Mixing Versus Arrangement

One of the great things about mixing in a DAW is that you can basically add as many tracks as your system can handle; but if you don’t arrange your music carefully, the end result can be a muddy mess that no amount of mixing can fix…

Finding the Balance

There are no strict rules to how you layer up your tracks – but if you want to create something using seventeen different types of bass, you might find it hard to keep the end result from sounding like a foghorn.

When dealing with more conventional tracks, you need to realise that there’s a limited amount of headroom in each frequency range. I dealt with this concept in a previous post – using a theatrical analogy called ‘fat actor overlap‘. In essence, for each instrument to cut through the mix clearly, they need to have their own defined space on the frequency spectrum to occupy.

There are two main ways you can achieve this – either by arrangement or by mixing. However, it’s best to have this in mind at the arrangement stage. For example, you may have a guitar riff being played around the 400-600Hz range. You could add in a keyboard part to mirror this, but it would be wise to transpose it up an octave so that it doesn’t overlap too much with the guitar.

Passing the EQ

However, even with a carefully arranged piece, you will probably want to use a bit of EQ to carve out extra space for each instrument – in this example, a high-pass filter on the guitar around 300Hz would help ensure it didn’t interfere with the bass guitar.

For some more useful observations on mixing vs arrangement, check out this post over at the Pro Audio Files


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