1. Highpass everything!
Low end is your enemy! Well, not really, I love a mix with massive low end, but true, subsonic content has very limited benefit. We’re talking 40Hz and below. Most recordings out there have little or no content that low, and it’s just not needed for making a thumpy mix. I’m sure there are exceptions, but 90% of the time, it’s a good idea to highpass your main bus as well as individual tracks. Getting rid of that sub content not only cleans up the mix, but also protects those poor consumer’s speakers that will just pass out if they try to reproduce 30Hz content! Plus, you get an added bonus that by eliminating subsonic energy, playback amplifiers will have more juice available to reproduce the content that really matters. Low energy takes massive tolls on playback systems (amps and speakers) but man, it’s worth it to buzz your socks off with that 808!
Here is a great article on how to set highpass filters.
2. Reduce FX returns by 2dB.
Yes, some of us, myself included, have a dear affection for the snare reverbs of the 80’s, but wet mixes are not super common these days and it’s easy to overdo reverbs/delays which can make your recording sound amateur. Let’s face it, when we were just starting out, we all wanted to add that awesome reverb because it sounded pro! However, special effects aside, the use of time-based effects (verb, delay, chorus etc) follow the less-is-more habit. That being said, I usually dial in a mix and then back off all of my FX returns by 1-3dB. And 9 times out of 10, it’s still enough to really hear the difference when you bypass them completely, but you never really hear a significant “effect.” As I said, sometimes you want to hear those luscious reverb tails, but give this a try and see how much cleaner your mixes sound.
3. Preserve midrange!!!
Everyone seems to focus on the great low end a kick has, or the shimmery highs you get with a certain condenser mic. However, human hearing is most sensitive in the midrange, and this is where most instruments have their spirit. It’s easy to get carried away scooping out mids on a kick drum or bass guitar because it sounds “more solid” or “thicker” but honestly test your ears and see if that’s just a novelty sound you like, or if you really want that going out to press. Listen to classic albums like Goodbye Yellow Brick Road or Joshua Tree and note the clear midrange and what kind of effect it has on the character and energy of the mix.