Recording studio Aachen - Services - Mixing

Analogue mixing for a three-dimensional sound

Once the recorded signal of all instruments involved in the piece is available, the actual recording phase is completed and the mixing phase begins. In this phase, the many independent tracks are reduced to a final stereo version (or other formats for surround, cinema, etc.), which is then distributed via conventional consumer media. The possibilities to intervene in the recorded material in multitrack format during mixing are enormous.

It is always difficult to define what mixing is or what its aims are, because they are many and vary depending on the nature of the project. However, there is usually a combination of corrective measures that try to improve or compensate for certain aspects of the recorded material, and creative measures that voluntarily seek a more intense change in what is available after the recording. And as an essential element of mixing, I think the most important thing is to improve the position and separation of the different tracks so that all instruments are clearly audible.

Of course, there is no ideal mix for a track, and different people and tastes lead to different mixes. But what should not be missing in any mix is the aim to achieve a pleasant and clear listening of the different instruments and tracks. To make sure that even though they play together, they don't compete with each other or cover each other too much. That the main instruments always stand out sufficiently. That noises and errors that occur during recording are reduced in their effect... A certain idea of bringing "order" to the chaos, guaranteeing a certain balance and quality and making listening easier is inherent in every mix.

Traditionally, in the recording phase, the sound of the instruments is recorded cleanly and clearly, and in the mixing phase, various "effect devices" are used to alter the original recorded sound. For example, it is common during production to use devices that artificially simulate the reverberation of different types of rooms to give the impression in the final product that the music sounds like it is in a certain environment (a stadium, a small club...).

In the mixing phase, the audio material of the individual tracks is routed to the various inputs of a mixing console (either physical - analogue or digital - or virtual in software), where the correct balance between the tracks, the situation in stereo perspective and various other aspects are determined. Since the signal of each instrument is available separately, specific processing can be done for each instrument with the help of effect devices. Either, as I said, with a corrective intention, or to make it easier to live and listen together, or with a distinctly creative intention, which would almost be an extension of the creative part of the arrangement or style of the theme.

Mastering Studio Wood and Fire in Aachen

Corrective measures

When mixing, it is possible to a certain extent to correct or reduce errors in the recording and to find an initial balance and appropriateness. The list of possible actions is very extensive; here are some examples:

  • Removing breaths or coughs recorded on a track.
  • Mute tracks when not playing and activate only when the corresponding instrument is playing so that they do not contribute noise to the final mix.
  • Compensate the effect of the recording room or the microphone with the equalizer or amplify some parts of each sound.
  • Compensate for excessive fluctuations in recorded level (e.g. due to errors in performance because the microphone was too far away or too distant, due to resonances in the room that emphasise certain notes, etc.).

In every mixing console we usually find a fader for every single track, which usually contains three very important elements for this kind of correction: Noise Gate, Equalisation and Compression.

Creative measures

There are also much more intrusive treatments applied with very different effect devices, not so much for enhancement/adaptation, but for creative change that significantly modifies the original sound. The scale of intervention today is enormous. Computerised systems allow us to restructure sections, correct notes and durations in phrases, or even change the harmony or tempo within certain limits, thus going directly into "musical" and not just "acoustic" correction. And then there is the matter of applying effects such as tempo echoes, flangers, choruses, phasers, distortions, spectral and granular treatments ... that alter the natural sound of the recording. An enormous world of possibilities to profoundly change the originally received signals after recording.