You can fix it in the mix is an expression that has found its way into the vernacular of the modern recording community. What does that mean and is it possible?
What Does Fixing It In The Mix Mean?
Fixing it in the mix means that during the post-production stage of a recording when the editing and mixing take place that things can be sweetened by adding effects, perhaps change the guitar sound and any issues such as tuning and timing can be dealt with. It is sometimes suggested that any things that didn't get sorted during the recorded process can be put right at the mix stage.
But is this true or is it a misconception born out of a generation that thinks technology can fix everything?
Why You Can't Fix A Tracking Session
The term fixing it in the mix shows a lack of understanding about what a tracking session is for.
Fixing in the mix assumes that the primary purpose of a tracking session is to get the audio recorded as best as you can. To choose the right mics, the right instrument sounds and to get all of this down in time and in tune. But that's only half the story and if we are not careful we allow the gear to seduce us away from the real primary purpose of tracking...
Keep The Main Thing The Main Thing
The primary purpose of a tracking session is to capture the performance, the emotion and to make sure the story is told. When we fail to do this then all we are doing is a technical exercise, it may be technically perfect but if it is devoid of any soul, that can't be fixed in the mix.
There's no plug-in that can put back a performance that wasn't there in the first place. A great mixer may make a soulless track sound amazing but will it have any emotional connection? I doubt it.
The Art Of Musical Story Telling
Take one of my favourite Christmas songs 'Fairytale Of New York' by the Pogues, featuring Kirsty MacColl. Steve Lillywhite worked magic on capturing the song. When you listen it sounds like he went into a piss-up in a local pub and captured that, but the quality of the recording shows that it took more than throwing a band in a room and getting them drunk. It really shows that to tell a story and capture emotional energy takes clarity of thought and hard work. Fairytale of New York is a lesson in telling a story and making it sound great, it's not either/or, it is both.
Right At The Start And Right At The End
A great track (once you have a great song and a great performance, of course) is the combination of two things; first a great tracking session and then a great mix. Both parts are essential, you can't have one without the other.
Fix it in the mix? Nope.