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Overall, I like to think about mixing as kind of having two different objectives: one is to be artful and the other is to be technical. Now, the artful part means it's on you, make it sound the way you want it to sound, be expressive and kind of interject your personality into what you are doing, make it sound cool to you, use effects, do stuff, blow my mind. I can't even tell you what to do; start to play around with things and experiment. But it's about being artful and injecting yourself into what you're doing. This might be more so if you're doing music than if you're doing a podcast.
But even so, with things like podcasts, stuff like that, you can actually make aesthetic decisions that will make it stand out or make it seem different than other podcasts. That something that can't really be taught. That's about what you're going to bring and what you think is cool, and that's a great part of it. So, the other side of mixing is the more technical objective, or the technical side, and that means working, or engineering, your mix so that you come up with a certain degree of technical quality. You want your mix to have a certain degree of balance and clarity, and also try and fit it into what I like to call the sonic strike zone.
By balance, I mean taking sounds and putting them in specific places in the mix so that you can kind of hear the different sounds and that not all the sounds are fighting for the same sonic space. If you have a good balance, you'll also have pretty good clarity, but the objective of clarity is to make sure, if you're working on something and there's some crucial information, that it's clear. So, if you're working on a voiceover for a podcast with a few other things, you want to make sure that that one thing is audible and is clear as possible. Now, by the sonic strike zone I mean getting your mix so that it's in a state where someone can take it and listen to it on any device and it'll still sound good.
You can create the perfect mix in your portable studio, your home studio, and it sounds great, like a million bucks, but the reality is that most people are going to take that and listen to it in completely different circumstance: maybe on headphones, maybe in their living room, or in their car. But if you can make a mix that lives in the sonic strike zone, which means it's good enough to hit a strike from - you know, like baseball - that means that no matter where they take it and listen to it they will be able to make it sound good enough.
That means if you take it and listen to it on your iPod with headphones, all of a sudden there's no base whatsoever. There's still going to be some base there. Or if you take it and listen to it in your car, you lose a couple of different instruments. As long as you can take a mix and put it on any playback device and tweak it a little bit with the tone knob and the base, or in your car you have an old graphic EQ, you can use that to adjust a mix so that you can listen to it and be happy with it, then that's in the sonic strike zone, because you want to try and attain the best mix possible that's the most satisfying to you, but you also want to make it so that it's usable. You want to make this piece of music or this recorded piece of audio usable for everyone else who's out there.
So, you want to try and create a mix that lands in the sonic strike zone so that it's easy for other people to enjoy.
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