Audio Mixdown Techniques MUSM 362
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Audio Mixdown Techniques MUSM 362. Minimum Prerequisite MUSM 344 or equivalent Highly Recommended MUSM 355. Mixing. Requires tools, knowledge, experience, time, willingness to experiment, and technical and aesthetic judgments Subjective and personal

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Audio Mixdown Techniques MUSM 362

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Audio mixdown techniques musm 362

Audio Mixdown Techniques MUSM 362

Minimum Prerequisite

MUSM 344 or equivalent

Highly Recommended

MUSM 355



  • Requires tools, knowledge, experience, time, willingness to experiment, and technical and aesthetic judgments

  • Subjective and personal

  • Mixing involves alteration and addition of sounds to recorded tracks

  • Hearing the mechanics of the mix is often not ideal

  • A mix is a sonic illusion – a presentation of emotions, creative ideas and performance

Before starting a mix

Before Starting a Mix

  • Know the different mixing philosophies based on genre and style

  • Mixing conventions are often based on genre and style

  • Get input from the producer and artist

  • Often have to balance your ideas with others (producers, artist, audience, record company)

  • Know what instruments sound like or ways you want them to sound

Elements of a good mix

Elements of a Good Mix

  • Level – relative volume levels

  • Frequency – all frequency ranges are properly represented

  • Panorama – placement of sounds in the stereo sound field

  • Dimension – ambience; depth

  • Dynamics – volume envelope; dynamic range

  • Mood – emotional content

  • Interest – interesting, creative, special

Mix vision

Mix Vision

  • Hear a version of the mix “in your head”

  • Start with a mix vision

    Vision  Action  Evaluation

  • Vision

    • How do I want it to sound?

  • Action

    • What equipment and techniques should I use? How should I use them?

  • Evaluation

    • Does it sound like I want it to? What is right? What is wrong?

Mix vision1

Mix Vision

  • Without a mix vision or clear idea, how can you critically evaluate the mix as you are doing it?

  • Tend to get stuck in a loop of action and evaluation without a mix vision

  • Develop a mix plan!

Preparing to mix

Preparing to Mix

  • Before starting to mix, have

    • Documentation

    • Client guidelines and input

    • Lyric sheets

    • Supplies

    • Clean and comfortable work area

    • Working equipment

    • A sense of the monitors and room sound and influence

Preparing to mix1

Preparing to Mix

  • Audition the tracks – learn the musical piece, mood and emotional content; identity important elements and problems

  • Qualities and Characteristics to Notice and Know

T echnical tasks

Technical Tasks

  • Neutralize settings (zeroing)

  • Housekeeping – file naming, location, backup

  • Track layout – order, colors, groups

  • Location marking

  • Control and audio grouping

  • Phase check – deal with phase issues

  • Editing – editing, comps, performance and arrangement fixes

  • Cleaning up and restoration – fixing unwanted sounds, noise, pops, clicks, etc.



  • Selective

    • Choosing the right takes

    • Comping

    • Arrangement modification

  • Corrective

    • Repairing bad performances or sounds (e.g., quantization, sound replacement)

  • Is it acceptable to add or remove instruments to a mix at the mixing stage?

Usual mixing task order

Usual Mixing Task Order

  • Faders (level)

  • Panning

  • Processing (EQ and compressors)

  • Modulation

  • Delay

  • Reverb

  • Automation

  • Processing replaces original sounds while modulation, delay and reverb adds to sounds. Reason for processing first.

Mixing approaches

Mixing Approaches

  • Mix perspective

    • How the individual elements contribute to the mix

  • Individual perspective

    • How the mix is shaped by the individual elements

  • Usually better to use more of a mix than an individual perspective

Mixing approaches1

Mixing Approaches

  • Static mix

    • No changes of mix parameters or settings during the song

  • Dynamic or Active mix

    • Changes of mix parameters or settings during the song

    • Usually required in a better mix

Mixing approaches2

Mixing Approaches

  • Natural sounding mix

    • Like playing in front of you

    • May not always be best and can be ordinary

  • Artificial sounding mix

    • Bigger or different than life

  • Mixing radicalism is often unperceived by the average listener. The final mix is exciting or boring, or they feel it or not

Mixing approaches3

Mixing Approaches

  • Sparse arrangement

    • Creating a mix from little

  • Busy or dense arrangement

    • Creating space in the mix for each instrument

    • Harder to feature a specific instrument or emphasize a detail

Mixing approaches4

Mixing Approaches

  • With a lot of tracks…….

    • There is a need to sculpt more space for each track if each one is to be heard with clarity and definition

    • Often have to make some parts smaller sounding to avoid sonic conflicts

    • Every part does not need to be present at its full sonic range to be clearly heard or sound good in a mix

    • Bigger is not always better

Mixing approaches5

Mixing Approaches

  • Serial Approach

    • Start with a few tracks, listen in isolation, mix then continue to add more tracks

  • Typical order

    • Rhythm – drums, beats, bass

    • Harmony – rhythm guitars, keyboards, pads

    • Melody – vocals, solo instruments

  • Mix the most important tracks first while there is still lots of space. Least important tracks when there is less space.

Mixing approaches6

Mixing Approaches

  • Parallel Approach

    • Bring all or most of the faders up and set rough levels

    • Set panning

    • Mix individual instruments in the desired order

    • Nothing gets mixed in isolation

  • Often use a mix of serial and parallel approaches

Mixing approaches7

Mixing Approaches

  • Iterative Technique

    • Existing mix is adjusted to accommodate newly introduced or processed tracks

    • Use a coarse to fine approach

    • Less time is spent in the beginning stages (coarse) and more time in the later stages (fine)

    • Most attention is given when and where the subtlest mixing decisions are made

  • Mix in order of the sections of importance (e.g., chorus or hook) or chronologically (start to finish)

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