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The ART Of Mixing

The ART Of Mixing

The reduction in the cost of setting up a sophisticated multitrack studio that has taken place over the last few years means that many home recordists are now dealing with quite complex mixes in the comfort of their own spare room. For example, a half‑decent computer and a multichannel sound card with a little DSP onboard can provide a full‑blown 16‑track system, with automation, dynamics processing, multi‑band parametric EQ and effects units. One of the most difficult skills to acquire when taking your first steps with this level of setup, is how to combine all this power to create a clean, uncluttered but effective mix. David Gibson's book, as its title suggests, tries to explain how to dojust that.

While all the aspects of what makes a quality piece of music are discussed in the book, the dominant theme is the author's specific approach to 'visualising' a mix. The reader is encouraged to think of their mix as a three‑dimensional soundscape, sitting between their monitors. Simple left and right positioning of sounds is supplemented by use of volume (and reverb) to provide 'up front' or distant sounds. The vertical 'depth' of the mix is created by use of EQ to control the frequency response of each instrument, while individual sounds can be given breadth by the use of stereo effects such as chorus. In order to illustrate how these things can be combined in a visual impression of a mix, a large number of diagrams are provided, many in full colour (a simple example is shown on the book's front cover, above).

The Art Of Mixing is split into seven chapters. Starting with an overview of the recording process, the book moves on to explain the basics of 'imaging' your mix, before discussing basic styles of mix for different types of music. Chapters 4 and 5 form the main body of the book and illustrate how EQ and effects can be used to structure a mix. Chapters 6 and 7 conclude the book by trying to put the mixing process into a broader musical context.

The dominant 'visualisation' theme of the book provides an interesting and very useful way to think about the mixing process. I soon found myself thinking in these terms when sitting in front of my own monitors and, by providing the reader with a structured way of analysing the mixes they are trying to create, the book achieves something of what it sets out to do. However, don't buy this book expecting a comprehensive guide to some of the technical aspects of mixing. While there is some useful material included (such as a basic guide to what different frequency bands do to the sounds of both individual instruments and full mixes), the book does not pretend to be a technical manual, so you will still need your copy of SOS with its workshop articles!

For an experienced engineer, the book might provide an interesting bit of light reading. It will be of more obvious use to those who are making their first, tentative foray into the complex world of mixing offered by some of today's 'home' studio equipment. If you are prepared to put up with the sometimes rather wordy style of the text and your mixes sound too busy, too muddy or just plain dull, then The Art Of Mixing might begin to help you on your way. John Walden