Art of Mixing

Authors: Alejandro Rodriguez, Richard Mendelson | Course Code: OMPRD-420

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Creating an audio mix that is pleasing to listeners is a true art form. The manipulation of the source signals' level, dynamics, and panoramic position, and the addition of effects such as reverb and delay, can have a huge impact on the overall feel of a song.

The Art of Mixing explores the many creative and technical considerations necessary to mix in today's music production environment, regardless of platform or format. This course teaches the different steps of the mixing process, including equalization, panning, dynamic processing (compressors, gates, expanders, and limiters), reverb and delays, as well as automation techniques and practical examples. The techniques presented apply to any Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), or digital or analog console.

The course analyzes some of the most famous and revered brands and models of mixing gear, including comparisons between analog and digital outboard gear versus plug-in emulations and plug-in unique processors. It features video, sound, and visual examples based on common platforms such as Pro Tools, Logic, and Digital Performer, as well as a hybrid mix performed in an SSL 4000 G console, combined with Pro Tools and a huge variety of outboard gear.

Students will be required to deliver a mix every week for critique by the instructor. For each mix assignment, students will use professional recordings especially made for the course, in a variety of styles. The goal of the course is to impart both a technical and artistic approach to mixing and for students to acquire the core skill set needed to mix multi-track master recordings to a stereo final mix-down suitable for release.

By the end of this course, you will be able to:

  • Understand the technical requirements needed to prepare recording tracks for mixing
  • Implement professional music standards for organizing your mix session and delivering the final mix
  • Apply editing tools needed to improve musical performance, such as vocal tuning, vocal comping, and tempo editing
  • Understand and use different types of equalizers, compressors, gates, reverbs, delays, chorus, flangers, and many other processors necessary to mix effectively
  • Employ automation techniques, from basic to using all kinds of parameters
  • Apply mixing techniques specific to drums and vocals
  • Thoroughly analyze and evaluate your own mix and others
  • Identify the main mixing trends per genre of contemporary music

Lesson 1: Overview of Mixing Music

  • Overview and History of Mixing
  • Mixing = Balance
  • Panning Perspectives
  • Muting Techniques
  • Building a Mix
  • Assignment 1: Mix "All That's Missing"

Lesson 2: Mix Setup: Organization, Ergonomics, and Phase Relationships

  • Recommendations from the Music Industry
  • Compatibility between DAWs
  • Importance of Metering
  • Importance of Gain Staging
  • Mixing Levels and Delivery Standards
  • Phase
  • Exporting the Mix
  • Assignment 2: Remix "All That's Missing"

Lesson 3: Equalization Techniques

  • Equalizers: History, Theory, and Application
  • EQ Parameters
  • EQ Types
  • Plug-in vs. Analog Hardware EQ
  • Creative Equalization Techniques
  • Classic Analog EQ: SSL
  • Neve 1084
  • API 550
  • Pultec
  • GML
  • Manley
  • Assignment 3: Mix "The Long Good Bye"

Lesson 4: Reverb and Delays

  • Reverb and Delay as Acoustical Phenomena
  • Reverbs: Parameters, Chamber, Spring, Plate, Halls, and Room
  • Delays: Parameters, Tape, Ping Pong, and ADT
  • Analog vs. Digital, Plug-in vs. Hardware
  • Reverb Critical Listening Exercise
  • Assignment 4: Mix "Many Birds"

Lesson 5: Automation Techniques

  • Automated Mixing Overview and Historical Perspective
  • VCA, Moving or Flying Faders, and Total Recall: From Analog to DAW
  • Analog vs. Digital, Console vs. DAW
  • Modes of Operation for Automated Mixes: Write, Read, and Update
  • Hands-on Options: Real Time, Off-Line, or Snapshot Automation
  • Assignment 5: Mix "Silent Water"

Lesson 6: Dynamics Processing Part 1

  • Compression Controls and Functionality
  • Compressor Types, Demonstrations, and Comparisons
  • Solid State, Tube, FET, JFET, Optical Sensors, Vari-MU
  • Classic Analog Compressors
  • Assignment 6: Mix "Loved"

Lesson 7: Dynamics Processing Part 2

  • Limiting and Loudness Maximization
  • Noise Gating and Expansion
  • Use of Side-Chains, Keying, and Ducking Effects
  • Dessing, Multi-Band Compression, and Limiting
  • Assignment 7: Mix "Half Awake"

Lesson 8: Miscellaneous Unusual FX and Secret Techniques

  • Chorusing, Flanging, Phasing, Tremolo, Leslie Cabinet
  • Distortion, Soundfield Processing, Amp Simulation
  • Reverse Reverb, Reverse Delays, Backwards Compression
  • Sub-Harmonic Enhancement and Low Frequency Extension
  • Assignment 8: Mix "When I'm Gone"

Lesson 9: Vocal Mixing Techniques

  • Preparing Vocals for the Mix: Vocal Editing
  • Vocal EQ, Dynamic, Gain-Setting, Leveling
  • FX Processing
  • Vocal Tuning and Time Correcting
  • Assignment 9: Mix "How to Be a Woman"

Lesson 10: Drum Mixing Techniques

  • Drum Equalization, Compression, Gating, Editing, Leveling, and Grouping
  • Mixing MIDI Drums versus Acoustic Drums
  • Drum Sound Replacement and Samples
  • Drum Timing Correction
  • Assignment 10: Mix "Night on the Town Jazz Improv"

Lesson 11: Instrumental Mixing Techniques

  • Mixing the Electric Bass, Upright Bass, and Bass Synthesizer
  • Mixing Electric and Acoustic Guitars
  • Mixing Horns and Strings both Real and Synthesized
  • Mixing Exotic and Unusual Instruments and Vocals

Lesson 12: Specialized Mix Directions and Techniques Overview 

  • Mixing Pop Overview
  • Mixing Rock Overview
  • Mixing Hip Hop and R'n'B Overview
  • Mixing Jazz Overview

Richard Mendelson

Author

Richard Mendelson is a senior faculty member in the Music Production and Engineering department at Berklee College of Music. A long-time educator, Mendelson specializes in mixing and recording. His former students include many Grammy-winning mixing and recording engineers.

Mendelson's work has been featured in recordings by artists such as Rihanna, Nicole Scherzinger, Fergie, and Garbage, and he is a first-call mix-down engineer in the Boston area. Mendelson is an expert in digital sampling and has created more than 10 international best- selling sample products for Big Fish Audio and East/West Communications.


Alejandro Rodriguez

Author & Instructor

Alejandro Rodriguez is an associate professor in the Music Production and Engineering department at Berklee College of Music, with more than 20 years of experience as a recording, editing, mixing, mastering, post-production, and live sound engineer and producer. He has worked with artists such as Mariah Carey, Compay Segundo, Eliades Ochoa and AfroCuban All Stars (from Buena Vista Social Club), Silvio Rodriguez, Pablo Milanes, J.M. Vitier, Grupo Niche, Armando Mnazanero, Ricardo Arjona, Pancho Cespedes, and Tania Libertad.

Prior to Berklee, Alejandro was an acoustics professor at the National School of Arts (ENA) and a professor of sound studies at Instituto Superior de Artes (ISA)—both in Havana, Cuba. He has also taught audio and recording techniques at the Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores in Monterrey, México. Alejandro worked as a staff engineer for EGREM Studios in Havana, Cuba, and has since pursued a freelance career as an engineer and producer. He holds a bachelor's degree in music from ENA and a bachelor's degree in arts communication (specializing in sound for film, radio, and TV) from ISA. In addition, he studied telecommunication engineering at the Technical University in Havana and recording techniques at the Supraphon Recording Faclities in Prague, Czech Republic.


Dave Dysart

Instructor

Berklee College of Music graduate Dave Dysart has been engineering, producing, and composing music professionally for the last twenty years. Some of the artists he has worked with include Guns N’ Roses, Heart, Yes, Joe Walsh, Tom Scott, Mark Murphy (Grammy-nominated album Song for the Geese, 1998), Dave Stewart, Eric Tingstad and Nancy Rumbel, John Gorka, Robbie Robertson, the Seattle Symphony, and the Northwest Boy Choir. He has also worked on music for television (engineered all music for the 1997-98 PBS series Wishbone) and films, including HBO and Showtime original movies, NBC World Series promos, an ABC movie of the week, music for the Discovery channel, and numerous commercial scores. He recently ran the music software company Submersible Music that created the popular DrumCore and KitCore products.


Rachel Alina

Instructor

Rachel Alina is a New York based mixing engineer who has worked in every production situation imaginable, with artists ranging from Stephen Marley and Federico Aubele to Birdie Busch and P!nk. Her mixes utilise both vintage analog equipment and modern digital processing to give records the depth of both worlds. Rachel graduated from Berklee in 2003. She worked for Shelly Yakus, Greg Wells, and Henry Hirsch before becoming a freelance Mixing + Mastering Engineer.

Prerequisites

Completion of Critical Listening 1 or equivalent knowledge and experience is required. Students should understand the basic techniques involved in recording, editing, and mixing supported by their DAW of choice.


Required Textbooks

None required


Software Requirements

  • A digital audio workstation (DAW) for importing, editing, and saving audio. Viable programs include Digital Performer, Logic Pro, Cubase, SONAR, Ableton Live, and Pro Tools. The DAW must support playback of at least 32 tracks of audio with plug-ins that include equalizers, compressors, limiters, expanders, reverbs, delays, and multi effects.

Mac Users

  • OS X 10.9 Mavericks or higher (click here for system requirements)
  • Latest version of Chrome (recommended), Firefox, or Safari

Windows Users

  • Windows 7 or higher (click here for system requirements)
  • Latest version of Chrome (recommended), Firefox, or Edge

Hardware Requirements

  • Your computer must meet the minimum hardware and software requirements for your DAW 
  • A monitor speaker system, preferably full range
  • High-quality headphones
  • 2 GB RAM (4 GB recommended)
  • 500 MB hard drive space
  • Speakers or headphone
  • Webcam
  • Internet connection with at least 4 Mbps download speed (http://www.speedtest.net to verify or download the Speedtest by Ookla app from your mobile app store)

Comments

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Next Term Starts April 3


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  • Duration
    12 weeks
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