Writ­ing and record­ing the in­stru­ment parts is only half the bat­tle. Mak­ing those parts sound good to­gether, and mak­ing the fi­nal song sing out on car stereos, smart­phones, ra­dios, and Blue­tooth speak­ers, comes down to the mix.

Start­ing at com­plex­ity level one, con­sider the vol­ume and pan of each track. In the tra­di­tional rock band setup, vo­cals and bass live in the mid­dle of the mix, while guitars and other in­stru­ments are panned ei­ther side, and drums live across the full stereo spread. In EDM, sim­i­lar prin­ci­ples ap­ply: vo­cals and bass in the mid­dle, other parts ei­ther side. Ad­just the pan on your tracks un­til you can hear them all dis­tinctly, then make ad­just­ments in vol­ume so it sounds like each part has breath­ing space, or to put it an­other way, so that parts don’t sound like they’re com­pet­ing to be heard. Weak vo­cal or in­stru­men­tal record­ings can be hid­den in the mix by low­er­ing the vol­ume, but that’s a poor sub­sti­tu­tion for get­ting a good track down in the first place.

Com­plex­ity level two is com­pres­sion. A com­pres­sor sets the min­i­mum and max­i­mum vol­ume of a track, and can be used to tighten up an in­di­vid­ual part and the en­tire song. Ev­ery chart song you hear has some level of com­pres­sion ap­plied to ev­ery track, then the mas­ter track, and then an­other dur­ing the mas­ter­ing process. At a bare min­i­mum, they should be ap­plied to vo­cals and any in­stru­ments with a wide dy­namic range, such as a guitar played softly in the verse, then strummed hard in the cho­rus.

Com­plex­ity level three—ready?—comes with aux­il­iary tracks. Place ef­fects such as re­verb and de­lay on aux tracks, then send an in­stru­ment track to it, and thereby achieve a mix of dry and ef­fect-laden sound. Easy, no?

A lit­tle goes a long way when it comes to ap­ply­ing ef­fectsto your tracks.

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