Working in a recording studio - Mixing

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Mixing consists in picking up all the signals that have been recorded on the various tracks of our recorder, and blending them together into a single stereo signal. The first thing to do is to switch the mixer onto mixing status. When a mixer is in this status on each channel strip, the main channel and the monitor channel get inverted. During the recording phase, the recorder's outputs were connected to the inputs of the monitor channels. In this case these outputs are connected to the main channels' input. This time all the channel's facilities (equalizers, filters etc.) act on the main channel in such a way that each audio signal can be manipulated as we please. This time too, the channels are connected to groups, but serve a different function. Before we take a look at this function let's imagine ourselves in a real situation and see what needs doing. Let's suppose we've just made a recording on 23-tracks and we've recorded the following instruments on the tracks:

  1. Bass drum

  2. Snare-drum

  3. Hi-hat

  4. OverHead Left

  5. OverHead Right

  6. Bass guitar

  7. Rhythm guitar line 1

  8. Rhythm guitar line 2

  9. Guitar solo

  10. Lead Vocal

  11. Lead Vocal harmony

  12. Chorus Vocals 1

  13. Chorus Vocals 2

  14. Chorus Vocals 3

  15. Chorus Vocals 4

  16. Keyboard 1 Left

  17. Keyboard 1 Right

  18. Keyboard 2 Left

  19. Keyboard 2 Right

  20. Violin

  21. Percussion 1

  22. Percussion 2

  23. Percussion 3

Let's start mixing! Firstly, after having turned the mixer to mixing mode and the recorder to playback mode, turn all the faders and potentiometers back to their initial positions and turn all the buttons to off mode. This will save us going nuts in trying to understand why something isn't working as it should be: a button left on in a previous session, thinking that it had been turned off, can account for great time-losses... and countless headaches! Then assign all the channels to the mix bus (controlled by the master fader L and R) through the routing matrix of each channel, lift the faders, position the panoramic controls and listen to the whole mix. At this stage we can add various effects to each signal in order, among other things, to clean the sounds up, smooth them and add colour to them. By acting on the equalizers we try to extract from the sound the frequencies that most distinguish it, whereas we try to get rid of unwanted frequencies. With compressors we give the sound its right dynamic and by adding reverb we give space to the sound. Naturally the art of mixing couldn't possibly be described in a few lines; each person has his or her own experience, tricks, tastes. This said, let's take a look at some basic techniques.


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