Updated: Aug 30, 2021
The invention of recorded music changed how the masses took to music forever. Emerging in the late 19th century, music was recorded initially, with all the artists playing the score in one go, as they would have during a live concert. The whole performance was captured as is, and a single mistake meant, it’s back to square one. It was with the invention of multi-track recording, that it became possible to break the process into separate stages: Recording, Overdubbing, and Mixing.
Being able to place the microphone closer to the instrument and use a separate mic for each instrument was another turning point in the history of recorded music. Techniques emerged, rules were being devised, and styles were being formed. It was a brisk new environment where the lines between reality and fantasy were blurred. It no longer needed to be done exactly as it were, imaginations were allowed to run wild and new ideas were welcome. Recording became its own branch and it became possible to mix the different tracks at a later stage. Thus, a new artform was born! An artform that went on to have its own stalwarts and legends.
The Modern Era
The DAW’s, initially used in the late 80’s, became increasingly popular towards the end of the 90’s and eventually, started to replace the tape machines entirely. These made the process of mixing easier and more efficient. But still the question remains; do we really need mixing if we record it properly?
The art of combining different instruments and the skillful application of permutations and combinations make a properly recorded source sound how it is supposed to sound. The vision of the end product is imperative.
The Directional Process
Yes, mixing is a directional process. There should be a clear and well-defined direction in which it is being taken. Each and every decision, each tweaking of the knob, should be to take it in that direction: the end-point. Without this, knowing all the tricks of the trade, is all in vain.
The Mechanical Mix
In modern mixing, there is a high risk of putting pure, mechanical precision over the beauty of human error. The image of mix has now been turned to that of tracks being put through the mill, processing them in every which way possible. Obsession over the question “can we?” became so consuming that we forgot to ask “should we?”.
This intense approach towards mixing becomes tiring fast; both to the mixer and the listener. Everything in moderation. This is where experience comes in. The skills developed over years of practice help you to approach a mix with more depth and confidence. It gives your mix a dose of reality. Mixing music is a signature process. Taking it this way is what made the mix of some people stand out from the crowd and shine bright. This is why we call them legends and pioneers. There will always be a signature touch hidden within each of their mixes.
Discovering and developing our own sound involves a multitude of stages: knowing the frequency response of our ears, the rooms within which we work, finding our flavor, and much more. Proper analysis of a song, and understanding its plot and purpose within its context, make our mixes stand out from others.
One thing to keep in mind is this: the mix of a song is as much, if not more, a creative process as a technical one. Blocks are bound to come in this process and if you encounter these blocks, don’t hesitate to take a break instead of soldiering on.
You will be the first to experience your signature in the mix.
· Recorded music changed how the masses received music.
· Invention of multi-track recording was pivotal for mixing.
· Mixing is a directional process.
· One should have a clear and well-defined vision for a mix.
· There is beauty in human error.
· One should develop a signature touch in their mix.
· Mixing is a creative process, so let the music take the lead.
The second series of the Grantha begins here! The Essentials of Realistic Mixing.
Let’s be on our way to this journey!!
Grantha has much to reveal, see you in the next chapter!!