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Old 4 weeks ago
Here for the gear
88206's Avatar
Yo, I mix a lot of hip-hop with trap beats. Some general advice based on what you posted:

1. You can't just mindlessly follow generalized advice that people provide to your regarding how to mix stuff, because it might not apply to the track you're mixing right now. For example, "kill the mids" might make sense if the melodies on the track you're mixing are very dense in the mid-range with no room for a vocal... but if the melodies on your track have already been EQ'd and processed so that there's room, you will only destroy the melodies and make it really thin by removing more mid, which I'm sure the person who made the beat will not appreciate.

As stated by people prior, there's no getting around using your own ears, listening to the track, and mixing based on what the track is asking of you. This is not a formulaic process - this is an art.

2. Mixing for modern hip-hop requires you to make your mix sound powerful, controlled, and of course balanced.

"Power" comes from minimizing the compression applied to the beat so as to maintain a "big" size. Too much compression makes things come off "small", which you never want people to experience in modern hip-hop.

"Controlled" comes from adding enough compression so that all the sounds are not washing over each other. It also allows you to create more subtle contrast in relative size. For example, you can probably get away with compressing your melodies more than your drums because in hip-hop, having big drums is often the priority - as such, the melodies can take a "step back" in the mix so that the drums can appear more "huge".

The above two points will appear to contradict each other, as bringing in more control through compression will make your track feel small and therefore less powerful, and vice versa. The key to bridging the gap, especially in modern hip-hop, is taking full advantage of the dry/wet knob in your DAW when applying compression. This will allow you to bring in control by applying a solid amount of compression to a sound, and then hedging that compression through the dry/wet knob, which allows you to bring back a certain percentage of the original signal. This is essentially a shortcut to parallel processing, which is a MUST if you're mixing for today's sound. Another benefit of this approach is that using the dry/wet knob on your compressors will give your mix more "depth", as you are now integrating two layers of sound - the original input, and the processed output - as opposed to just the processed output. Realizing this was honestly one of the biggest game changers I came across while figuring out how to make my mixes sound pro.

Lastly, balanced comes from proper gain staging and mindful EQ, prioritized in that order. For EQ - Listen for where sounds are clashing, and subtract the frequencies away from the sound that doesn't need to own that space. Try to avoid using low cuts and high cuts when you can use a shelf.

3. Be smart with your busses, and apply processing at the bus level to glue tracks together. I usually (but not always) have the following main stem busses:


4. If your track feels over-processed, it's pretty much game over. Be super wary of this throughout the mix process. Again, a way to hedge this is to use the dry/wet knob

5. Not specific to mixing hip-hop, but just with regards to learning the game in general - make sure to listen to the tracks that people have mixed before taking their advice. For example, you should listen to the stuff in my sig before considering the above, cause I might be full of it. There's a ton of misleading information out there, and people shooting from the hip without any actual tracks to back it up.

Hope this helps!