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How to Level Your $h!* and Make a Smackin’ Template!

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I want to address something that has plagued producers and mixers alike for… well probably since the beginning of their respective careers. To get right to the point, I think what holds a lot of producers back is leveling their tracks. Oftentimes starting out with the right template can be an easy way to end up with a rock solid mix very quickly, and that’s what I’m going to teach you right now.

Before we touch any faders, make sure you have your busses set up.
*Drums
*Bass
*Melodies
*Vocals
Anything that doesn’t fit into these categories, just let them ride right into the master bus, just turn them down about 10db. I find this is a good way to keep your mixes organized before starting. If you’re in Ableton 10, make sure you’re taking advantage of the ability to group groups! This makes workflow incredibly quick and effective.

Now that we’ve got our faders set up, the next thing to do is level:

*Drums -6db
*Bass -8db
*Melodies -12db
*Vocals -8db

Once you’ve got your busses adjusted, put on some basic compression and saturation. Saturation is going to be what gives your music that “out-of-the-speaker” loudness. Compression is going to tame the signal and give it character before and after saturation. We’re going to be using both strategically to get a nice loud mix right off the bat.

*Drums-
Compression for 2 to 4db
Saturation for 4 to 6db
EQ to tame 100hz, 200hz and 400hz
Limiter with threshold -4 to -6db

*Bass-
*Copy everything from the drum bus*
Slot EQ in accordance with kick drum slot. If you cut 100hz from the kick, add a little to the bass. Do the same for 200hz, but not for 400hz. Just do yourself a solid and just always cut 400hz. Learn what it sounds like, and always get rid of it. And 1500hz. You’re welcome.

*Melodies-
Mid-Side EQ, highpass at 200 in the mid channel to make room for kick
10% of your favorite reverb
Set width to 140%
ANOTHER Mid-Side EQ, 1-2db boost at 300hz and 2k
Don’t you dare turn up that mix knob. Keep it at -12db.

*Vocals-
Highpass EQ at 200hz, high shelf +2db at 1500hz
Multiband Compressor 5k+ to de-ess (2-4db)
Medium attack compressor, slow release, 2-4db gain reduction
1-2db saturation
Limiter with threshold -4 to -6db

*Master (everything should be coming in at about -6db)
Highpass EQ 20hz, lowpass 17khz
10-20% mix parallel compression (4-6db)
Saturation! 1-2db
LIMITER with threshold -4 to -6db

Set up this template, save it, name it “MASTR Template” and never look back. I guarantee you, your mixes are going to smack right from the get-go. Your drums are going to be huge. And the depth. Your melodies are going to fill up your mix without getting in the way of your drums. The power is yours. What you do with it is up to you.

Thanks for checking out my stacked template, and I do hope that you implement it into your next session. I made sure to not include any third party plugins, so this template will work on any DAW! If there’s one takeaway you should take with you above anything else, it’s that saturation makes stuff deceptively loud. Find yourself a good multiband saturator (or make your own) and go to town!

Be sure to hit me up on IG and tell me all about your newfound succes!
@mastr.productions