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Thanks for downloading the Mix Engineer’s Ultimate Reference Guide! 
When  I was first learning how to mix, I would often have questions AS I was mixing. I would have 
to  stop  mid-mix  to  flip  through  books,  youtube  videos,  and cheat sheets to find the answer. The 
problem  was  there  were  so  many  resources  to  explore,  it  was never a quick and easy detour. By 
the  time  I  DID  find what I was looking for, I had to get back into the rhythm of mixing again. The 
constant start, stop, start, stop was a real friggin’ headache! 
My  hope  is  that  you  keep  this  guide  close  and  use  it  regularly  as  your  go-to  resource  for 
answering  those  annoying  in-the-moment  questions  QUICKLY,  so  you  can  get  right  back  to 
what’s really important… the mix! 
On  the  next  few  pages,  you’ll  find  an  abbreviated  and  highly  condensed  compilation  of 
knowledge  from  many  great  mix  engineers  and  teachers,  as  well  as  some  checklists  and 
worksheets of my own design. 
DISCLAIMER:  The  approach  to  mixing, eq, compression, and so forth revealed in this guide is not 
the  only  way  to  approach  the  craft.  It  is  merely  ONE  way  that  I,  and many others, have found to 
be  a  successful  method  for  getting  professional,  release-ready  mixes,  that  have  rocked  many  a 
sock straight off. 
Happy Mixing :) 

-Jake Kodweis    


  Before you start mixing, make yourself comfortable. Sit down, get a pillow for 
SETTLE IN  your back if you have to, and make sure to have something to drink and maybe 
a snack handy. You’re in this for the long haul. 

  It’s all about the mix and only the mix. Disconnect your internet connection, put 
NO DISTRACTIONS  your phone on Do Not Disturb and allow no one in the room. Great mixes get 
110% of your attention. 

  Before you start, it’s good to listen through 2 or 3 songs to reset your ears and 
RESET  tune in to the room and the environment. Close your eyes, listen, and relax. 

  Make sure to have a notepad and pen handy… you’re likely to need them. 

  Mixing at high volume levels will fatigue the ears, and you won’t be able to mix 
TURN IT DOWN  as long. Keep it at “conversation-level”, meaning you should be able to have a 
conversation with the person next to you without raising your voice. 

  When you’re mixing you are making a ton of decisions, which requires a lot of 
BREAK TIMES  brain power. Taking breaks can reset your ears and your mind, and help you 
refocus. Set an alarm on your phone if you have to. 

  When you’re mixing, determine the journey the song is going to take. Where’s 
THE JOURNEY  the climax? How does your mix build up to it? What instruments need to be 
muted or unmuted to keep things engaging? 

  Establish a solid groove, and develop it through the course of the song. Build on 
THE GROOVE  the groove by introducing new elements to the mix as the song progresses. 

  Mixing is so detail-oriented, it can be easy to lose sight of the big picture. Make 
THE FOCUS  sure to take a step back and ask yourself what the most important element is. 
Determine the focus and build your mix around it. 

  It can be helpful to visualize the mix before even touching a fader. Envision 
MIX-MAPPING  where the musicians might be located if the band was playing in front of you, 
and draw it out using the map provided in this guide. 

  Don’t be afraid to make irreversible decisions. Trust your ears, make a creative 
COMMIT  choice, nail it down, and move forward with the mix. 




Foundation  Instruments that establish the beat, groove,  Drums, Bass 

pulse of the song 

Pad  Long sustained notes that “glue” other mix  Synth, Strings, Guitar (power chords), 
elements together  Organ 

Rhythm  Instruments that provide motion to the  Percussion, Rhythm Guitar, Keys 
songs and help to support the foundation 

Lead  Focal point of the song  Lead Vocal, Lead Guitar or other solo 

Fill  Instruments that fill in the gaps between  Background Vocals, Drum Fill, Lead 
lead phrases  Riff, or other solo instrument 
RULE #1: No more than 4 elements playing at once 
RULE #2: Every element should occupy its own frequency range 
When two instruments occupy the same fundamental range, the offending/competing 
instrument can be… 
● Lowered in volume 
● Panned to a different location 
● Muted 
● EQ’d to take up a different frequency 
● Transposed to take up a different octave 
● Re-tracked in a different octave 
● Re-tracked on a different instrument 
● Re-tracked with a newly written, non-competing part 




16Hz - 60Hz  SUB-BASS  Bass  Bottom at 50-80Hz, Attack at 

700-900Hz, Pop / Snap at 2.5kHz 
60Hz - 250Hz  BASS 

250Hz - 600kHz  LOW MIDS  Kick  Bottom at 80-100Hz, Hollow at 400Hz, 

Smack / Click at 3-5kHz 
600kHz - 2kHz  MIDS 

2kHz - 4kHz  HIGH MIDS  Snare  Fatness at 120-240Hz, Attack at 5-7kHz, 

Snap at 10kHz 
4kHz - 6kHz  HIGHS / PRESENCE 

6kHz - 16kHz  HIGHS / BRILLIANCE  Rack Tom  Fullness at 240-500Hz, Attack at 5-7kHz 

Floor Tom  Fullness at 80Hz, Attack at 5-7kHz 
16Hz - 40Hz  Rumble 

60Hz - 90Hz  Bottom 

Hi-Hats &  Clang at 200Hz, Shimmer at 8-10kHz 
100Hz - 170Hz  Punch / Boom  Cymbals 

130Hz - 220Hz  Warmth 

Electric  Fullness at 240-500Hz, Presence at 
250Hz - 450Hz  Fullness / Mud  Guitar  1.5-2.5kHz 

450Hz - 1kHz  Knock / Honk 

Acoustic  Fullness at 80Hz, Warmth at 240Hz, 
1kHz - 2kHz  Tinny  Guitar  Presence at 2-5kHz 

2kHz - 4 kHz  Crunch 

Organ  Fullness at 80Hz, Warmth at 240Hz, 
Presence at 2-5kHz 
3.5kHz - 6kHz  Edgy / Brittle 

4kHz - 10kHz  Vocal Sibilance  Piano  Fullness at 80Hz, Presence at 3-5kHz 

6kHz - 10kHz  Definition 

8kHz - 12.5kHz  Piercing  Horns  Fullness at 120Hz, Piercing at 5kHz 

15kHz - 20kHz  Air 

  Vocals  Fullness at 120Hz, Boomy at 240Hz, 
FREQUENCIES TO WATCH OUT FOR  Presence at 5kHz, Sibilance 4-7kHz, Air 
200Hz (Mud)  1-1.5kHz (Nasal) 
Strings  Fullness at 240Hz, Scratchy at 7-10kHz 
300-500Hz (Boxy)  4-6kHz (Presence) 

800Hz (Cheap)  10kHz+ (Air) 




● To make each element sound clear and well-defined 
● To give each instrument its own predominate frequency range 
  REMOVE  ● High Pass unwanted lows 
STEP  UNWANTED  ● Low Pass unwanted highs 
1  FREQUENCIES  ● Sweep for offending frequencies and room resonances 
(Subtractive EQ)  ● Cut with a narrow Q 

  ENHANCE  ● Tone-shaping 
STEP  PLEASING  ● Experiment with saturation 
2  FREQUENCIES  ● Use shelfs sparingly 
(Additive EQ)  ● Boost with a wide Q 

  AVOID  ● Take note of which instruments occupy which ranges 

STEP  COMPETING  ● Notch out pockets for each instrument as needed 
3  FREQUENCIES  ● Ex: 2 distorted guitars; at 2k boost one and cut the other 
● Ex: At 50Hz boost kick & cut bass, at 100Hz boost bass & cut kick 
● EQ in context 
● Just because an instrument sounds good in solo, doesn’t mean it sits well in the mix 
● Cut with a narrow Q, Boost with a wide Q 
● Cut to improve clarity and definition, boost to enhance or change the tone 
● Small changes can yield big results 
● The fewer instruments that are in the mix, the bigger each one should sound 
● The more instruments in the mix, the smaller each one needs to be 
● Make sure to level-match with the original signal (bypass plugin) 
● If you EQ the mix buss, do it in subtle .5-1db increments 
● You can use presets as a starting point, but they’re not a set-and-forget solution 
● Not all tracks need EQ 


● To control dynamics 
● To create perceived depth and movement 
STEP  On your snare track, set the attack time as slow as possible, release time as fast as possible, 
1  and threshold as high as possible so no compression is happening 

STEP  Decrease threshold until the gain reduction meter starts to show some compression, turn the 
2  attack faster until the sound of the instrument starts to dull, then back off a bit 

STEP  Adjust the release so that the meter almost makes it back to 0 before the next snare hit 

● Set the attack and release to make the compressor breath with the pulse of the song 
● Lower ratio (2:1) for more subtle, natural control 
● Higher ratio (4:1) for more punchy, processed sound 
● Slow attack/fast release can make things sound punchier, and closer 
● Fast attack/slow release can hold sounds in place, and make them sound further away 
● Make sure to level-match with the original signal (bypass plugin) 
● Gain reduction of about 3-6db can yield more natural results 
● You don’t need much to make a difference 
● Two subtle compressors side-by-side can be better than one doing all the heavy lifting 
● If you compress the mix buss, do it gently (1-3db gain reduction) 
● Try parallel compression; duplicate a track or buss, insert a compressor with extreme 
settings (ex: high ratio, fastest attack, slowest release, low threshold) and blend to taste 
with the original track 



● To place a sound in a perceived space 
● To use as an effect 
Room  Small space, dead or reflective, short decay (1.5s or less) 

Spring  Bouncy-sounding reverb 

Chamber  Tiled space, can be small or large 

Hall  Large, dense space, long decay 

Plate  Smooth-sounding reverb 

Non-linear  Digital reverb where the decay can be manipulated 

Haas effect  40ms or less where the delay is panned opposite the source 

Short  40-150ms can create a double-tracked effect 

Medium (Slap)  150-400ms can create a sense of space around the source 

Long  400-1,000ms (1s) distinct repeat of echo of the source 

Stereo  Different delay times on each side of the stereo field 

Ping-pong  Delay that bounces from one side of the stereo field to the other 

Tape  Analog, rolled-off highs, and a subtle increased distortion with each repeat 
● Keep reverbs short if you’re trying to create a sense of space 
● Long reverbs or too much reverb can quickly make your mix muddy 
● Time reverb decay to the tempo of the song 
● Consider sending all your tracks to ONE buss with a room reverb and adjust the sends on 
each track to vary the distance 
● EQ your reverbs to clean things up 
● Use pre-delay on your reverbs to separate the source from the effect 
● A slap delay can create a cleaner sense of space than reverb 
● Both create space, but reverb pushes sounds further away while delay keep things close 
● A single delay is called a throw delay, and can make a good fill between vocal phrases 
● Placing a reverb after a delay can create an epic ambient effect 
● Try medium delays instead of reverbs on vocals and guitars 



❏ IMPORT TRACKS  Import your tracks and save the session 

❏ ORGANIZE  Color-code, re-order, and re-name 

❏ STRIP SILENCE  Remove silences and add crossfades 

❏ GAIN STAGE  Every track average level at -18db 

❏ GROUPS & BUSSES  Create drum busses, background vocal busses, etc. 

❏ AUX TRACKS & EFFECTS  Create aux tracks for effects you know you’ll use later 

❏ CREATE MIX BUSS  Create and send your tracks to a mix buss 

❏ FIRST LISTEN  Listen to the song, rough mix with levels only 

❏ LABEL ARRANGEMENT  Label verse, chorus, bridge, etc. 

❏ IMPORT REFERENCES  Choose and import reference tracks 

❏ ROUGH MIX  Mix with levels and panning only 

❏ BALANCE  Check against references and balance accordingly 

❏ TAKE NOTES  Note any glaring tempo, tuning, tonal issues 

❏ BOUNCE REDUNDANCIES  Combine or bounce tracks where possible 

❏ STEREO - MONO  Convert stereo tracks to mono 

❏ FIX TEMPO  Quantize drums and rhythmic elements 

❏ DRUM REPLACEMENT  Blend in samples or replace altogether 

❏ STABILIZE LOW-END  Compress/Limit 

❏ VOCAL TUNING  Auto or Manual tuning 

❏ VOCAL AUTOMATION  Automate levels so every word/syllable can be heard clearly 


❏ SATURATION  Tonal alterations 

❏ RE-AMPING  Tonal alterations 

❏ ADD/REMOVE ELEMENTS  Remove and/or add arrangement elements 

❏ TAPE/CONSOLE  Add tape/console emulation to your tracks 




❏ MIX BUSS COMPRESSION  Add subtle compression to mix buss 

❏ FILTERS  HP/LP unneeded frequencies 

❏ SUBTRACTIVE EQ  Cut offending/unwanted frequencies 

❏ COMPRESSION  Add compression where needed 

❏ ADDITIVE EQ  Boost, add saturation, create pockets as needed 


❏ SPATIAL PROCESSING  Early Reflections, Haas Delays, Short Delays 

❏ EFFECTS  Ambience, Long Delays, Modulations 

❏ AUTOMATION  Volume levels and effects as needed 

❏ MIX BUSS EQ  Subtle EQ as needed 

FREQUENCY MAP ​(Note which instruments predominantly live in which frequencies) 
20  500  1  6 

50  550  1.5  6.5 

100  600  2  7 

150  650  2.5  7.5 

200  700  3  8 

250  750  3.5  9 

300  800  4  10 

350  850  4.5  12 

400  900  5  15 

450  950  5.5  20 

Hz  kHz 
❏ CONFIRM MASTER LEVEL  Peaking at -5db 

❏ ALT. SYSTEM CHECK  Check against references on headphones, car speakers, phone, etc 

❏ ADJUST  Make adjustments to the mix as needed 

❏ REPEAT  As needed 

❏ BOUNCE  As .wav file at the same sample and bitrate of session 



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