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  • Writer's pictureElvis Graholskis

Production Tip - You Need More Synths

We all know that good sounding mix and good sounding music can only be achieved by having a good source material. By having a good production we will obviously would have a good record and today I want to focus on only one aspect of the music production and that is - synthesizers.

Recently I was mixing a Pop-Rock song with a real drum kit and real electric, double tracked guitars and when I imported all the tracks I noticed, damn, this song has sure a lot of synths!

Just look at this, 12 synth tracks + 1 organ tracks. This picture sure got me thinking about my music and my production, because I had barely any synths. I didn't know what to do with them and where they would fit. This production got me thinking -

If bass, drums, vocals are in the middle and guitar tracks are panned hart L/R what is then in-between?

When we produce a record we need to think about space a lot. What is the focal point of the song, and what is wrapped around it? Drum kit naturally occupies a lot of space. Kick and Snare are in the middle and the rest of the kit is sort of spread out (if you have an engineer that knows to spread it out). But a drum kit is a percussive instrument, so it occupies space only for a short period of time. What we want is to have a full bed, where our vocals can fill in, rather than stick out.

For a rock and pop-rock record, guitars are usually hard panned to L/R and if an engineer did a good job, the guitars will sound separated leaving a lot of space between middle and sides. Drum kit will also sound wide, but the majority of a attention will stay in the middle, because that where the most action is happening.

When I listen to my previously produced music, I really feel that something is missing and sure synths would have nicely fit between mid hot action and rhythm guitars on the sides. It would make a song sound more "full" and it would also make vocals feel less "alone", since synthesizers occupy wide spectrum on the frequency graph.

You Also Need To Mix It Well

After having our synth tracks, we would need to fit them into the mix so that they don't draw energy away from other instruments. That is why, as you can see in the screenshot, they are not panned hard L/R, because I want rhythm guitars to be on the outside and I sure do not want to overlap them with a bunch of synths, which can take away from a guitar sound. I also applied widener plugin on a synth buss, but not to widen them. I limited the L and R spread so that rhythm guitars can live in peace. There is what I did step by step

  1. I listened to each track with the rest and paid attention to the low-end. Do I need low-end from synths when I have bass and base drum? No? Ok, cut that low end out with an EQ.

  2. Do I need synths to be in the middle? I already have drums, vocals and bass sitting there, so I need to pan only the synth tracks which are too mono and too mid oriented. The wide synth tracks can stay as they are.

  3. All the synth tracks are in stereo. Do they take away from the guitars that are on the sides? Yes? Bring the synths lower in volume, EQ them better and limit their stereo spread.

I hope you can learn from my experience. If you need someone to mix and master your songs, I can help -

Here is the final mix & mastering done by me. Notice that the guitar track are wider than the synth track and the synth tracks do not occupy much space in the middle. The song is "Pressure" and it is produced and recorded by Gable Price


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