Studio and live mixing is one of the most important steps in music production, it requires great skill and many years of experience to master the art of mixing. The stage where the artist gets to refine his song and make it sound as good as possible to get it ready for the mastering engineer to do the final touch. So, what is mixing? let’s dive into it.
What is mixing?
In music production, audio mixing is the process of joining all individual tracks from a song into a single stereo track. This takes more than just adding the tracks, there’s much work required to balance individual tracks to sound well together. Usually, the tracks are processed separately with compression, EQ, reverb, etc. And then they sent to the main bus, where all the tracks are mixed, with certain volume and panning, to add them in a specific place in the mix.
We can compare it to mixing ingredients in a meal, each ingredient has to be prepared separately before adding it to the plate — processing. We have to measure the quantity we want to add — volume — and where to add it — panning and EQ. Finally, the meal will most likely need to be cooked for a while altogether (mastering).
If we use the incorrect ingredients, we don’t prepare them properly, add too much of them or in the wrong place, it is unlikely that the result will be pleasant.
Is DJ Mixing considered Audio Mixing?
Some of you might confuse what is mixing in comparison with DJ mixing, and they are two completely different things. Although in both processes we are mixing audio the purpose is not the same. Mixing by a DJ usually combines two songs together, which ironically are actually already mixed and mastered, to create a show or performance. This is also different from what is called a remix, which is a similar cover or version of a song that has been produced again. In this case, it normally involves re-using parts of the original song.
There are certain scenarios where producers using Ableton Live are performing using loops and his pre-recorded material from the DAW, and at the same time mixing using other artists’ songs. So in that case, he is kind of doing both!
What is Mixing compared to Mastering?
As we previously mentioned in our “cooking” example, the main difference between mixing and mastering is that mastering is done after mixing. While in mixing we add all the tracks together and create a single track, also called mix-down, in mastering we take that final mix and enhance it with specific processing. This process usually includes EQ, multiband compression, and limiting. The result is a better-sounding track with more loudness, clarity, and balance. This is why it is also important to mix with mastering in mind.
What Tools Do I Need to start Mixing?
The basic tool to start mixing your songs is a DAW if you don’t already have one. You will also need audio plugins for processing, such as equalizers, dynamic processors, and other audio effects. I would recommend that you try some unique Waves plugins. Alternatively, you can also buy a digital audio mixer which usually has multiple effects built-in. However, this is not necessary if you are new. Nowadays you can produce music with basic gear, and right now audio mixer for a beginner can be overkill.
Can Mixing fix a bad recording?
I’ll be honest, if your recording is bad then you won’t be able to fix it in mixing. This doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do, small problems can be corrected or attenuated. To some degree, small mistakes or noises will dissipate in the mix. But instead of fixing a bad recording, you should focus on learning how to properly record your instruments or vocals and use high-quality samples, libraries and virtual instruments. This is often done by comparing your mixes to other artists to identify specific nuances that divide the good recordings from the bad.
Should I be mixing while recording?
There is nothing particularly wrong with mixing while recording your tracks. In fact, I do like to mix while I’m recording as it gives me and my clients a better picture of how the song will sound. It also helps record other tracks, as the performer will feel more comfortable playing. But if you’re new to music production, take it slow at first. You can lose the flow, and a lot of time, if you do too many adjustments early or get drawn into fine-tuning a single track before recording others.
In other words, a certain degree of mixing is good and helps the recording process. The more practice you have, the more relaxed you’re going to be in assessing what decisions to make, and when.
In conclusion, do you now know what is mixing?
We hope this article has helped you understand what is mixing, what you can, and how this production step differentiates from others. We have many mixing tips in this blog that can help improve your skills, so don’t stop here and keep reading.
About the Author
Dídac is a professional audio engineer, music producer and software engineer. He is the founder of MasteringBOX and the author of many of the articles on the blog.
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