Concepts and Tutorials Tracks Analyzed & Mixed Again

Structure for Mixing Procedure

With some organization, not just mixing but any big process becomes easy and manageable. The principles i follow are all that i have read and been practicing for some time now.. reading and trying as much as i understood.. to update this process to a good degree. Refining this will be a lifetime exercise but right now i am happy to work within this framework. This is my personal but generalised structure for mixing procedure. I hope this will be helpful for people who are passionate about this like you.

The mix attempts entries will look like the image above to make sure i do not loose the important initial details for the entry. This method enables me to generate a searchable index in the journal if some time later i would want to find any. So, format for mix attempts will be like the page showing the journal entry number, the title of the song of which these multi-tracks are and the name of the artist to find and refer release mixes. And of-course start date and time of this mix attempt

Sequence

Now this working structure is divided into sections according to the sequence they are encountered and dealt with in the process of mixing.
For me, this procedure goes from

1. Analyzing the release mix. THEN the

2. Raw files assessment . THIRD i will explain

3. What I did. and at LAST what are the

4. Tools and equipment used in getting the results

Analyzing the release mix

First step is analyzing the released track. This is important. If i start to listen to a track and i like it, most of the time i will remember its melody, the beats, lyrics, the hooks.. which means mostly the performance but not

  • how the instruments are put together ?
  • what are their relative volume levels ?
  • what instrument is siting where in the frequency spectrum ?
  • how many audio effects are there ?
  • how did they made those vocals sound so wide ?
  • why the drums and percussion sounds like they are in-your-face but not over-powering everything at the same time ?
  • Foundational voices of the performance that are anchor or driving factor of the song
    • it could be a kick in a dance song
    • Some drone track in a ethereal performance
    • A main vocal track. ETC
  • Roles of voices
    • Voice1 – handles most of bass frequencies
    • Voice2 – responsible for solid mids
    • Voice3 – Covers the bright/dull highs
  • Identifiable FX(s)
  • Panning :
    • LEFT
    • CENTER
    • RIGHT

Listening analytically means you try to reverse engineer what you hear. You do not listen just to enjoy, but to hear much more than that. Purpose of doing this is to get a general idea of what all is there and how everything is moving in the sound field in front of me.

Raw files assessment

Second stage is where i will present all the things i will find after i listen to the raw files. These raw files (in almost every case) are wav files. Their bit-depth could be 16bit/24bit/32bit in the sample rates of 44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2 kHz, 96kHz and more. Higher the bit-depth and sample rate, more details are recorded in the files and further the problems like aliasing and quantization error shift in the higher inaudible frequencies. Many other important points like

  • how many total raw files are there ?
  • whether they are mono or stereo ?
  • if they are stereo, do they contain their final panning positions ?
  • how is the quality of the performance captured in the raw files ?
  • Can i do a rough arrangement using them according to the reference ?
  • Are the conclusions matching with the real world release. ?

Why knowing the Bit-depth and sample rate is important

  1. It is important because you will know if you will be resampling the files up or down according to your work environment. If you get multi tracks in other sample rate and what your plugins and environment use/support is something else then it may get a little difficult to handle the files as it may not behave as they should, projects do not open sometimes, pitch or length of audio files may change just like that and your session and efforts might go to the bin and you might have to start things from scratch.

Why panning positions information is important

  1. Whether raw tracks contains panning information or not
    1. If you get a project and have the same setup as the project exporter then panning information is there and you almost will not have to change it.
    2. If you get wav files with panning burned in it and you wish to shift then left or right in the sound field then it may get difficult to work with it.

Why musical performance assessment is important

  • Is the playing clean ? or does it contain a lot of unwanted things like :
    • Unwanted playing noises
    • Bleed from other instrument/voice
    • Any sudden peaks in amplitude
    • Some other background low level frequencies
  • Is every note audible ? or some are low in volume than others ?
    • Is it intentionally done or these are some of the problems
      you might have to deal with later ?
  • What frequencies are captured ?
    • Was the mic placed too close to the instrument ?
    • Does the recording contain the rich timbre of the instrument ?

What i did

Next i will mention exactly what and how i did what i did. For current mix attempt, I will record the session management, pre-mix corrections that were needed which includes dealing with background noises, random loud clicks removal, unimportant blank spaces in audio. Also what and where i placed things, what did i group, why i decided to process some things the way i did, tempo-aligning the performance ? what do i think about the current progress and how i made it to the final export.

Expanding on this –

  • Pre-Mixing corrections
    • Unwanted artifacts removal
    • Random clicks
    • Low level background noises
    • Undesired playing noises
  • Tempo mapping
  • Arranging
  • panning
  • Main mixing decisions
    • Gain staging, color coding, grouping
    • Role assignment for all voices
    • what to do per track, per buss, per group
    • Processing – what and why
    • Plugin selection – what and why
    • Export format and technical information
    • Assessment of sound field, timbre and performance and repeat the process until you get it as close as possible to the release.

Tools and Equipment used

The last thing…. important none the less… is the list of tools and equipment used at the time of mix attempt. This is important because as my music gear will improve or change, i will get a technically different sound.
I would like to compare and assess the quality of representation by the old and new gear personally. I do not want to blindly trust that THIS is a good piece of equipment OR what i will buy next will sound relatively good than my old hardware. Nope, none of that fish. I want to be clear and accurate. In one line –

I am driving the sound and gear, not the other way around

I may not have the skills and ability right now to do this at 100% but it will still be my aim. Also, this includes software too. I will use primarily only open source software so that i will be able to look at the source code or contribute whenever i can and i am able to. Linux and Ardour will handle 99.99% of the sessions. Rest i will mention as i will use them.

This narrows down to –

  • WHAT OS does your workstation run on ?
    • I mainly use AV Linux
  • WHAT DAW handles all your tracking and monitoring tasks ?
    • Ardour 64Bit
  • WHAT PLUGINS do you use to get the results that you want ?
    • This is a personal choice but some i use frequently are :-
      • Equalizer – EQ10Q
      • Compressor – a-compressor
      • Reverb – Zita-reverb
      • Pitch correction – x42-autotuner, GSnap
      • Limiter – x42-dpl (digital true peak limiter)
      • Synthesizer – Yoshimi and a-synth
      • Meters – Ardour in-built +6dB peak and Standard VU meter
      • Scope/Analyzer
        • meters.lv2 Stereo/phase Scope
        • meters/lv2 Phase correlation meter
  • WHAT SOFTWARES other than plugins and your DAW does help in making it all happen ?
    • QJackCtl to start the JACK sound server
  • WHAT HARDWARE you work on ?
    • is that a desktop or a laptop
      • Laptop – Ryzen 5 3550H, 16GB RAM, 250GB SSD
    • the audio interface and interface category
      • Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 USB 2.0 Interface
    • Your listening and monitoring system – headphones, speakers
      • AKG mkII


  • Foot note :-
    • You can download multi-tracks for free to practice mixing from here. I have not seen a library bigger than this.
      Thank you Mike Senior for doing this.

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