Saturday, May 18, 2013


Hello and welcome to this week's tutorial! This time we will discuss about a very interesting topic: 
How to "deconstruct" the mix of our favourite song, so that we will have a clear reference on how to build ours from the ground up, trying to replicate as much as possible the solutions used.
We have already seen a way of "copying" the eq of a song or a single instrument into ours (click here for the article about copying eq), but this time is different: we won't try to copy the eq, since often the same setting of one mix or one single instrument applied to a different one will result into an unnatural, twisted sound, instead we will just locate and take notice of the zones reserved to the single instruments, and try to build our mix in a similar way, or at least we will learn some trick used by the producers :)

The ideal would be to have a song in which there is a moment where you can hear the instrument playing alone, but this isn't absolutely essential: part of our ear training is to learn to isolate the single instruments from a mix, and to focus just on it until the other sounds "disappear".
A frequency analizer is very useful for many things (click here for a dedicated article), but it can't help us isolating the region of a single instrument inside a mix, so it' usable only if the instrument is playing alone.

There are many ways to find the right frequencies with the aid of our ear, here are the two most common: 

- using an Equalizer: apply a high pass filter on the mix, starting to roll off the lows until we find that the instrument we need to isolate starts to lose energy, and back off a little bit, then we do the same with a low pass filter; we may find for example that the rhythm guitar of the song we love is placed exactly from 100hz to 8500hz.
Some high end equalizer (such as the Fabfilter one) also lets us isolate a single area in real time, letting us listen only the selected part of the spectrum.

- using a Multiband Compressor: this processor divides the wave in different bands (usually four, click here for a dedicated article), so what we're going to do is to listen the single bands in solo (often multiband compressors have this feature) until we find the one with the instrument we are looking for, then we adjust the starting and ending point of the band with the same method explained for the high pass and low pass filters. 

Once we have written down all the areas of the mix roughly reserved to the single instruments, we can analize them and surely learn something: how much room is reserved for rhythm guitars? Where is located the snare? How deep the bass goes? how much room is taken from the vocals?

Here is an interesting article about mixing with a referencing track!

When will be time for us to mix our song, if the source tone and style we obtained is not completely different from the one of our reference mix, we can try to place the various instruments in a similar way (but let's not be too rigid, if the sound isn't completely identical, it's pointless to use the exact numbers of the reference mix, our aim is to understand the area), and then we can move on to the following phase: to "poke holes" in the eq of the instruments, in order to let the other sounds to cut better through them, if there is some frequency masking (click here to learn more).

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