5 Tips To Make Your Beats Sound More Professional In Fl Studio
Here are five tips how to make your beats sound more professional in Fl studio. Of course, you can use these tips in any other daw. I’ve been making beats for more then ten years know, and these are probably the best tips I can give you from my experience. That being said, make sure you are using either studio monitors or studio headphones. Otherwise it will be like painting in the darkness.
Now lets get started.
Leveling and Panning
Properly leveling of your instruments is very important. This is the very first step when you want your beats to sound proffesional. No matter what DAW you’re using, knowing how to properly level and pan instruments is one of the fundamental aspects that you need to know. Also, you need to know that there is no magic number that you can use to level your instruments. It depends on so much different variables such as: what kind of a music are you making, what instruments are you using , even what daw you’re using. But, there are some handy tips that you can use which Im gonna cover in this section.
When it comes to leveling your tracks in the mix you need to know what part of your track is the loudest, and what part should be the lowest. Of course that depends on what type of beats are you making, which genre, and etc.. There are no rules here also, and there are no charts with mixing level of each instrument. There are a lot of techniques here you can use, I will show you how I do it. Usually for me, the kick is the loudest part in the mix. I bring the kick first to the mix. ( make sure your kick is not clipping ). You need to leave some headrom for mastering purposes. In Fl Studio my kick usually sits around -3 to -6 db ratio on mixer. As you start to add other instruments they will be significant quieter then the kick. It can be anywhere between -10, to -18 ratio. For example i like my kick to be around -3 to -6 db, while my bass is ussually sitting around -9 to-12 db, hi hats around -8 to -12 db, and ect… But remember there are no rules here I am just giving you a starting points from where you can fine tune yourself. Good tip is to reference a lot. Find some beats or tracks you like and try to find the sweet spot around similiar to the ones you are listening. And remember practice is the key.
In order to have a balanced mix, you need to know how to pan and level your instruments. Panning is probably the easier part. Most common sense is that you always pan your kick ( if not already mono ) in centre. Kick and bass should always be in center of your stereo image. Altgough, in trap beats you can hear very thick and wide 808, or a saturated bass. I personally like to play with that kind of panning, but you need to know when you do something like that, you can’t simply pan everything like that. Use common sense. When you’re making your drum section instead of having everything sitting in the centre of a mix, you can pan your percussion around the stereo image to get more space for each element. Not only that, you can use wide percussion elements to your advantage. If you want to set a specific mood on your track, you can play around with stereo imaging of a different elements. For example i like to pan my hi hats to the left, or I will simply use stereo delay to make more edgy sound. There are no rules here, just remember to use common sense. Good stereo image is the first step to make your beats sound more proffesional. Below you can see a visual representation of a stereo image. This visualisation was taken from Dave Gibsons book : “The Art Of Mixing “.
Using eq is probably the second most important thing to do if you want your beats to sound more proffesional. But before you start using eq you need to know what an eq is, and what are the types of eq’s. There are more types of eq ( shelving eq, highpass, lowpass filter, graphic eq, parametric eq, bandpass eq ). They all have the same fundamental function, to simply put it, you cut or boost certain frequency to either make more room for other instruments or to stand out certain parts of a instrument. Also, not every eq plugin has the same „coloration“. Every time you cut or boost you are shifting your phase, which means you are coloring your sound in a certain way. Unless you use a linear phase EQ there will be some coloration of the sound. However, note that these phase shifts are also what give particular EQs their character and are therefore sometimes desirable. I use linear EQ only on master buss, due to latency of the plugin. There are a lot of eq-s on the market and you need to know what eq will suit you best. I personally use couple of eq-s combined. Fab Filter Pro Q is very effective and powerful graphic eq, with very minimal coloring intererence. You can also use this EQ for mid side EQ-uing. A lot of people say when you’re using EQ that you should cut only, or boost only. You should always combine the both. Let’s say you’re mixing a vocal, and you put a hard compression on your vocal. Every frequency on that vocal will be brought up 4 or 5 times or more. But instead, if you EQ-ued certain noisy and rumbly parts before the compression, ( you will avoid undesidered rumble ) and add a little high’s after the compression, you will get a very nice sounding and fitting vocal. Some people like to put highpass filter on hi hats and snares. That way you leave more room for other elements in the mix. Remember it’s all about the balance. If you want to boost certain frequency, you need to look where to cut that same frequencyin the mix, otherwise it will sound all mushy and not compact. One good trick I like to use is when mixing kick and bass. At the frequency where the kick peaks, i will cut down that frequency on a bass ( You can also use sidechain for this. ), and put some slight saturation on my bass like from Fab Filters Saturn plugin to get more harmonics around my bass. It’s all about the balance. Remember don’t overexaggerate, couple of db’s here, couple of there and that’s it.
Below you can see which frequency will get you certain sound.
Layering is the key ingredient when you want your beats to sound proffesional. Many people do it, I do it, and if you do it properly you can achieve a big and full sound. Layering is when you combine two ( or even more ) of the same kind of sound together to achieve a more powerful, deeper and fuller sound. Although it’s a great technique, you need to be very careful with this tool. If you use it in a wrong way, it can cause some troubles like mushy sounding, and phase cancellation. So again, less is more. Good tip with this technique is if you have one deep kick and one punchy, layered together you will get one deep and punchy kick. Of course, this method will not work that easy always. Sometimes you will need to use little processing in order to make it to work. EQ will help you a lot with that. I like to layer Basses, using the low part from one bass, and the high part of another one, more saturated. Just to be sure i use EQ to differentiate one bass from another. Or when I’m making some big piano riff, i like to use two different types of piano. For the first piano I would EQ the lower frequencies and compress them, and on a second one I would put some big reeverb or simply make that piano more wider and spacey. First one will obviously be in a centre of my stereo image. You can achieve a lot with this technique just make sure you don’t go to far, or else you will end up with some mushy sounding mix.
Compression / Parallel Compression
Compression is also useful if you want your beats to sound more professional. Now I’m not talking about compressing everything in your mix and make the entire mix flat. No, I’m talking about adding a little touches in order to make more thicker, crispier sound. Some compressors have on/off button where you can turn off compression but still use gain knob. You can use that like some kind of saturation knob, since each compressor has it’s own sound and will add certain harmonics to your sounds. If you want your drums to be more punchy, you will have to play with attack and relase knobs on your compressor.
The attack knob determins how much „punch“ the compressor will add or remove on your drums.
Fast attack will tell the compressor to reduce the punch in your drums, while the slow attack will tell the compressor to retain and enhance the punch in your drums.
As for the relase knob slow relase will smooth out the sound also put it more in the back. Fast relase will add excitment and aggression to the tracks, but it can cause unwanted pumping effects.
The ratio is where you determine how much compression you are going to apply to a signal that goes over your threshold. Let’s say you set up a compressor with a 2:1 ratio.
This means that for every 2 dB the sound goes above the threshold, the compressor will only let 1 dB through. If the threshold is set at -10 dB and the sound jumps up to -8 dB (2 dB above the threshold), the compressor will only let 1 dB through and the sound will end up at -9 dB.
To get more professional sound, many people like to do parallel compression or so called New York compression. This is pretty similar to layering, since parallel compression is achieved by mixing one unprocessed signal, with a heavily processed signal. Many people use this same technique on drum busses. Using parallel compression on drums can help keep all the dynamics of the original source material but add volume, depth and power to them without crushing dynamics or adding too much make up gain that will overdrive the mix bus. Since the volume added by the parallel compression is coming from a heavily compressed signal and blended to taste rather than always at full volume, it’s not adding as much peak volume to the mix bus as make-up gain from the output of a compressor.
If you want your beats to sound professional you will have to know a little bit about the mastering process.
Mastering is very delicate process, so you need to know what you are doing, and not to overcomplicate things. Before you even consider about mastering yourself, you need to leave enough headroom on the mix channel. At least – 3 to -6db should be enough. Many people like myself don’t do a lot master buss, since I already did that in my mixing stage. For me mastering includes putting a little compression, maybe a touch of saturation and a limiter. I use a little bit of a compression on master channel to “glue” things together. As I mentioned before there are a lot of different compressors and you will have to find one that suits your needs the most. I usually use SSL compressor, or waves C4 multiband compressor. Multiband compressor is great for mastering because you can choose how much do you want to compress certain frequencies on the track. You can fix some areas, maybe you want to compress a little more around the middle frequencies but you like to leave your lows and highs little more uncompressed. Multiband compression is great for balancing out your mixes ( if you need to it ). A lot of people also like to put some stereo widener plugin to get more wider mix. I used to do that, but now I do that in a mixing stages. One good plugin I could recommend is Waves Vitamin, which is kind a like stereo enhancer plugin. You can widen your stereo image between bands and also add some excitement. It’s sort of like EQ, combined with a compression. That being said, limiter should be the final plugin in your chain mix.
I hope this article helped you in some way or another. These are the tips I use everyday. Of course you will have to take your time to really understand the benefits of these tips. Below you can see and hear for yourself how I use these tips in one of my recent beats.