E15 - Pre Mix
Now before mixing I tend to take a few steps first, below you can learn all about them.
Establish Rough Levels
So before I start any mix, I like to get a rough balance of all the elements in the arrangement. If you have recorded the song, or are aware of the content, then this step is less relevant but still is worth doing. Through establishing rough levels, you can get an idea of elements that; are poking out, being masked, are too dynamic, are too stale. From this point you are able to make notes and give yourself a direction you will need to take in terms of the processing that will be required when beginning your mix.
If an element has to be too loud to be heard, theres a good chance that theres an EQ problem there. If something can only be heard intermittently making it hard to set a level, then theres a dynamics problem. Easy!
Sort basic panning
Once you are happy with your levels, I like to set the basic panning for things. Trying to find space for each of the elements in the stereo field to see if this will increase or decrease their ability to cut through. I will almost certainly automate some panning through almost every mix I do, but before I begin I like to make sure that everything is roughly where it should be in the stereo field.
Sometimes things like panning parts by as little as 10 in each direction can help them poke out and suddenly appear far louder, allowing you to mix them lower, creating space for other elements.
When it comes to mixing I feel there is one key aspect that should be addressed and that is the extent to which you choose to apply each process, or balance each element. In broad terms this falls into whether something is heard, or felt. Wether a process is used as an effect, or used to control something, or wether an element is up front, or being used as support. This helps you understand how far you need to take each of your processes and if they are achieving their end goal.
Now its completely up to you and the artist to decide where these elements lie, but examples of feeling something, or being used to control is standard compression, eq, reverb etc. These are present in almost every single song you hear, but you aren’t sat there thinking “that sounds like its been processed”. If done correctly, this should just sound…right. Now when people take this too far, you can start to hear unnatural characteristics poking through. The compression could be too heavy handed, the eq could be too notched an unnatural sounding, the reverb could drown the direct sound. However at this stage, you will need to ask yourself if this is your intention.
The same decisions need to be made when it comes to balancing. Whether or not you have chosen an element to be at the front of the mix, or being used to support something else. For example, in graffiti the synths support the guitars, but in the original song they are the main element. Keeping this in mind with every decision made through a mix, should enable you to arrive at a result you are more happy with, with less headaches in-between.
Now we are ready to mix!