What Does Audio Mixing Mean?
Audio mixing is the delicate process of blending all the recorded tracks of a project together in order to achieve a coherent and pleasant sonic experience. Basically, it means making your music sound amazing!
In this phase of the production process, the mixing engineer listens to the recorded song and makes changes to each separate track so that all musical instruments sound exactly as the artist envisioned.
After extensive listening and review, the mixing engineer will enhance or mitigate certain frequencies so they won’t interfere with each other. For instance, they might remove low-end frequencies from a guitar while boosting the ones coming from the bass guitar.
This is a process that requires detailed scientific knowledge about how audio frequencies work, as well as unique taste and creativity in blending and refining sounds.
Audio Mixing Vs. Mastering Differences
While the mixing engineer can access each separate track from the audio recording, the mastering engineer works mostly on the single-tracked mix but sometimes on the stems themselves. Basically, they ensure the music will sound perfect on all devices and platforms.
You can listen to a song on your headphones, or speakers, while driving or in a busy coffee shop; you might listen to it on Spotify, YouTube, or on vinyl. After proper mastering, your song will sound perfect regardless of listening circumstances or formats.
Tools Required for Mixing Music
Regardless of the DAWs you’re using, there are some plug-ins that you’ll absolutely need if you want to achieve professional results. These are Compressor, Limiter, Equalizer, and Reverb. In the section below, we’ll delve into each of these tools and more.
What are the 8 Steps of Mixing
Step 1: Getting Ready
This is the most crucial part of the entire mixing process. Before you start mixing your music, you have to ask yourself: what kind of sound am I trying to achieve?
If you don’t have a clear understanding of the sound you’re looking for, you’ll end up spending endless hours adjusting your mix until all you want to do is delete the whole thing.
If you’re a mixing engineer working for a band, ask them to give you a reference track. This is a song they all agree has a sound that’s in line with what they aim to achieve with their track.
Step 2: Volume Balance Your Mix
Start with balancing all the tracks in your mix so that you can clearly hear all musical instruments and ensure the audio signal is consistent throughout. Leave enough headroom for the mixing and mastering plug-ins that’ll be added in the process; in this phase, the master volume shouldn’t exceed -6dB.
Step 3: The Power of Compression
Compression will make quieter parts of your mix sound louder and louder parts quieter by reducing the dynamics within a track. This is a fundamental tool to achieve a loud and balanced sound without affecting the natural sound of a song.
Step 4: Equalizer (EQ)
Use the equalizer to mitigate or enhance certain frequencies of a track. By adjusting the frequencies of each separate track, you’ll create a cohesive sound without audio interferences. EQs are powerful mastering tools that can significantly improve the quality of a song as you can use them to finetune audio throughout the frequency spectrum.
Step 5: Using Time-Based Effects
What Is Panning?
Panning allows you to move a sound to the left or right speaker. It’s a fantastic tool for making your music more immersive and giving each musical instrument more “room.”
Focal elements of your song should always be in the center of the mix (for example, the voice), while you can use panning for effects and guitars if you recorded more than one.
What Is Reverb
In music, reverb is an effect that adds spatial characteristics to audio. As sound waves interact with the space surrounding them, the way we perceive frequencies changes, so you can use this effect to add reverberation to specific instruments.
Generally, the sound will become more harmonious and cohesive but will lose “punch,” so make sure you use it wisely.
What Is Delay
The delay plays back a recorded sound, meaning you can enrich your recording by creating an echo-like effect with certain instruments. Delays can be used creatively to add a sense of depth to a track and create more hypnotic soundscapes.
Step 6: Volume Automation
This step is required whenever you want to highlight specific parts of a song by raising the volume. You can make sections of your songs louder to emphasize the chorus or the guitar solo, for instance.
Step 7: Review Your Final Work
Listening to the finalized track is fundamental for a couple of reasons: first, to review everything you’ve done so far and make some final tweaks; and second, to ensure the plug-ins you’ve used are not interfering with each other and compromising the overall audio quality.
More often than not, you’ll need to adjust the compressors and the EQs because the effects you added after might cause some unwanted distortion.
Other Terminologies you Should Know
What Are Busses?
Bussing is the process of routing all the tracks of a specific musical instrument into one single track.
Let’s say you recorded your drums using ten separate microphones. If you add a mix bus plug-in to your mixing process, all the plug-ins you apply will be automatically added to all individual tracks (snare, cymbals, toms..), improving your workflow and saving precious CPU.
What is Gain Staging
Gain staging ensures that the volume levels of a track are ideal before the next effect processes them in the plug-in chain. This process allows you to reach a perfectly balanced mix with consistent volume levels. Ultimately, the volume of your track should be somewhere near 0dB on the VU.
What are Reference Tracks
A reference track is a song mix engineers use as a comparison and source of inspiration while working on a new piece of music. Having a reference track will not only speed up your workflow considerably but also give you a clear understanding of the sound you’re trying to achieve.
What are Crossfades?
A crossfade is the process of putting together two audio clips and ensuring the transition from one to the other is smooth and seamless. You can achieve this by fading out one track while fading in the other, adding enough fading time to make the transition natural and imperceptible.
Make Mixing Easier with Antares’ Voice Enhancement Technology
Antares’ products are the ultimate solution to bring to life a song that meets the top-chart standards.
Use our advanced Auto-Tune Pro to enhance every aspect of your vocals, from subtle pitch correction to extreme voice transformations to a wide range of effects that’ll help you shape a unique, refined sound.
Today, Antares’ effects are the industry standard when it comes to mixing and creative effects for vocals: adding these effects to your plug-in chain will boost your imagination, improve your workflow, and help you create a great-sounding mix.