How Can I Make My Mixes More "punchy" ?

Hey there!

I’m having trouble giving my mixes that “punchy” feeling you feel in a lot of commercial tracks.
I was hoping some of you would download the example XRNS I provided (Renoise Beta 5+ only) and perhaps give some tips.

I’d really appreciate some tips and suggestions.

Example XRNS only Mix

Thanks in advance!

One of the options:

K… I made some slight changes here:

The reverb on the FX channel was killing the dynamics of the entire track, so I dropped the duration from a ludicrously high number to a mere 379ms… and ditched the predelay altogether. This keeps the nice texture of the reverb, but ditches the insanely long, muddy sustains it was creating. I also put a gate on your sub bass on track 1 … it adds some punch to the low end by creating negative space in between hits. I then took the chorus off the Live break, as the break had quite a bit of punch that the chorus was killing.

Granted, these changes are small, but I think they’ve managed to show a bit of dynamics that were previously hidden.

Now, on to my crazy-assed not-so-professional theory:
When trying to add punch to music, we look at melodies and drums as groupings of “hits”. Each hit can be represented as an ADSR envelope:

The area obscurely marked “tastenanschlag” on this diagram is the length of which the note is playing. The attack is the initial, hopefully strong part of the hit. The decay is the length of time it takes for the initial attack to die. The sustain is the volume level of the hit after the attack is dead, and the release is the death of the sustain.

How does this apply to making a punchy mix? Easy really. The #1 thing that muddies up your mix is sustains and releases that are too loud, or too long. Clearing up your mix is the first step to making it punchy. Make your hits as short as possible. Instrument envelopes are good for this, but also:


I you want lots of sustain, your notes should STILL only sustain only long enough to allow the next note to play. If you want note overlap, don’t use reverb, use delay instead.


What reverb does to mixes is truly evil: It makes your sustains unbearably long, it clouds up the sound spectrum, and it doesn’t allow ANYTHING with dynamics to get through. It’s like a lead blanket smothering your sounds. This is why I say: if you must use reverb, use it sparingly, and keep it as short as possible. Always try using a properly sync’d delay first, as delay often provides more pleasing results anyway.

Make sure to apply ALL of these techniques specifically to your lower end. Sustained bass will muddy a mix faster than you can say “chipmunkgasm”

Now that we’ve cleaned up our sustain problems, we can focus on enhancing attack. There are many ways of doing this. From instrument volume envelopes, to compression tricks (see my noise snare mini-tutorial) to special EQ plugins like Voxengo GlissEQ. Basically, you want to make your attacks as strong as possible so the rhythm of your mix pops through the blanket of sounds.

That’s it in a nutshell. There are many other ways of doing all this shit, from using gates to multiband tools and other various plugins. I’m still learning a lot of stuff myself… Someday, I might write a book on it :P

Too much reverb

Ah well. Byte managed first.

No entirely true. I have “made” my own instrument of using the standard guitar-instrument of Renoise and maxing the reverb. In my opinion it sounds good, and because of that I have used it in a dozen of my songs.

Reverb is god when used properly. Just like anything else being used properly.

Thanks Byte, it does sound much better compared to the original now that I can listen to both versions side by side. Sometimes a “clean” pair of ears is a godsend.
Guess I have to learn to take some audio breaks more regularly.

Thanks to everyone else who contributed too =)