What is mixing in music?

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On some songs I see people credited with doing mixing. I looked it up and I don’t understand. Is there a difference between mixing and throwing a vocal and instrumental together?

In: 6

Imagine you have 2 images and want to blend them together. You can’t just cut out part of one and throw it on the other. You will definitely be able to tell it was photoshopped.
You need to blend them together by changing shadows, colors, hues, lighting, contrast and everything else.

Mixing in music is the same. Throwing a vocal and an instrument together alone will not do the job.

So what does mixing do?
Mixing groups together different musical elements to make them flow as one. This is achieved in many ways by editing both the instruments and the vocals so that they don’t clash into one another. The simplest form of this is equalization. You want every musical element’s frequencies to have their own space, so you might remove the lowest frequencies of the voice and remove the highest frequencies of the bass (Extremely simplified. IRL it’s not so easy).

The second layer of mixing is about adding extra effects that make the voice and instrument come together. This would be like blurring the edges of the cutout to make it look like part of the original image. In music this is done through lots of effects such as reverb, delay, and compression.

Studio recordings are usually done as a collection of individual tracks. For example, the main singer may be recorded on one track, each backup singer will be on individual tracks, guitar will have its own track, bass will have its own track, and so on. There may be dozens of tracks, each carrying a different performer or instrument.

A separate process is then undertaken to “mix” all of these separate tracks into a pair of tracks, the left and right stereo recording that is the final release. There are several goals here:

* Adjust the relative volume of each track.
* Position the track between the left and right channels of the final recording.
* Add any effects to the track like reverberation, tone filtering, pitch correction, or whatever else is needed.

Any or all of these can vary over a course of the piece, for example some horn player gets too loud at a certain part and needs to be turned down, or the whole ensemble needs to be faded out at the end of the recording.

It’s quite complex to do a mix like this, commonly involves a lot of people, and requires artistic judgment of its own to produce a good result.

Mixing is literally throwing a vocal and all the other instruments together, but doing so in a way that lets each instrument have its own ‘place in the mix’ is a skill.

Volume of each track is chosen.

Position of each is chosen (basically left or right speaker).

Effects applied to each is chosen.

There are other things considered but that’s the basics.

Only after each of these things has been done for each track (each instrument) will you have a ‘mixed’ song. Some songs you hear everyday could have…96 tracks easily.