Mixing

Toronto mixing studio Fandango Recording offers professional mixing services using a hybrid analog and digital approach. Mixing is the process of putting everything together to get great balance, frequency range, panorama, dimension, dynamics and interest. All the instruments have to be heard properly, and there has to be a fit in between them. The song gets to be round, polished, with a good sense of 3D space. In theory, this sounds simple; in reality is much more complicated. Every instrument carries different amount of energy in the frequency bands and they have to be worked out so they don’t cancel each other and sound naturally. They have to be placed in space, both panning and depth. The voices or leads have to stand out. 

The mixing engineer identifies the song’s driving element (for example, in disco the kick is everything, or in jazz the melody and the musical dialog between musicians), understands the arrangement and then, using panorama, EQ, dimension (effects), dynamics (compression, gating, limiting) starts to build the mix from the bottom up, following the direction of the song and making sure it has the groove and it captures the interest. Mixing requires editing, like vocal editing (pitch correction, intonation and breathing reduction), noise removal from tracks, drums enhancement or replacement.

Besides the experience of the engineer, there are a couple of elements that have major influence over the mix: the room acoustics, the monitors and the quality of the equipment - hardware and software. I can't stress enough the importance of the monitors & room acoustics in the mixing equation. 

The engineer comes with a rough mix, which will be presented to the artist/producer, so they can have their input. A good mix has strong and controlled lows, the mids evenly distributed across among instruments and strong but smooth highs. The mids are extremely important: a great mix still has to sound good if you filter everything bellow 100 and over 6K (remember the old Blue Note releases). While the engineer has a certain view and tries to do his best, what really counts is the customer opinion and the mixing engineer tries to get as close as possible to the image that the artists and producers have in mind. 

Typically there are five versions of the mix: 1. the master mix, the one everybody likes; 2. vocal up 1-2 dB; 3. vocal down 1-2 dB; 4. the TV mix, with no lead vocal, often called trax, used for TV or karaoke, and 5. the instrumental mix. It is also a regular practice to prepare multiple versions of certain songs. First is the album cut which usually stands out for artistic integrity, then the AM version which is the radio mix, with a length of 3 minutes or close, and the dance mix for use in dance clubs, generally longer, around 5-6 min.

When you're budgeting for a project, always consider the time for mixing; this is very important. It is common to spend between 6 to 10 hours in the 16+ tracks world and 2-3 hours for a voice over. You may ask for compromises if your project is a demo for club promotion, but it would be a mistake to do so for large or important projects. 

The Musician Guide to Recording” provides an in depth review of the mixing process in the 4th chapter.

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