The Process of Audio Mixing (4)
The Process of Audio Mixing (4)
Here are the steps involved in audio mixing a project. However, note that these often interact to a large extent, and at times you may find yourself going back to previous steps or anticipating future ones.
6. Start Working on EQ (Continued)
In the bass vs. kick dilemma (i.e., how do you differentiate two similar sounds in a similar frequency range?), try selecting one as the primary "boom" sound and the other as the "thock (thick but clear)" sound, depending on context. By this, we mean make the kick a little boomier and give a mid or lower mid-range boost to accent the initial beater hit, while making the bass a little less boomy but with an upper mid-range boost to bring out the pick sound. Since the ear caneasily differentiate between the kick drumbeater and bass pick, it's east to separate the two. Why not just pan the kick to one side of the stereo field and the bass to the other?
Well, aside from sounding really weird - we're used to hearing both centered in the stereo image, and low frequencies are relatively non directional - when cutting vinyl records, the low frequency content should be centered. The worst thing you can do to any record mastering engineer is split a bass part into stereo by putting one channel out of phase with the other; always keep low-frequency stuff mixed to the conter.
Take care not to add too much energy in the 200-500 Hz range, as this can cause the mix to sound "muddy" and unclear. Many mixes may have the bass guitar slightly reduced in this frequency range; tending instead in raise the midrange (800-2500 Hz) depending upon the instrument and the amount and style of harmonics content in the artist's play.
Once you resolve the major EQ problems, get picky. If particular notes or narrow frequency ranges are out of balance, reach for a parametric equalizer. If there's an offensive frequency, simply boost the EQ on that track as far as it will go (making sure the speakers are turned down, though, so you don't blow up anything), sweep the frequency range until you dial in the obnoxious component, then cut (notch) by an appropriate amount to smooth things out.
An alternative to EQ is the "exciter"-type device. This increases the spaciousness of a sound not by adding treble, but by other means (e.g. summing a controlled amount of distortion in with the original signal, adaptive EQ, or any one of several other processes). These units produce a brighter sound without necessarily adding stridency and are particularly effective on vocals, acoustic instriments, drum machines (for a little more crispness), and older samplers, which often tend to be a little shy in the high frequency range.
Most of these "exciter" devices can be thought of as modified high-frequency shelving equalizers that may intentionally manipulate with the phase response of the signal, to cause a psycho acoustic response.
One final note: in a lot of cases, the job of keeping instruments from stepping on each other is more properly the function of a tune's arrangement. However, that's a whole other subject, and in any event, it's often too late to make any substantial changes in a song by the time you're ready to mix.
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