When all the parts
you've recorded have been okayed by everyone involved, it is finally time
to mix all the sounds together into a final mix. This is one of the most
important parts of the process. It is also one of the least understood.
Step one. We start once again back with the
drums. Like in the beginning of the recording process, we concentrate
on the the sound of the drums. Be patient with this process, all the other
layers will sound a lot better if the drums are kicking from the beginning.
Getting a good sound on any track means listening to it isolated and then
equalizing it. Eq is just a fancy way of saying tone controls. Just like
on a guitar amp, you have controls to change the treble and bass. The
same is true with the tracks on a mixing board. Every instrument on the
tape will have the opportunity to be Eq'd: drums, bass, guitars, vocals,
solos, etc. will be Eq'd to sound exactly the way you want them. We have
done mixes many times so we have a good understanding about what sounds
good on our equipment. However, you must be there to help and listen carefully
to everything being done. Ask questions and give suggestions. Be prepared
to be a little overwhelmed at the technicalities. But hang in there and
concentrate. You are paying for your own education. This is the time to
sit up in class. If your ask something silly don't worry, we've all done
Step two. Once the sounds of all the instruments
sound right, we start to mix them together. This just means that the amount
of drums, bass, guitars in relation to each other is tested and reviewed
many times. The drums themselves must be mixed in relation to bass drum,
snare, high-hat, toms etc. Everyone needs to be listening to the overall
projection of the band sound now. Though it's strange, get used to the
term "null point." This term means just the basic floor level
of the sounds during the song verses or choruses. Many times the null
points can be used for the whole collection of songs. Don't worry at this
point about the guitar solo not being loud enough or the tom fills or
whatever. They will not be forgotten.
Step three. Now the computer automation
comes into play. It's very high tech, but all it does remembers things.
All fader movements and channel muting can be remembered and tried out
to everyone's satisfaction. It's refreshing to realize that you don't
have to give any more attention to a detail once it's been automated.
Everything that is done in the automation is stored on a computer disk.
It's like a control file containing the sequence of events to the mix.
All songs are saved separately as a file on disk. Each disk holds 6 mixed
During the automation process, reverb is added as well as special volume
changes for solos, fills, intros and exits. We also review how the song
actually ends. Some possibilities are a fade out, a quick knife edge (where
the reverb is muted instantly too, quite dramatic) or just a natural sounding
live ending with just a bit of a "feathered tail off."
Mixing To Pro Tools & a Few Words About Artwork
Once the final automation sequence is finished for each song, it is "mixed" to a computer running Pro Tools. This Digital Audio program stores all the actual mixed music. All songs must sound good separately and as a whole. It's also a good idea to think ahead to 'ordering' the songs. It's usually the easiest to just play the songs in the order you want them. Pro Tools is very flexible and can cahnge the order of the songs, even edit sections, perform fade outs, add wacky samples (you'd be surprised...) and do some minor "pre-mastering". We usually burn as many CD's as there are members of the band, but we can burn more. Remember, the time it takes to do the mixing, computer prep and CD burning are all still "on the clock". Most of you have "burners" at home so it's best if we leave "multiple copy" burning to you or your friends. A quick word about artwork - GET IT STARTED NOW! So many bands wait and wait and it's sometimes months after they've finished recording that the CD comes out... Don't delay on this
We've talked about preparation and tracking being the first steps. We
continued to 'thicken' things with overdub sessions. Lastly the final
steps of mix down finish our process. Show up to your sessions with an
open mind and you will be rewarded with a great experience. Your music
can put on a new pair of shoes and really step out. Good luck.