|The next step in the process of production is, after you’ve finished recording successfully, the mixing of the recorded material. This work is divided in different areas and we begin with the export / import, the visual inspection and the editing of the individual tracks.
Export / Import
Since there are innumerable programs to record music files and every person prefers to work with the software of their own choice, the tracks for the mix that are reached on to another studio should be prepared in such a way as to enable the import into every popular music-program.
The following should be considered whilst exporting:
- the export of all single tracks (without effects, compressors etc.) in WAV- or AIFF-formats
- clearly laid out description of all tracks
- indication of the sampling-rate and bit-depth of the delivered tracks
- export of all single tracks from the zero-point
I'd like to further comment on the last point, since I have often been provided with single shreds in the past or guitarsoli or overdubs for example, where it was not apparent, where to place them in the song.
As already mentioned, every person works with different software (I work alternatively with LOGIC PRO and Samplitude) and to make sure, that every track appears where it belongs, every track intended to be used should be exported from their point of origin of the arrangements independently even if a guitarsolo only starts after 2 minutes for instance or the backing vocals only support the main vocals at the end of the song. Therefore, there should be no problems when importing to a new arrangement and one can be sure, that everything matches perfectly.
When all tracks are individually exported, you should make sure before sending your material to the mixing studio, when importing the issued tracks into a new arrangement (adjustment at point zero) everything is alright and matches perfectly. If that’s the case, then you can proceed to burn all the clearly marked tracks onto a DVD or upload on a server to share for mixing.
Visual inspection / Editing
After your tracks have arrived at the studio of your choice, entitled to mix your recording, the tracks will be imported and visually inspected. Should something be faulty (disturbance, clippings, drop-outs etc.) then the studio will contact you immediately. In this case however, we assume that everything is fine and we can start with the editing right away.
I want to explain what these tasks involve with the help of some short and demonstrative examples.
You have provided me with your finished recordings, which you have recorded in countless hours and great effort. Here and there, a guitar plays a riff on several beats while your drummer counts on the hi-hat or sticks, or your vocalist snuffled or coughed before his legendary scream all these things fall into the area of "editing", where unwanted noises are cut out of the provided raw material. Another example would be staccato-riffs played on the guitars and the bass. Mostly, the desired silence between the individual parts while recording are impossible to attain and you can hear the buzzing noise of the amplifier or a string lingers on. All these things are cleaned so that every single track has only the information needed for the final mixdown.
Very time-consuming but also necessary is the editing of the drums. Here too, the individual tracks are separately intercepted, supplied with noisegate and compressor and finally enhanced with effects (room, reverb).
Depending on the complexity, a complete editing of an album of 40 minutes length and a count of 32 tracks can for instance require two to three days. But these works are essential to attain a clean and good sounding result without any interferences of any sort.
After the cleansing of all the tracks, the mixing of the material begins. Initiating with the drums over the bass, guitars and vocals (and, where applicable, keyboards or supplementary overdubs), the respective instruments are assigned with adequate frequency, sound level and effects to enable a compact and enjoyable listening and to assemble the single parts to a euphonious overall result.
Since every band has its own sound (and wants to keep it too), there is no standardized adjustment employable on different mixings. Some want a natural and earthy sound whereas others prefer a sterile, clinical and modern sound. I always get my inspiration off of the material and try to sound the individuality out and elaborate it instead of orientating myself after already existing productions to reproduce a sound that already exists or even copy it. It is clear, that the respective band has the last saying on which direction the desired result should go.
As soon as my hearing reaches a good result, I export the first mixes and offer them to the artists. Then, changes, like the choice of the effects, the volume of certain parts or the application of diverse frequencies are carried out, so that the respective bands can identify themselves with the offered mix. As soon as both parties have concluded, that the mixing has done justice to the recording and the philosophy of the band, all the songs will the exported for a final mixdown and are then ready for the last stage in the chain of production, the mastering.
Finally, I want to give some advice for all those, who want to do the mixing themselves:
Please be careful, that the mix is clean, well-balanced and not too overloaded with effects. Listen to the finished mixes on diverse devices (for instance hi-fi systems, car radio, kitchen radio, iPod ect.) and take your time again to pass through the whole meticulously with earphones. That method might help to locate a few flaws, an audible clipping or a mistake in the stereo-panorama.
It's also very important, that you don't use any bus compressor etc. Only a very decently used limiter is advisable, that is able to avert the possible peaks (clippings). This is not reducing the material audibly on such occasions.
An important aspect is also the fact that a mix never can have the volume, intensity and brilliance of a finished master! So leave some headroom (space upwards) while exporting the mixdowns. Mixes, where the level peaks are at -6 dB up to -3 dB are very well suited for the mastering. Please also be aware, that an overdriven mix, where clippings are permanently to be found, and the display doesnt budge a millimetre at 0 dB, isn't correctable anymore.