Book Review

Mixing Audio

Author : Roey Izhaki

Published : Focal Press

ISBN: 978-0-2405-2068-1

Mixing Audio, Concepts, Practices and Tools Chapters 4 to 6.

Chapter 4 : The process of mixing

Here we start to understand the difference between recorded music and sequenced music and the role of the engineers and producer. Recorded music is often undertaken without the freedom to record again and again until the producer is satisfied with an initial mix. Ihzaki stresses this important distinction to sequenced music. Furthermore, the processing of sequenced sounds can be overcooked before mixing, thus presenting some technical challenges for the mixing engineer.

Chapter 4 introduces the theme of 'arrangement', and presents two extreme arrangements - Dense & Sparse - each offering their own challenges at mix down.

Listen to Polly - Nirvana, Exit Music (from a film) - Radiohead and Hallelujah - Jeff Buckley and read for yourself Ihzaki's comments about Andy Wallace and Nigel Godrich's approaches to these sparse mixes.

Ihzaki now presents 'the mix as a composite', and stresses that the overall mix must take priority over individual instruments. This certainly makes sense as we listen to music as a completed arrangement and not as a set of individual tracks. Therefore mixing the individual instruments while listening to the whole mix is recommended - even if it does seem difficult and unnatural for the novice.

The next part of the chapter discusses the rough mix and how to plan the approach to mixing. Ihzaki explains how to make notes that cover tasks to address the tracks treatments one by one in technical and creative ways.

The remainder of the chapter discusses the 'standard treatment order' and how to apply an iterative approach to develop the mix until it is stable and finalised.

Personally when I listen to the mix each time I write down all of the issues that are apparent. I then prioritize each issue and work through them one by one whilst paying attention to the overall vision for the song. I do this over and over until the list has grown to cover all the issues and each issue has been dealt with and crossed off the list.

Chapter 5 : Related issues

Chapter 5 provides some practical insight on how professionals and novices differ when mixing. This review is written with novices in mind so there is no real need to fully understand the professional world as I think most notices I think most novices are mixing for personal gain and will find enough time to experiment and try out multiple settings before settling on a particular treatment (i.e. Compression, Reverb, EQ).

Izhaki discusses the merits of using the solo button and mono listening. He goes on to discuss bouncing tracks and their associated issues, good housekeeping and mastering. With modern 24bit DAWs and the availability of almost unlimited tracking and plug-in options, bouncing tracks is probably less relevant these days and will be even less so in the next 10 years.

Read my guide, "Hear how your mixes live and breath in the mono mid range" for setting up a mono listening channel on your DAW. The mono channel includes an EQ set up which mimics an Auratone single speaker.

Guide : Hear how your mixes live and breath in the mono mid range



Chapter 6 : Mixing domains and objectives

Chapter 6 begins by separating mixing into two parts - namely Macro Mixing and Micro Mixing. Macro and micro a common expressions so it is easy to see how they apply to a mix. The mix process is also described in five parts (domains).

  1. Time
  2. Frequency
  3. Level
  4. Stereo
  5. Depth

It can be useful to imagine your mix in a 3D space with instruments placed left, center, right, to the back, middle or front. Imagining the mix in this way can help to understand and overcome issues of masking.

Ihzaki continues by listing four objectives that apply in the majority of mixes - Mood, Balance, Definition and Interest. Each objective is then discussed and evaluated against each domain. This is a key area as it brings together the creativity of the mixing concept with practical technical treatments.

The chapter continues by examining each domain. For example, in the frequency domain we are concerned with four main bands of frequencies (Lows, Low-Mids, High-Mids and Highs) and how balanced they are for a particular musical genre, and how well instruments are separated by the frequency spectrum and mixing treatment. The text also provides valuable insight into the level domain, stereo domain and depth domain.

For each domain, our focus should be on balance. Balancing frequencies, stereo balance (or unbalanced if we want to create a certain mood) and depth balance. Achieving a balance in all domains will go a long way to getting a mix which has a good separation of instruments and which has balanced frequencies over time.

For absolute simplicity, imagine the pan pots move instruments left and right while the reverb fader moves things forwards and backwards.