Think of Your Mix as a House …Jochen Sachse
… with three floors and various windows. All the instruments and vocals of your mix are the inhabitants of this large house, and the three floors represent low (ground floor), mid (1st floor) and high frequencies (2nd floor).
Of course, the house inhabitants have their individual characteristics and some may have quirks.
There are loud, quiet, big, small, nice and also less nice ones that you prefer not to see and hear at all. Some get along with each other perfectly, others are better kept at a distance.
It’ s fortunate that you are the one who is in charge of this house – this way, everyone gets the right room. Without you, everyone would probably crowd into one floor and fight over a popular flat or try to look through one window in a dozen.
But you make sure that the occupants are distributed as evenly as possible over the individual floors, with considerably more rooms available on the middle and upper floors than on the ground floor.
The apartment in the centre of your house has a great balcony and is therefore very popular. Whoever is at home here is allowed to feel a bit more important. But beware: the peace of the house is in danger if envious housemates want to use the balcony for their own purposes!
People live together most harmoniously when as many inhabitants as possible have their own room with a view and enough space to unfold. If you force too many people into one room, stress is inevitable.
This is especially true for the ground floor. This is where the fat people live – probably to save themselves the tiring stairs. Each of these weighty housemates needs a lot of space around them, and there is only one window in the centre here – so you always pay attention to accommodate only a few of them here.
If you notice some domestic strife, you should look at each floor separately. Rarely do the big ones get into conflicts with the residents on the upper floor. Why should they, they are far enough away.
However, there can be complaints if, for example, there is more activity on the upper left than on the right. However, the situation can usually be quickly rectified if someone simply moves to the right.
In terms of mixing, this means: think about where you can place each instrument in your sound house. The centre is reserved for the most important instruments. Everything else can be moved to the right or left with the panorama control.
The equalizer allows you to create enough space for the individual instruments. If necessary, you can also force a relocation to another floor or prevent a maisonette. Those who are not familiar with architecture are told that a maisonette is a two-floor apartment.
Reverb and echo can be used to make individual sounds bigger or smaller and also move them farther into the background. With more people in your building, the need for that extra space becomes more and more important. Even if spatial depth in stereophony is an illusion after all, it simplifies the coexistence of instruments and voices considerably.
Processing the signal with compression, saturation or modulation creates unique timbres for more contrast and assertiveness. Most residents are extremely pleased with this proof of your appreciation.
Usually, there are several possibilities that are worth a try. Only by doing so will you develop a reliable understanding of the proper positioning of the residents.
Things become really easy in the mix, if you already have the “building plan” in mind when arranging and producing. So you can explain the house rules to everyone before they move in.
About the author:
Jochen Sachse can look back on more than 30 years of experience as a professional audio engineer and is CEO of the HOFA GmbH.
His work for national and international artists makes him and the HOFA-Studios one of the top addresses in Germany when professional recording, mixing or mastering is required. He has been teaching audio engineering at the HOFA-College since 2005.