So in the first part of the blog we discussed how we go about the recording process inside the studio. In this blog we’ll discuss of the post production aspects that go into making a song.
This is the first step in the post production process, in this step essential the recording engineer goes through the tracks and aligns it with the rest of the performances. Let say we have a drum recording where the Drum roll ends just a little early in time, in this stage such files are time aligned and edited so that all of them lie exactly where they should be.
This also means editing (aligning) the bass file and the rest of the instruments with each other, many a times during the recording process you can get a performance that is accurate upto a certain point, essentially in the editing stage you can correct the accuracy of the performance in pitch and time.
PS: There is no replacement to a good organic performance, if you cant perform right, no amount of editing can fix it. Unless you have the right engineer
Other tasks like comping and arrangement are also done during the editing stage. Arrangement is self explanatory, it means arranging certain elements and sections in the song in a sequence that sounds most exciting for the song. For eg: Intro, Ver1 , Chor1, Vers2, Brigde, Chorus. This could be an arrangement for a song.
Once all the above mentioned process are done to the session, it moves on to the mix phase.
This is what a typical mix session looks like
All the tracks that you have arranged, comped and edited in pitch and time are now layed out so that they can be mixed together to sound like one cohesive unit.
A lot of newbies expect the mixing to do magic to their song and make it sound different, but like the other stages a lot of it depends on the source that youre recording, if its recorded bad on the way in. Its going to sound bad no matter what you do to it.
During the mix the engineer changes various parameters on every track like
- Timber or EQ
- Dynamics or Compression
Volume is pretty self-explanatory, the engineer sets the levels on the instruments with respect to each other. For eg if the vocals are the driving instrument for the song the mix engineer creates a balance wherein the vocals are the loudest with respect to the other tracks.
Panning is where the placement of the track is decided, for eg some tracks are placed either to the right to the left of the center depending on how the engineer wants to shape the sound of the mix. A lot of the sound of the mix depends in the decisions that are taken during all of these stages.
Timber or EQ is where the use of tools of various equalizers is used to change the timber of the instruments. This tool is mostly used so make sure that all the instruments that are recorded are working well with each other tonally. For eg lets say you have a dull sounding voice that lacks the brightness or treble and sounds uncharacteristic, this is where the engineer uses the EQ to add that missing sound to the voice.
Compression: To put this in layman’s term this tool is used to control the dynamics of the song, if the instrument is very loud and soft then this tool lets you control the dynamics of such instruments so that they don’t stand out more than they should. There is a lot more the Compression than this, but for now let’s keep it at that.
Reverb and FX: Pretty self-explanatory again, during this phase the engineer sets the Effects that need to be added to the track, it could the reverb effect on the drums or the voice or the delay on the guitar part.
Automation: Automation means automating certain parameters of the above mentioned tools as the track moves along the song. Say if you want to reverb on the vocals to increase during the chorus, you can use automation to do that. Any parameter can be automate, imagine, so many permutations and combinations. Phew.
TLDR: Mixing is like cooking a perfect meal, you have all ingredients (recorded parts) available to you. Now you make a meal out of it. You might like your food spicy, some might like it zingy. It’s a matter of preference and taste. Basically, you add in all these elements in just the right amount and voila, you have a mix. Sorry a meal.
This is the final stage of the songmaking process, in this stage the mastering engineer decided the final compression and the overall loudness of the song. Here the engineer also makes sure to add finishing touches to make sure that the song that is mixed translates well to the real world listening systems. Various analog or digital tools are used to add a finalizer before the song goes out into the world.
That does sound like a lot of work yeah ? Well, it is. But with the right kind of engineer and team all of this becomes easy. Like I said in the first blog. Do what you do best, Outsource the rest.