Book Review

Mixing Audio

Author : Roey Izhaki

Published : Focal Press

ISBN: 978-0-2405-2068-1

Mixing Audio, Concepts, Practices and Tools Chapters 1 to 3.

Chapter 1 : Music and mixing

In the first chapter of the book the author stresses the relationship between music and emotion. As a mixing engineer some responsibility lies in helping to deliver the emotion of the music to the listeners. Izhaki heeds us to ask some valid questions about the songs message and its delivery to the listener. To produce a good mix we should, at first, realise a vision for the song and then set out to deliver it through our technical ability.

Roey notes that our mix may only be as good as our source material and therefore good recording techniques are necessary to be able to produce a high quality result.

Chapter 1 invites the reader to make an 'excerpt set' comprising 20 seconds of 20 tracks played in a consecutive sequence. This exercise is extremely useful and to fully grasp its importance you will need to read Chapter 1 for yourself.

At the end of Chapter 1 Izhaki lists six albums that in his opinion are superbly well mixed and exceptionally well produced. This is a great introductory chapter to a great book.

Chapter 2 : Some axioms and other gems

In chapter two we are introduced to the Fletcher-Munsen Curves (Figure 1) or 'Equal Loudness Curves'. The central idea of these curves is that we are more sensitive to mid-frequencies compared to low or high ones.

iso_226 Figure 1 : ISO 226 Contours (Fletcher-Munson)

As frequency content varies with the dB level well mixed mids are the key to balancing the mix. Therefore Izhaki advises us to mix at low quiet levels and his text provides a great explanation why we should do so.

Chapter 2 also introduces Masking and the relative importance of instruments in the mix. Finally the chapter discusses natural and artificial sounds and their importance in music genre album type and listener expectation and experience. There is a key message delivered right at the end of chapter 2.


Chapter 3 : Learning to mix

As with learning anything from scratch, the beginning can be daunting and overwhelming. The same is of course true with mixing music. We will never notice subtle changes in reverb or compression unless we take time to learn and practice.

The breadth and depth of knowledge in mixing is immense. Professional mixing engineers have devoted themselves to this single topic in the music production chain.

In chapter 3 Izhaki describes "The three steps of creative mixing", which present a 'continual' loop of evaluation and action whilst keeping focus on the 'vision' of the music.

VISION : Izhaki notes the important difference between adjusting sounds until we find something pleasing and imagining the sound we want for the music and making necessary adjustments to achieve that sound.

The latter is obviously more difficult and requires a lot of imagination and a certain amount of experience with other music to draw from.

EVALUATION : The chapter continues by proposing to the reader that he needs to ask some key questions about the mix as it stands.

Izhaki continues to explain about the role of a professional mixer to have good interpersonal skills and the ability to work effectively and efficiently. He discusses the subject of learning, concluding that theory is advisable but nothing beats the hands on practical approach.

Chapter 3 concludes with the topic of reference mixes. These are very important for numerous reasons, but probably (at least from my point of view) as a good reference for a finished mix and to recalibrate your ears each day or in a new environment.

I personally have more than 40 reference tracks loaded into several Pro Tools sessions. I find them invaluable when comparing my own mixes and masters. They are also very helpful for evaluating how far vocals, bass and drums sit forward and backward in commercial and genre specific mixes.