So Who Exactly is a Mix Engineer?
When you appreciate a song for its audio quality and clarity, it is due to the efforts of the mix engineer. The mix engineer is the professional who brings together various elements of the song that have been recorded separately and “mixes” them together in the final version that becomes commercially available. Today the demand for skilled mix engineers is high. This is because of the emergence of independent artists who prefer to record their songs on their own either in small studios or even home based studios. Such artists need the services of mix engineers to ensure that their final product (the song) is technically correct in terms of balance and frequency. In this age of fierce competition in the music industry, only a perfectly mixed song with the right blend of acoustic features has any chance of being picked up by music companies.
What Does the Mix Engineer Do?
To answer this question, it is necessary to look at the process of recording a song.
Contrary to popular belief, the various elements of a song are not recorded together or simultaneously. The vocals are recorded separately and the instrumentals like drums, guitar, piano, bass effects and others are recorded in their individual tracks or channels. Some songs may have other elements like specific sounds or speech that form an integral part of the song. The mix engineer has his work cut out to blend all these disparate elements into one fluid, beautiful song.
The aim of the mix engineer is to achieve harmony between the vocals and the instrumentals at the desired frequency. It is because of the efforts of the mix engineer that you are able to hear the words of a song over the sound of the instruments. He is responsible for the fine balance of various elements of the song that makes it pleasing to the ear. To achieve his goals, a mix engineer will:
1. Balance the levels of different tracks
2. Eq each track to that it sits perfectly in the mix
3. Make the stereo image of the song consistent.
4. Apply required Effects like delay, reverb, Phaser, Flanger etc
5. Apply required compression to the tracks
6. Additionally, correct the pitching of vocals using Auto tuner.
Qualities of a Good Mix Engineer
• A mix engineer works with high end digital audio equipment to achieve desired results. So he needs to understand the basic theory and practice of audio technology.
• A good mix engineer should have high audio sensitivity to be able to distinguish between different sounds and various pitches to be able to get the best results for the end product.
• Mixing is more a creative profession, though there are technical details involved. A good mix engineer should have a creative streak, where he is willing to take risks and attempt something unconventional for achieving optimal results.
• This is a profession where the expertise improves with each job. So the mix engineer should have at least 5+ years of experience and should have worked on a wide variety of genres.
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By Rajiv Agarwal