Audio 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 all together (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. A DJ usually performs live and mixes 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, 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 we 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. Read more differences between mixing and mastering if you want to know more.
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. 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 an 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. It is a lot easier to create a good mix if the raw materials are good.
Going back to our cooking analogy, it is very difficult to create a nice meal if the ingredients are bad or expired, and your guests will probably end up throwing up. You definitely don’t want that.
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 adjusments 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.