The Process of Audio Mixing (1)
1. Get mentally prepared for the mix
You are about to spend several hours doing something that demands total, unyielding concentration. Get a comfortable chair, adjust the lighting, and create a comfortable environment. Get out your track sheets for the tune you're about to mix and have a pencil and scrap paper available for taking notes.
2. Take an inventory of your tracks
Listen over speakers at low to moderate volume to refresh your memory about each track. As you listen, use masking tape or stick-on strips to identify which instruments appear on which mixer channels. Group instruments logically: the rhythm section in one group of channels, vocals in another group, etc.
3. Check for Glitches
Nothing can kill a mix faster than getting bogged down in detours to fix little problems here and there, so get this step out of the way as early as possible. If there are other distractions in the room, you might find it useful to put on headphones and listen to each track, in solation, at a moderate level. Headphones are best for this step, because they often reveal sounds in more detail than speakers. Take note of when pops, clicks, out-of-tune notes, fret buzzes, and other problems occur. Either fix them or remember to do what you can in the mix to mask the problem. For example, with one old digital synth once commonly in use, the sound gets grainy and distorted at the end of its decay (due to the D/A converters running out of resolution). In context with the rest of the instruments, you could hear there was a problem but the exact reason wasn't clear until the synth is heard in isolation and distortion can be noticed. The solution was to add a noise gate that muted the last part of the decay tail.
4. Optimize Synthesized Tracks
If you're using synthesized, "virtual tracks" or mixing a tapeless (i.e. all sequenced) tune, optimize each sound source's parameters. With virtual tracks, you sync a sequencer to tape and driveyour instruments from the sequencer. The instrument outputs go directly through the mixing board to the stereo master. Often you can optimize sounds at the synthesizer or sampler ratherthan at the mixing board, which is recommended for two reasons: first, the less signal processing you use, the better (why boost the treble on an anlog synth when increasing the filter cutoff frequency. Often does the same thing?); and second, these "tweaked" patches can be recalled instantly with system exclusive data during the mixdown process.
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