In theory, mixing music is not difficult at all. You just have to adjust the knobs until you get the sound you want. Nevertheless, it is almost impossible to do it by accident, because mixing is akin to playing a musical instrument. Let’s try to understand the intricacies of mixing.
What is mixing?
Mixing is the meticulous process of converting a specified number of audio tracks into a complete piece of music. It is important that a successful mix will sound very good on any equipment, from a mono radio to an audiophile set of equipment.
Mixing can be outsourced to an audio engineer working in the mixing and mastering service. But if for some reason you do not want it, you can learn professional audio mixing by yourself and do it.
Setting up a mixing studio
The main elements for creating a studio:
- sound card;
- professional software DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) for audio mixing online;
- monitor headphones for the studio;
- studio monitors;
- condenser microphone;
- keyboard MIDI controller;
- professional cables and studio accessories.
This is the main toolkit needed to record, edit, mix and create master tracks. With the help of the equipment from this list, you can start producing your own music products.
Mixing for beginners
Where to start mixing a track? Listen to whether the musical compositions sound perfect, in your opinion. It is desirable that they be in the same or similar musical style. Concentrate not on the music, but on the mixing. It’s good if, even in a very tight mix, you manage to distinguish the part of each instrument, because it is in its own space. Do not neglect the uniformity of the frequency balance: the high frequencies should be bright, but not shrill, and the bass should sound convincing, while not contaminating or masking other sounds. Be sure to remember the relative level of the main instruments – drums and vocals.
- Study the arrangement carefully before you start mixing. Identify problem areas, understand what is the main thing in this composition and what is secondary, emphasize the necessary, etc. You can even make some kind of “to do list”.
- All tracks and channels should be signed, no matter where you mix them – in software or on a mixing console. Give them a logical order and organization. This will save time and make mixing easier. With a large number of tracks, the correctness and convenience of grouping is a very important step.
- Put on your headphones and get rid of clicks
- If your track uses synthesizers, tune them up as early as possible. For example, don’t connect external EQs if you can just tweak the filter cutoff.
- Do not add any effects or processing until you have adjusted the overall approximate volume balance.
- It is better to start mixing with drums. This is explained by the fact that percussion instruments make up a significant part of the frequency range.
- If you really want to emphasize some sound, then slightly raise it in the region from 1 to 3 kHz. If you want to move the sound farther, then you should lower the high frequencies on the corresponding track. It is also advisable to cut or cut the low frequencies of the instruments in which they are not required.
- Processing may be required to radically change the sound or bring something new to it. For example, adding echo or some kind of distortion, etc.
- Place the instruments in the stereo field. You can use the traditional approach, which is based on the actual placement of the instruments during the concert, as well as something radically different. Signals should be panned carefully, avoiding extreme panning positions.
- With the final adjustment of the arrangement, keep the number of competing instruments to a minimum. Conversely, if you think something is missing, try filling in the gaps.
- Once you have placed all the instruments in their place in the stereo picture, it is time for the third dimension – adding depth. Start by carefully adding delay and reverb to your sounds. Avoid multidimensionality, especially when mixing live music. Also, do not seek to improve sound quality by using reverb. It’s more efficient to go back and work with the equalizer or synthesizer settings.
- when the most important task is completed, be sure to recheck the settings of all channels: volume, equalizer settings, effects, and, if necessary, make the required adjustments.
Before you finish your audio mixing and mastering, listen to how your music product will sound on a variety of devices – from studio equipment to car systems. If the sound of the mix is convincing everywhere – they did it perfectly well!