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A guide to mixing music - Part 54

Take a Break

In the first article of this mixing series I told you it would be a long journey, both for you and me. As with every quest, sometimes it's good to take a pause to let it all sit for a while and start over with a clear mind and renewed energies. After more than a year of almost weekly encounters, I think the time has come for such an interlude.

Provisional conclusion

So, where are you right now? We started out by establishing a mixing strategy in order to connect better the different musical elements of the four-dimensional sonic puzzle you are working on, always respecting the original intention and emotion of the song.

You then dived into the task of putting together a rough mix to create the foundations of your mix. The four dimensions thus started to take form: The respective volumes of the instruments and the performance of the musicians gave the mix depth, the natural range of the instruments provided the height and the pan the width, all while the instrumental arrangement itself evolved through time.

And then the time came for a little EQing. At that point, it was time to fine tune the interconnections between puzzle elements by means of a proper frequency trimming and some retouches to keep under control eventual masking phenomena. At the same time, you were able to highlight the relief of certain instruments by contrasting tracks to one another. Finally, you laid down the basis for working with the sensation of space. Never losing out of sight the goals set out at the beginning.

After readjusting the rough mix ─ don't forget you are working in a loop ( ─ we started a trip into the depths of dynamics processing. Using the different techniques available, you learned how to process the tracks that required it, taking special care not to affect the innate dynamics of the song, letting it breathe naturally. As usual, all this was done taking into account your vision of the mix.

So here we are, right in the middle of the loop, and chances are that the dynamics processing required you to review your EQed rough mix and apply some slight changes to it.

So, what do you have right now? Well, if everything went as planned, you should be at a transitional point. Actually, you should have about 75% of the work done. The song ought to be pretty coherent both in terms of frequency and dynamics. This translates into clearly identifiable instruments which nevertheless sound as an harmonious whole. Each element "breathes" with the same spirit as the song. If you compare the result with what you got after the Gain Staging (, you should notice a significant improvement in relation to your goals. The four-dimensional puzzle is much clearer now and lacks only some reinforcement of the 3D space, to highlight the natural motion of the song.

If for any reason you are not in the situation described above, then something has gone awry in the process ─ and you shouldn't expect the upcoming stages to help you fix the issue. The solution will iinvolve going back to the beginning of the rough mix stage, and reviewing every step you've taken.

On the other hand, if the song slowly starts to resemble more and more the vision of the mix you had in mind ─ which I truly hope is the case ─ come back next week as we begin the next steps in the process.