To some musicians and music fans, sound mixing seems like a deep science that takes years to learn. Others view it as having a remarkable sense of artistry for audio. Both notions have an element of truth, but it’s also important to realize that anyone can mix and master sound with the right tools and knowledge.
It’s fine to start out on low-cost equipment to learn the basics. But if you plan on being a professional producer you will need to invest in quality equipment, whether you go the digital or analog route. Mixing is about using volume levels, an equalizer (EQ), compression and a wide variety of effects including reverb and delay. You should also learn about balance by experimenting with panning tools.
Planning a Recording and Mixing Project
Prior to starting a recording project, it’s helpful to plan your mix on paper, by drawing channels and identifying if they are used for voice, instruments or effects. Think of a mixing board as simply multiple channels with the same controls so that it’s less overwhelming.
When recording vocals pay close attention to microphone placement. Sometimes it takes time to place the microphone where it needs to be to capture sound accurately. The input volume is crucial to avoid distortion later in the mix. It helps to build a general mix as you add new sounds. But keep in mind that a large part of mixing is making slight adjustments to controls. The more sound you add, the more you have to adjust the mix since new sounds can drown out earlier sounds.
Knowing how you want the finished product to sound is essential, but many times this thinking evolves in the studio based on both its features and limitations. Never assume your first rough mix is the final product since you need to listen to mixes on various speakers before mastering. The fancy monitors in a recording studio aren’t going to sound the same as how music plays back on a home stereo or smartphone. Ultimately, mixing music is both an objective and subjective art.
The key to becoming a professional producer is to be dedicated to using quality equipment and listening carefully. You can learn more about mixing and mastering at Ask.Audio Academy.