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  • Writer's pictureAneeshthesia

Mixing Tips (for Beginners)

Mixing is the technique of blending all of the sounds together such that they are all audible while yet having their own space in the frequency and stereo range.

When I first started out as an audio engineer, I recall having trouble with the quality of my mixes, which sounded clear on one speaker but muddy on the other. The situations that made me doubt my decision-making abilities and instilled anxiety in me about losing my only clients who were patiently examining my 17th iteration of the mix were now familiar to me. It wasn't until months later that I began to comprehend the proper operation of signal processors and realized what was causing my mix to sound terrible and crowded in the first place.

In simple terms, Mixing music involves both technical ability and the capacity to be creative in order to make a piece appealing to listeners.

1. Get familiar. This step entails comprehending the Music Producer's vision, what their point of view is, and how they envision the project's final outcome. Request a reference mix and try to match the levels and sounds of your tracks to it. To begin the project, import all of the multi-tracks into your DAW, then change the project parameters as needed, and begin listening to each track individually and renaming them as needed. Sort all the tracks by category and adjust their colors to make them simpler to find amid all the other tracks.

2. The Good rule.

The good rule (as per David Miles Huber in his book - Modern Recording Techniques) states - Good Musician + good instrument + good performance + good acoustics + good mic + good placement = good sound.

The good rule basically asserts that you can't expect a nice-sounding mix with poorly tuned instruments played by unprofessional performers in a bad studio with awful microphones that aren't properly situated. The recorded tracks must be of high quality in order to obtain a high-quality mix. If not, do not hesitate to approach your client about the problem. After all, it will reflect on your resume.

Simply put, good input = good output.

3. The balancing act - I believe 80% of the quality of your mix depends on balancing the sounds with respect to each other and the rest 20% depends on how you enhance it using signal processors.

For balancing, turn all your track volumes down to silence and then turn them up one by one to a suitable level so that they're all audible and they gel together.

In its most basic form, mixing is the skill of striking a balance in three domains viz, - Loudness, Frequency, and Space.

- Adjusting the level of each instrument in respect to the others is referred to as loudness balancing. So that when they're all played at the same time, none of them drown out the others.

- Frequency balance is the process of processing sounds (EQing) so that its apparent frequency does not clash with the dominating frequencies of other sounds.

- Space balancing refers to the placement of the instruments in stereo space, creating the illusion that the sounds are being played in a room, with the instruments lying side by side.

4. Automation - Automation is the process of changing the characteristics of a track or signal processor in order to reduce the need for human intervention.

Automation may appear intimidating at first, but don't let that deter you. It will assist you in bringing your mixes to life. You can't just apply an effect and expect it to sound excellent and consistent throughout the song. There can be instances when you need to change the characteristics of a sound at a certain point. This is where automation comes in handy.

5. Push Back and listen. Step away a few meters away from the desk every now and then to listen to your mix and notice the subtleties. This will allow you to listen to the song from a different perspective, making it easier to appraise the mix and identify any areas that require correction.

6. Trust your ears. When it comes to mixing, trust your ears more than your eyes. No matter what unconventional method you used to achieve a sound, it is the output that counts. And as Jazz Pianist and composer Duke Ellington once said - If it sounds good, it is good.

7. Take Rest. Your ears, like any other part of your body, become tired. It is also not in your best interests to continue working with ear fatigue because it will spoil your mixes even more. So be cautious and relax when necessary.

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