First of all, what is pink noise?
Pink noise is random noise with equal energy at different octaves, so it produces more low than high frequency sounds. To compare, white noise has equal energy at all frequencies, so will produce an equal amount of low frequency and high frequency sounds. We use pink instead of white noise for mixing because the brain perceives sound in terms of octaves, not frequency.
How do we prepare for the mix?
To mix a song with pink noise, first of all you will need a song of yours that is ready to be mixed (which I assume you have already, or you wouldn’t be reading this article). You will also need a noise generating plugin which generates pink noise – this is what we will be using to reference your mix to.
What is pink noise mixing?
First of all, you will have to bring your fader levels right down, then set the pink noise reference to around -10 or -12dB. This will allow enough headroom in your final mix for the mastering engineer. Once that’s done, bring up every track fader one-by-one until you can just hear the track above the pink noise. It’s important to bear in mind that pads and guitars, for example, don’t cut through the mix in the same way that drums do. What we are going to concentrate on is the tone of the channel, not the initial transient.
Lastly, don’t forget that the track should also be mixed at your own discretion. Pink noise is a good reference, but should not be the last deciding factor in how you position levels in the mix.
1. Add a bottom snare layer with noise.
This is really useful, for example when you’re mixing acoustic drums but don’t have a recorded bottom microphone. However, it’s just as useful for sampled drums. One way to do this is to take a noise generator and add a gate to it – another is to use the Noize plugin’s adapt feature. When the plugin is added to your snare channel, you can simply adjust the rise and fall parameters for a tighter or looser sounding noise.
The example file features a snare sample with 2 added layers, one white and one blue.
2. Using noise to drive a reverb bus on a snare.
The best way to do this is to make a copy of the snare sound, gate it strongly so that the transients cut through and then add a generous amount of noise to it. The new track won’t be routed to the drum group, but will instead be sent to a reverb bus (pre fader). By working with the rise and fall setting on the Noize plugin, you can design its length and blend it to your taste. You can also use the generated noise instead of a reverb track if you prefer.
The example file features a drum track with a reverb applied only to white noise.
3. More resonant/darker drum hits.
This tip will give you a heavier sounding kick. Brown noise is well suited as it adds a warmer sound than other types of noise. Simply take a brown noise sample on a separate track, add a gate and adjust the release setting until the tail of the drum is enhanced. Keep the attack setting quick – you mostly want to hear the tail of the noise for this effect. This works with kicks, snares, and even toms.
The audio example features a a drum beat with brown noise on both the kick and snare.
4. Add brightness to drums, synths or instruments.
Sometimes you have that perfect sound with an amazingly warm tone – a Hammond Organ, a synth or a drum loop – but it’s just not cutting through the mix. Adding some noise can really help in this situation; some older synths even had inbuilt noise control just for this problem. With the Noize plugin, you can use the adapt button, and with the envelope settings, keep the fall parameter low, which will give the noise a tight response.
The example file features a drum track with an extra noise layer for punch, made with white and violet noise.
Find more information about noise with the Noize plugin at
Related blog posts about mixing with noise:
Interview with JNB about his Noize plugin
Interview with Jochem (DSP engineer) about how to develop plugins