Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Mixer, A Software Mixer Intro To Mixing The EQ and The Fadder Part 1

                                                        Software Mixer

This is mixing 101. In this article I am using as an example a screen shoot from my Samplitude pro 7 mixer, it is set to 8 Channel strips and one auxiliary. The AUX 1 is a routing situation that allows you to route several channel strips to that aux. The reason is, say you have mic'ed drums and want all the drums to be on one channel to process and mix. You can have almost limited aux, busses, routes etc with software mixers that cannot be done on many outboard mixers. The software mixer is a great flexible mixer.
You can control the mixer by way of automation, meaning you can do an automated mix as you record as you would on any mixer, it’s called ridding the faders. This is done in recording and in live sound use. The mixer is one of the most important items you use, but not the most important, the effects, pre amps, mics, proper mic placement, etc. are of greater importance, the mixer second, it is where you bring it all together.

At first the mixer with many, many channel strips can look scary, this is what you do to understand the massive mixer, it is just a group of channels and each one is the same, so forget about the many mixer channels and look at the one individual channel of your mixer, as it is the same all the ay across the monster.

This lesson will focus on the EQ and the fader.

This mixer has a great four band EQ many mixers have three, that is OK, but four is better. Some have on EQ that is called the Q, this is important as it allows you to really control certain frequencies you could not. On many lap top recorders and some cheaper outboard mixers you will see only two EQ’s, this is not good, just a low and a Hi. You need at minimum 3 EQ’s, and four if at all possible, or as said three, with one being the Q filter.

EQ is just like what you have on a home stereo, the bass and treble, or bass, mid and treble. On a mixer like this, you can as you see adjust the exact frequency you want to assign to the EQ, not doable in most outboard mixers, pro ones yes, but most No.

It is an electronic filter. Basic electronics, very basic will be covered later and dB formulas, a Hertz chart. Knowledge of what instruments lay within a given hertz is very important. A pre mix, rough mix can be quickly done when you know what instruments are on what channel and basic EQ adjustments made. In a pro studio, the second or JR engineer will do the rough mix, and set up the mics.

The frequency chart, or Hertz chart can be printed out and posted on your wall until you get to know them, it will not take long.

EQ is essential in the mixing of instruments, due to what is called the masking effect. Say you have a rhythm Guitar, a vocal, some pad sounds, these may all be in the 2 to 3 KHz range, and so it will mask each other, you use the EQ and sometimes reverb to make a sound farther back in the mix, more on that in another article. You would for example take the lead vocal track that is taking up the same hertz spectrum and attenuate, raise the EQ level a tad in the mid to mid high range this will pull out the vocal and make it so you can hear it. When you add EQ adjustment, you will have to make volume adjustments as EQ makes the sound louder.

An EQ is an electronic circuit called a filter as I said; it has resistors and capacitors, more later on that.

EQ is another post, as there are many, many different types of EQ’s and they do different things, this is 101 mixing stuff, with your ear and hands on practice you will learn how to do a good mix, mixing takes a while to master, but a basic good mix is essential. Panning, I will just mention, you want to pan sounds as well to avoid sound masking, and to set sounds in the proper stereo spectrum, this takes time and good ears. Panning can do wonders with EQ and Effects, as you will read later.

The Volume sliders are just that for volume. Most mixers are designed with a sweet spot. The pitcher above you will see the upper top portion of the slider, fader has a white-grey area, this is the desired optimal setting, and outboard mixers may use red, grey, blue, white, etc. markings to let you know that is where the faders are engineered to be used at for max loudness, and the sweet spot. Go above this, yes, be careful, as your sound will distort, you can not fix a recorded distorted vocal, can not be done, it is a must you redo the take, as nothing can help distorted sound, nothing.

This is where dynamics come in, compressors, limiters, gates etc, and again dynamic effects another teaching and a complex one at that.

Try and keep trying, do not be afraid of a lot of channel strips on a mixer as said, they are just the same one channel strip, multiplied many times. We will look next time at one channel strip and master that, once that is done, channels 2 to 64 LOL are all the same. I hope this simple primer helped. Have a great and creative day. Practice makes perfect, so write on, sing on, play on and mix on. You are now in the mix.

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