You’ve probably used your favorite commercially produced song to check mixes and reference overall levels but have you ever tried using pink noise? With this trick, you’ll use pink noise as a reference to check your tracks and make sure the overall balances are relatively even. You may be thinking this sounds crazy, and there’s no way it could work but read this article then try it out yourself, and if you’re still not convinced, then you can move on with your life and never think about this again. Regardless of if you end up using this trick ever in your mixing process, there is something to learn from why it works and how we can implement these types of things into our mixing workflow.
The Pink Noise Mixing Trick
- Import a pink noise sample or insert a signal generator on your mix bus. I like to set the output to around -12dbFS which will leave plenty of headroom for mastering.
- Solo the pink noise and the first track.
- Bring the track down until you can barely hear it above the pink noise.
- Repeat steps 1-3 with every other track in the session
Tada! Like magic.
Can this quick and easy yet powerful trick save you time on every mix?
If you’re like me, then you’re always trying to figure out ways to get to the fun stuff faster, like adding compressors, reverbs and automation. The pink noise trick isn’t perfect, but it does help establish a basic balance of all the tracks quickly and easily which gives you a good starting point to further develop your mix.
What is pink noise and why would we decide to use it as a reference?
Pink noise is a generated signal used for audio measurement. The significant difference between pink noise and other noise is it reduces in amplitude as the frequency increases which takes psychoacoustics into account. Every octave up is half the amount of the one before it. This allows the human ear to perceive every frequency as balanced, so every frequency sounds like it is the same volume even though it’s not.
If you look at pink noise through a spectrum analyzer, the shape is very similar to that of a well mixed modern pop song. This is likely the reason it works. When looking at the analyzer, you can see with both examples the low frequencies start off the most prominent and then taper down the rest of the way which is essentially what pink noise is. If we reference with it we can get the same desirable frequency curve on the spectrum analyzer that we also see in a well mixed pop song.
The trick is pretty easy and painless. I’m sure many of you might even argue that depending on the number of tracks, this trick is likely to take longer than just mixing it by ear. If you feel that way, then this trick probably isn’t for you, and you can disregard everything you read so far and move on with your life. This is for the people that want a useful trick that will teach you a few things.
This trick won’t get you the most exciting mix, that’s not the point. The point is for you to be able to achieve a roughly balanced mix quickly and with little to no worry about room acoustics, monitoring and other factors that can negatively affect your mix decisions.