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Rule of thumb for levels?

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Nice to meet y'all, I'm John!


I'm relatively new to the mixing game and have a question regarding how to set levels at the beginning of a mix. I usually start my mix with kick and bass and bring in everything around those. Everything sounds fine until I bring my mix into the car and discover the kick is way too loud, the snare is almost gone, etc. I know these problems have to do possibly with monitoring and EQ issues. But I was wondering, since the kick/bass is the pillar of most tracks (I'm going for a simple textbook example of a successful mix - nothing fancy yet), is there a general volume level I should aim them at? I started my most recent project by putting the kick up until it's juuuust scraping the yellow, thinking it's a good solid volume for everything else to come in around. Make sense? I just want to know what a foundational volume level is for kick and bass. And if there's a healthy ratio between the two ie if I pan them hard left and right, respectively, 2:1, 3:1, whatever. Sorry if this is a stupid question. Any guidance would be much appreciated as I can't find answers anywhere.

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There are no "foundational levels" for individual sounds, it's all context, context, context (=mix). And usually neither Bass nor Kick nor snare are panned, they're always put right in the middle. There's no law saying you are not allowed to do it differently, but there are reasons why everybody does this...

Sounds that "disappear" on other systems could have phase issues; you may be able to hear this by (test-)playing the mix in mono. It could also be that this sound falls in a frequencyband that is boosted by your system, and/or cut by the other.

Also, try and change listening system regularly: at least two sets of monitors (good ones and hifi speakers is a good combi) and two or more different sets of headphones.


Here are some good primers about mixing & mastering & room treatment:





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