Step 10 - Mixing
The number one issue that plagues most independent artists is
over-complicating mixdown. Number two is collaborative mixdown,
done by the performers which is also a big 'no-no'.
How to mixdown...
For starters, you must understand the objective. Combine all of your
tracks into one stereo audio file. Reputable music retailers sell
stereo audio files, so if you intend to distribute to those retailers, stereo
files is what you will need. Achieving a stereo mix is also the reason
we stressed room-tone, room location, effects and sound replacement
in the earlier steps. Often independent recording artist with a 'fix it in
the mix' mentality end up creating more tracks during mixdown, by
using side-chain effects or compression or processing effects then
attempting to mix between their effected tracks and their dry tracks.
In mixdown, you should be decreasing the number of tracks. Stay focused on that objective and you will not over-complicate this
Collaborative mixing is another big problem. Have you ever watched a band trying to mix themselves? The drummer wants to hear
himself more. The singer wants to hear herself more. The keyboard player wants to hear himself more. This is not how to
mixdown a record and inevitably leads to a crappy sound. One mix engineer with one very simple objective; to create a stereo audio
file. If you have a good mix engineer, but he or she struggles with drum sounds, you can have someone else sub-mix the drums
first. As long as you allow that individual to accomplish that objective alone. As long as everyone involved understands that you are
decreasing the number of tracks, you should reach your objective quickly.
The art of mixdown...
The artistic side of mixdown is involves listening to individual channels or instruments and placing them in between the speakers.
Many books and videos on mixing give specific 'spacial' placement, but I do not. I believe that this takes away from the mix
engineers creativity. You can place a sound in your mix using only the fundamental components of any mixing console: fader dbl
(or decibel level), pan and equalizer. Pan is used during mixdown to move instruments from left to right and vice-versa; it is no
different than "balance" on a consumer stereo. The fader is similar to volume control, though mixing consoles utilize negative dbl.
Increasing and diminishing dbl will move your instrument towards and away from you perceptually. The equalizer provides more
capabilities than the other two. The equalizer can effect positive and negative dbl on a specific frequency or range of frequencies.
With positive EQ, you can move an instrument up or down perceptually. Place
an instrument on top of your mix by increasing higher frequencies, and place
instruments on the bottom of your mix by increasing lower frequencies.
Negative EQ can be quite useful as well. Instruments that occupy a narrow
frequency range are more audible in your mix. So if you do not want to move
an instrument further forward in your mix (utilizing the fader), but it is
difficult to hear, you can pull out frequencies with negative E.Q. This puts the
instrument in a narrower frequency range and consequently makes it more
noticeable. EQ can also be used in the event that two instruments are
interfering with each other. When this happens you select a group of
frequencies for each instrument to occupy, and you layer one on top of the
other perceptually. This is a little more advanced, but with practice you (or
your mix engineer) will get it. EQ can also be used to correct problems on a
specific channel, but if you have followed the Johnson Recording Method
properly, you should not have problems to correct.