Mixing can be a creative as well as a technical role, and the right production effects can transform a track.
Technology and budgets mean that roles within the music industry have slowly blurred over the years. I'm very used to acting as both the engineer and mixer, but I also often slip in and out of a producer-like role that I refer to as 'creative engineering'. In this role, I might offer advice on a melody or use my experience to help develop a section or sound, but without crossing the line into actually 'producing' the track.
I'll try to define my role with the client up front, and when I'm paid to 'mix' a track, the job is often just what you'd expect it to be. But sometimes my ears still yearn for a little something extra that will carry the production to its full potential. In such cases, my first instinct is to reach for effects that can enhance what's already there, but if that doesn't cut the mustard I'll probably try adding in some new elements. I'm not talking about overdubbing a face-melting guitar solo or splicing a whole new section into a song. Rather, I'm talking about 'ear candy': subtle, sometimes momentary textures, layers and sound-design elements that will enhance the existing material. The sort of sounds that the listener might not always notice immediately, but which leave the song sounding that bit 'flatter' when they're removed.
To illustrate what I mean, I'm going to use examples from my mix of 'Silence' by three-piece indie/art-pop band Neue York. This song involves a four-minute atmospheric build to a crescendo, which is followed by a long, slow fade-out. Layers of acoustic drums, electric guitars, a brass ensemble and a few VST synths are topped with a dual male/female vocal. I'll describe how I used these techniques to add interest to the vocals and drums, before discussing the new elements that I added to this production and why I felt they were needed.
There are two vocals in this song, and it was immediately obvious that a long room reverb would enhance their atmospheric quality. To that end, I brought up Valhalla's Vintage Verb on an aux...