Every piece of modern music, meaning rock, pop, R and B, hip hop, country, new age, swing, drum and bass, trance and every other genre having a strong backbeat, has six main elements to a great mix. They are:
- Balance - the volume level relationship between musical elements
- Frequency Range - all frequencies are properly represented
- Panorama - every musical element is well-placed in the soundfield
- Dimension - added ambience to a musical element
- Dynamics - controlling the volume envelope of a track or instrument, and
- Interest - finding something in the mix that makes it special
To take it a step further, most great mixers think in three dimensions at least on a subconscious level. They think “Tall, Deep and Wide,” which means they make sure that all the frequencies are represented, the mix has depth, and has some stereo dimension as well.
- The “Tall” dimension (or the frequency range of an instrument or mix) is the result of the mixer determining that all the frequencies of the mix are properly represented. Usually that means that all of the sparkly, tinkly highs and fat, powerful lows are there. Sometimes some mids need to be cut or other frequencies need to be added, but regardless of what's added or subtracted, there's a clarity to each instrument.
- The Effects or “Deep” dimension is achieved by introducing new ambience elements into the mix. This is usually done with reverbs and delays (and offshoots like flanging and chorusing) but room mics, overheads and leakage can play an equally big part as well.
- The panning or “Wide” dimension is achieved by placing a audio element in the sound field in such a way as to make the mix more interesting, and so that each element is heard more clearly.
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