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If you don’t know anything about mixing or mixing software, this Guide is a great place to start. This is a quick Guide that is useful for everyone who wants to learn more about mixing. If you don’t fully understand mixing this Guide can help you better understand the powerful sound-shaping tools at your disposal.This quick guide can show you new tricks or techniques that are possible.

Probably the most reliable way to waste your time in a small studio is by trying to mix before you can actually hear what you’re doing. Monitors are probably the first "effective weapon" of your Home Studio. No monitors are truly “neutral,” and every professional engineer you ask will have his or her own personal taste in this department. Part of the job of learning to mix is getting accustomed to the way your own particular speakers sound. In other words: the less money you’re going to spend on monitors, the more you should approach ported models armed with holy water and cloves of garlic ! Remember: The biggest mistakes that happen in project studios are the result of the monitoring systems.

Whatever you actually sit the speakers on, their exact positioning is also critical to getting good audio reproduction. You should try wherever possible to aim the speakers directly at the listening position. A speaker’s frequency response is measured on axis (i.e., from directly in front of it), so if you listen off axis, you won’t be hearing what the designer intended you to high frequencies are more directional than low frequencies, so high end details in particular tend to suffer.

homestudio-monitors

Mixing is the craft of taking multiple audio tracks and combining them together onto a final master track be it a 2-channel stereo master, or 6+ channels in the case of surround mixing. The way we combine tracks is equal parts art and science, and involves utilizing a variety of tools to bring out the most emotional impact from the song. Mixing can be as simple as presenting great-sounding tracks in a more impactful way. Other times, mixing may require repairing tracks that sound sub-par. Each mix presents its own problems and challenges it’s your job as the mixer to not only solve these problems, but to present the song the way it sounds in the client’s imagination.

Think of a mix as a sonic three dimensional image. There are four essential elements that we use to control that image:

  1. Level (Height)
  2. EQ (Height)
  3. Panning (Width)
  4. Time-Based Effects (Depth)

LEVEL

Level seems pretty simple when we want to hear something louder, we turn up a fader. And the louder components of the mix grab the listener’s attention more than the quieter components.

EQ

EQ is really just a more detailed level control that lets us boost and cut levels at specific frequencies. EQ is the easiest way to shape the tracks in your mix so they fit together and provides a powerful way to add personality and character to the individual tracks.

PANNING

If you were to think of level and EQ as the vertical (up/down) elements, panning would be the horizontal (left/right) element. Panning can be very helpful on instruments that sit in the same frequency range. By panning one to the left and the other to the right, you can separate the two instruments and reduce the chance of one instrument masking the other, and making it harder to hear.

TIME-BASED EFFECTS

Time-based effects form the element of depth (front to back). Time-based effects such as reverb and delay can make an instrument seem further away, or sometimes bigger than a dry instrument.

The elements discussed above allow us to create a three dimensional image, but there’s also a fourth dimension available to us : Time. Time is the key way that music differs from static art forms like paintings and sculptures. You can stare at the Mona Lisa all day long and she’ll never change she’s had that wry smile on her face hundreds of years. Conversely, a song can change within 30 seconds of listening to it and can go through multiple changes throughout the length of the song. So utilizing the four elements we have control over and changing them throughout a song’s structure can result in a vibrant and dynamic mix. Mixing involves a fair amount of slight of hand you’re deciding what instruments the listener is focusing on and you can change their focus within the mix at any point. A good example of this is going from a vocal melody to another instrument soloing. You’ve now seamlessly taken the attention of the listener from the vocal to the solo.

Download this quick guide for beginners and intermediate.