What is mixing?
Mixing is that phase of your project where you try to get the perfect balance between all the parts that have gone into the recording. It’s accomplished by setting the right levels for the tracks, and tweaking each track with tone and dynamic processing, and various effects. Getting your performance right and capturing the sounds is the first phase – tracking. Mixing is the second phase, and mastering is the final phase.
When you record your project here, the mixing process starts on the very first day. When we’re playing the initial tracks back, I’m already tweaking levels, eq & dynamics to balance the sound, and the first rough mix I give you from the first session reflects that. I’m already pushing the sound forward with that final product in mind, and each subsequent rough mix brings us closer to your final sound. By the time all our tracking is done, I want to already have a sound that approximates where the final mix will be.
It’s not as if we enter the mixing phase with a totally unformed lump – the final shape will have already assumed itsapproximate form – and when we mix, we’re refining that shape, more clearly defining it.
What tools does Dan’s House use?
I record your tracks with no processing – no eq, effects, or dynamic processing is printed with the signal. The signal path from mike to my Nuendo DAW is clean – from source to preamp to my Lynx AD converter to hard drive. All processing is done after the fact – when we’re mixing.
The majority of tools I use, both eq and dynamic controls, are Universal Audio plugins. UAD produces some incredibly faithful representations of classic analog devices – “vintage” equalizers, compressors, filters and dynamic enhancers. UAD also produces their own modern digital tone and dynamic processors, plugins that are more digitally precise and transparent. They’ve also got a big pile of very cool effects, ranging from vintage to modern, to create a hugely varied sonic palette.
Organizing the mix
A general approach to a mix involves breaking it down into several parts. Let’s say we’ve got a pretty standard rock band, starting with drums, bass, two guitars, one vocalist, and some backing vocals. We’ll throw a couple of keyboard tracks and horn parts, too, for good measure.
How many tracks do we have now? Maybe ten for the drums, one for the bass, at least two for guitar, one for vocals, two for backing vocals, two for keys and two for horns. Add some guitar lead tracks, extra percussion, and some sampled string parts, and it’s very easy to exceed 24 tracks – that’s a lot of faders to keep track of!
So what we do is create submixes, with each submix representing a basic element of the song…
- backing vocals
Now instead of having 25+ faders to juggle, we’ve got only 7 faders, each one assigned to a basic musical element. Maybe 12 drums faders go into the drums submix, with maybe only one bass track going to one submix. You may ask, “Why even GIVE the bass its own submix?” Well, even though it’s just one track, it still represents a basic element, so I want to have its own fader in the submix section of the mixer along with the other subs. All these basic elements are lined up in a row, so each can be easily juggled, easily manipulated.
How long does mixing take?
That’s a hard one to answer – it depends a lot on how complex the material is, how close we’ve gotten with our rough mixes, and how many people are involved in the final decision-making. A simple voice & acoustic guitar session will take hardly any time to tweak – maybe our final sound will be achieved the same day we tracks it! But let’s say we’ve got a seven-piece band, with everyone having written parts, and EVERYONE wanting a say in every mix. Could take a long time to get it all together!
Having said all that, I will say that you can make a pretty good guess at mix time by assuming it’ll take at least as long as the tracking sessions.
“I’m not near you – can you still help me with my mixes?”
Yes, absoultely! I can help at any stage – contact me and talk to me about what you need. If you want me to mix here, either the whole mix, or just a portion (say, just the drum mix), you can upload files to me either by FTP or YouSendIt.
I’ve been working in Pennsylvania for years recording musicians from the Lehigh Valley, Philly, NY & NJ, but in the past few years, I’ve been taking in projects from all over the world. If you’ve got an internet connection, we can collaborate on whatever you need.
“My mix has just a few problem spots – can you help!?”
Need just a little vocal tuning? A couple of drums hits not spot on? Snare not popping through strongly enough? Wimpy kick? Muddy bass? Whatever tweaks you need done, I can handle, whether it’s a full mix from top to bottom, or just one out-of-tune chorus vocal.