We are about to start a new video series on mixing, so before we kick off we thought we would outline the things that need to be considered when mixing a track. Of course this list assumes the instruments are in time and in tune and the structure of the song/composition is agreed and laid out.
- Level. The first aim of mixing is to make sure all the levels are right, as with all mixes what that means is often in the hands of the person mixing, one person may mix vocals high another low, there’s a lot of taste involved, but at a fundamental level it’s all about striking the right balance (forgive the pun).
- Dynamic. Some would argue that this is the same as levels, but dynamic control is about determining the difference between the lowest and highest volume points in a track and in a final mix - this is where compressors and limiters have their place.
- Space. With the advent of stereo we got to be able to put stuff across the stereo field, left and right and now we have the ability to put it in a surround field. Again this can be used to create separation and in post help with the placement of foley and SFX to match the picture on a screen.
- Tone. Eq helps us to shape the tone of each part, perhaps to add some brightness to a voice, make a bass duller, or attenuate the sound of water running. Eq can be the difference between a good and a bad mix - this is the area where a lot of mixes fall over, either through over-use of boosting or lack of cutting of problem frequencies.
- Effects. Now plug-ins have given us all endless possibilities, with everything from reverb and delays to filters and saturation, all of them have their part. Having so many at your disposal is a great resource but using everything you have on a mix may spell disaster - remember audio plug-ins are tools; you wouldn’t use an axe to remove a hard drive from a laptop, so be smart.
So there are 5 fundamental things to think about when approaching a mix - are there any you think we might have missed?