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THE CRAFT

MIXING

Like ingredients for an excellent cake.  So are the sounds that make up a recorded song. Each song has a different DNA made up mostly of rhythm and melody.  The individual events and elements of both rhythm and melody must be combined and arranged.  The combing of sounds, albeit voice or instrument, constitutes mixing. Mixing is much like blending a cake recipe and preparing for the final result. Since music is an emotional creative art form, so should the manner in which all elements, within a musical composition be combined.

BEST MIXING TOOLS

The best mixing tools on earth are your ears.  Although music in its final state may be subjective, the process used to mix music should be as objective as possible. One look at a mixing console can be daunting or even down right intimidating.  However,  it’s not the plane, but the skills of the pilot that determine the final outcome.  Likewise, mixing a song can be measured by the skill set of the engineer operating the mixing console.  The major factor in any mix is time.  The better prepared your song’s ingredients are beforehand, the more time you’ll have to listen with fresh ears to sculpt the sound which projects and promotes the emotion you wish to convey. Also, the more time you invest in learning about mixing, or any craft for that matter, the more time you’ll have to mix song after song until you’re proficient.

ANALOG vs DIGITAL

It doesn’t matter if your mixing in the analog/digital realm or both.  Mixing is a feeling.  It’s an extension of the energy captured while recording.  Envision each recorded song as a naked model just waiting to be clothed in exotic fabric and fashion.  That’s right!  Mixing is the fabric and fashion sense of the recording process. To take it a step further, imagine your mix engineer as a sound chef whipping up seasoned entrees.  And of course, you get out what you put in.  This means, the better sounding records utilize the freshest ingredients.  In the world of studio recording these ingredients are best used when recorded at appropriate levels and without blemish.

KEY FACTS

All in all, mixing is a process and great results are achieved everyday regardless of the individual mixing decisions that are made.  It’s most important to mix with feeling, trust your ears and commit to the creative decisions you make.

 

EQUALIZATION

What is equalization (EQ)? It is the balance of sound. The uniform of music.  Generally speaking, equalization is either Graphic or Parametric.

Graphic EQ: Presents itself in a graph form based on fixed frequencies that are adjusted by raising (boost) or lowering (cut) slides (faders) to help control the sound quality of your recording.  Graphic equalization is utilized in both studio and live sound performances.

 

Parametric EQ:  Provides flexibility to adjust frequency and bandwidth to precisely match the audio spectrum of a particular recording environment.  Parametric equalization helps to fine-tune sound, and can be used in both live sound recordings and studio projects.

 

FREQUENCIES OF INTEREST: EQ Settings

 

Kick Drum:Bottom Depth (60-80 Hz), Slap Attack (2.5 kHz)

 

Snare Drum: Fatness (240 Hz), Crispness (5 kHz)

 

Hi-Hat/Cymbals: Clank or Gong sound (200 Hz), Shimmer (7.5-12 kHz)

 

Rack Toms: Fullness (240 Hz), Attack (5 kHz)

 

Floor Toms: Fullness (80-120 Hz), Attack (5 kHz)

 

Bass Guitar: Bottom (60-80 Hz), Attack/Pluck (700-1000 Hz), String Noise/Pop (2.5 kHz)

 

Electric Guitar: Fullness (240 Hz), Bite (2.5 kHz)

 

Acoustic Guitar: Bottom (80-120 Hz), Body (240 Hz), Clarity (2.5-5 kHz)

 

Electric Organ: Bottom (80-120 Hz), Body (240 Hz), Presence (2.5 kHz)

 

Acoustic Piano: (80-120 Hz), Presence (2.5-5 kHz), Crisp Attack (10 kHz), Honky Tonk sound (sharp Q set at 2.5 kHz)

 

Horns: Fullness (120-240 Hz), Shrill (5-7.5 kHz)

 

Strings: Fullness (240 Hz), Scratchiness (7.5-10 kHz)

 

Conga/Bongo: Resonance (200-240 Hz), Presence/Slap (5 kHz)

 

Vocals: Fullness (120 Hz), Boominess (200-240 Hz), Presence (5 kHz), Sibilance (7.5-10 kHz)

 

MASTERING

Polish your sound with the beautiful art of mastering engineering.

 

What is mastering?  Mastering is the most important phase in the entire process of making a record.  Think of recording and mixing as the key ingredients in a cake recipe and how you balance and blend those ingredients.  Then mastering is baking those ingredients at a prescribed temperature and cooling time so that each time you bake the cake it looks feels and most importantly taste delicious!  There are four main elements to the mastering process:

 

Sequence: Order placement of each song and how that song fits in the overall concept of your project is a very key element.  This part of the process should be dealt with delicately because it determines if your record sounds and flows like a cohesive collection of work.

 

Critical Listening: A strong critical listen in the right listening environment will expose any flaws that can possibly be fixed before your music is being distributed to the masses.  Remember a first impression is long lasting.

 

Sweetening: Ever ordered and iced tea unsweetened?  What did you do next?  Based on your taste buds you probably added a sweetener.  Notice the word sweetener versus sugar.  The word sweetener is used to show that there are options available and that what type of sweetener and the amount you decide to use will affect the overall taste of your iced tea.  Sweetening in the world of mastering music is very similar.  A mastering engineer with utilize a combination of EQ, compression and their listening experience to “sweeten” or flavor your music and bring it to life.  Mastering should give your music a bigger bolder taste (sound).

 

Master Copy: Finally, your initial recordings have been sequenced, given a critical listen and assessment, sweetened and now you should receive a master copy.  Your master copy should always be used to make any and all replicated or duplicated copies of your music.

 

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