Canadian Musician - May / June 2018 - Page 59

RECORDING Adam Fair is a recording engineer, mixer, and co-owner of Villa Sound. Villa Sound is a full-service destination recording studio located in Singhampton, ON, just 20 minutes south of the popular Blue Mountain Resort. For more information, visit www.villasound.ca. By Adam Fair Creating Width & Depth in Your Mixes T here are many aspects that go into creating a great mix. I chose to focus on a particular topic that has always had my attention: how to create width and depth. In nature, people hear sound in three dimensions. Recreating this in a mix can be difficult at times. I’m going to touch on a few key areas that I hope will help you to create and shape the “environment” in which your mixes live. Panning I always wondered how some engineers could make a mix sound so wide. Then I thought, “What is width?” It goes far beyond panning. Perception of width is what we’re truly experiencing. There is only so much you can do with two speakers and a pan pot. Mixing is an illusion. It’s all about tricking the ear into perceiving a sound to be the way you’d like it to be. It’s important to have clarity and separation in your mix. In order to create the illusion of space, things need to be well defined. If you make everything wide, then you are essentially making nothing wide. I often adhere to somewhat of an LCR approach. The centre is usu- ally where you will find the lead vocal, bass, snare, and kick, and then everything else surrounds and supports the centre. Panning other el- ements hard left or hard right will help to give the mix definition. Of course, I don’t do this for everything; I will often leave synths and other stereo sources in stereo. I’ll fan out background vocal stacks incremen- tally and allow some of my effects to fill in the stereo spectrum as well. Compression The closer something is to your ear, the more detailed and intimate it sounds. Compression can be a great help in bringing something closer to the listener, like when you hear fingers on the strings of an acoustic guitar or the saliva in a singer’s mouth. Compression can help bring many characteristics to the forefront. Compression can also assist in making one instrument more present by controlling the surrounding instruments. For example, in addition to controlling the dynamic range of a vocal with a standard compressor, you can use a multi-band compressor to keep the vocal up front and present. I will often do this by inserting a multi-band compressor on a keyboard, synth, or other accompaniment. By using a key input from the vocal track, I’ll dip the conflicting frequencies to help the vocal sit upfront and centre in the mix. Quick Tip! Use volume automation! I automate the volume on a lot of my tracks, but especially on the lead vocal. This allows you to keep the vocal exactly where you want it and creates a more defined mix. Mid/Side Processing Many plug-ins now have M/S processing capabilities. M/S takes a stereo signal and separates the identical L/R information from the information that differs from side to side and then allows you to process the two sources, mid and side, independently of each other. This is excellent for creating W W W. C A N A D I A N M U S I C I A N . CO M width. You can use it on a single source or even the entire mix. To add more air and space, I like to slightly boost the high frequencies on the side channel, around 12 kHz and up. You must always be careful with this as you run the risk of overdoing it and making your mix sound brittle and thin. Another application is to use it to help blend pads, synths, key- boards, etc. with the lead vocal and other centre information. If you lower the mid information on your synths, pianos, etc., this can help make room for the vocal and other centre information. Quick Tip! High frequencies dissipate quickly. The more high frequency information an instrument has, the closer our ear will perceive that sound to be. Try using a low pass filter to push something farther back into a mix. Reverb & Delay Reverb is your front-to-back pan pot. If someone is in the back of a room singing, the sound will bounce off of the surfaces in the room and reach your ear sooner or later. 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