work with when you are composing/arranging.

here they are :

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