Thursday, December 31, 2015

So... What's The Big Deal About Mixing?

So… what’s the big deal about mixing?
A mix can take a song in several directions; it’s all about the approach.  A rock song can be mixed with a Hip-hop approach that may give the song more of a pop feel. What would a hip-hop approach be? The drums will be louder and more present, the bass will be heavier, the vocals may sit back in the mix a bit and they will be processed heavier that on a “Normal” rock song. That’s just one example. There are times where the mix on a song is very straight forward – no tricks, with little effects. Listen to Adele’s new song “Hello” for example. 

Her vocal is the most prominently featured element in the song and rightfully so. The drums and other instruments are just providing support for the vocal, with the only other featured element being the piano. Just imagine if Hello had a different mix approach, say a hip-hop approach, would the song still work? Maybe, maybe not.
Let’s use another example; The Weeknd’s hit “The Hills.” 

Here, we have a totally different mixing approach than “Hello.” The vocals are heavily processed - somewhat distorted and degraded with heavy reverb. The drums are bass heavy and in front. Imagine “The Hills” with the same mix approach as “Hello.” Would it work? What if “Hello” had the same vocal processing as “The Hills?” These questions and subsequent decisions make the mix approach very important. A mix can sometimes make or break a song. Most times, the best decision is to serve the song and the artist. Too many tricks and effects can easily get in the way.
Here’s one last example, Kanye West’s big hit “Gold Digger.” 

Does this song even have a mix? There are virtually no effects in the entire song. Yes, every element in the song sounds clear. The vocals are very present, the drums are prominent but do not seem heavily processed. There are no tricks, at least none that we can identify. Yet, the song was a monster hit. “Gold Digger” is a great example of restraint. The mix serves the song. Kanye and his engineers could have decided to add effects and fancy mixing tricks but they knew better. Sometimes the song, not the mix, is all the listener needs to hear.
What approach does your song need?