Mixing Terms: Getting Started
For musicians, making music generally needs to be an organic experience. Strumming a chord on a guitar or scaling a piano doesn’t need to be defined by anything more technical than it already is. However, when it comes to recording those instruments it becomes a different world. Engineers can get a bit excited when using mixing terms and it is confusing at times. Without understanding technical jargon and lingo, relaying your ideas to an engineer is frustrating. Understanding mixing and mastering from both sides is a necessity and something all musicians need to be familiar with. In this article we will go over mixing terms, so you are able to articulate yourself better to your engineer.
Mixing Terms: The Basics
Starting off we are going to look at the term “boomy” and what it means. If an engineer were to say a track in the mix is “boomy”, they are referring to a specific sense of low end frequency. Too much low frequency can cause issues with the speakers and cause a negative ripple effect and how the sound radiates through the frequency spectrum. This makes mixing and mastering very difficult, so it is an absolute issue that needs to be resolved early in a mix. Using a high-pass filter to cut out some of the low end will fix this in most cases.
In addition to a booming sound, another popular term is “muddy”. This generally means there are too many competing sounds on the low end. Think of a kick drum hitting at the same time as an 808. Something has to make way for the other, right? Most noteworthy, muddy sounds are easy to avoid if you limit the congestion in the low-mids of your mix.
Another term to be familiar with is harsh or bright. This generally describes an aggressive upper mid-range sound that is fatiguing to listen to. When mixing and mastering you would want to bring down the mid-highs a bit to limit this issue. If a sound is generally hurting your ears due to high frequency, you would call it harsh or bright.
Finally, some positive mixing terms to be familiar with are as follows. Warmth is a term that typical refers to harmonic distortion. This generally gives a sound a rich and smooth texture and is enjoyable to listen to. Think of a tube microphone or amp and the sound it produces. In addition to warmth, musicians should be familiar with “depth”. Depth is desirable for creating space in a mix. Panning sounds and creating layers adds great depth and makes for better mixing and mastering.