After all of the parts are recorded, the process called “mixing” begins. Although this is a process much too complicated to try and explain in a simple blog post, the mixing process refers to taking the individually recorded tracks and “mixing” them into a song so that all of the instruments and vocals work and blend together. I am still learning a lot about this area, but one of the people who has taught me a lot is Graham Cochrane of The Recording Revolution. One of the things he says we should be looking for in a great mix is that if the parents of all of the instrumentalists were in the studio, they should all be able to pick out their child’s instrument in the song.
Mixing is a fun part of the process for me because it is where technology really meets up with the music. Using tools like EQ and compression, a good mixer can clear out sonic space for each different part. The other fun part is that you finally start to hear the song that you’ve worked on and taken through this whole process start to come together in its final form. The hard part for me is knowing when to quit. I don’t consider myself a perfectionist, but there always seems to be something else that I could tweak or try to make the song a little better. If I’m not careful, I can drive myself crazy and never release the song!
The next time you are at a live music show, take notice of the people running the soundboard. If they are knowledgeable, they are doing much more than changing the volume levels on the different microphones. They are doing many of the same things that the mixing engineer will do on a recording – using EQ, compression, and other tools and effects to blend the various sounds into a cohesive unit that is a joy to listen to. So make sure you appreciate their talents as well!
This post is part of a series on the songwriting process. Click here to read the rest of the series.