Many who are new to mixing are not aware that there are a number of places that you can build a mix from.
There’s a general feeling that starting from the kick drum is the best way, but that’s far from the only starting point available.
In this excerpt from The Audio Mixing Bootcamp book, you’ll see that there are many alternative places to successfully start from when building a mix.
Despite what you might think, there is no standard instrument to start and build a mix from. Modern mixers employ various techniques and they’re all valid, especially in different genres of music.
For instance, here are the places from which a mix can be started:
—From the Bass
—From the Kick Drum
—From the Snare Drum
—From the Drum Overheads
—From the Lead Vocal or main instrument
—With all of the instruments and vocals in right from the beginning
—When mixing a string section, from the highest string (violin) to the lowest (bass)
There are some mixers that just push up all the faders and mix with everything in the mix from the beginning. The theory here is that everything will eventually be in the mix anyway, you might as well start with it all in as soon as you can.
The advantage to this method is that by hearing all the instruments and vocals, you’re able to make an aural space for everything. If you insert one instrument at a time, you begin to run out of space and frequently have to go back to the beginning to make sure everything fits together properly.
“I start with everything on and I work on it like that. The reason is that, in my opinion, the vocal is going to be there sooner or later anyway. All the instruments are going to be there sooner or later so you might as well just get used to it. And I think that’s also what helps me see what I need to do within the first passage.”—Jon Gass (mixer for eighty top 20 hits, one hundred top 40 hits, and more than a hundred gold and platinum albums)
Wherever you start from, it’s a good idea that the lead arrangement element (usually the the vocal) be inserted into the mix as soon as possible. Since the vocal is the most important element, it will use up more frequency space than other supporting instruments.
Many mixers find that by waiting until late in the mix to put the vocal in, there’s not enough space left and the vocal just never sits right with the rest of the track.
Bobby Owsinski is an author, producer, music industry veteran and technical consultant who has written numerous books covering all aspects of audio recording. For more information be sure to check out his website and blog.