Artists are often absolutely blown away when I finish their first mix. They say things like this sounds way better than in my friend’s basement or way better than that studio off the alley downtown. This is no magic. I have a master’s degree in music technology and I have committed great time and effort in studying different audio engineering techniques. This is Spencer Miles, lead engineer and owner of Spencer Studios your number one of all of the recording studios in Lancaster, Pa. Todays topic is on making space.
I am an organized person and I like everything to have its own space in my studio for it to belong to but that is not what we are talking about today or is it? Music is not too different than square footage in your office when you are trying to find a particular item. When everything is organized and has a space for itself its easier to find or hear things. If we don’t identify and carve out these space, we have clutter had its hard to find things. Let’s face it, no one wants a cluttered mix. Todays music genres demand a vocal that is front and center on the sound stage, easily heard within the mix but not loud and outside the mix. I am going to tell you just how to do this.
Individual sound frequencies are just like the square footage no two objects can truly share the same space. You can push two books together but no matter how hard you try it doesn’t turn it into one book. In music we need to make sure each instrument has its own space otherwise instruments will be fighting for space and frankly, that will sound bad, to use a layman’s term. Only certain types of instruments should exist in certain frequency areas also known as bands to avoid this. As an example, below 120 hz really only your kick, 808, bass guitar and maybe sub synth should exist and nothing else. The sounds also don’t need to extend much higher into frequencies outside that band. Okay well, how does that translate into a clean mix then? Ultimately, I view music as having two parts. The more important part is your melody which often exists in the form of a vocal. The other part is your accompaniment which in the rock band is basically everyone but the lead singer. Instruments in the rock band share frequencies with the lead singer. The lead singer is the most important, so we need to carve frequencies out of the band for the lead vocal to shine through.
There are two ways to do this. One involves static EQ and the other involves dynamic multiband compression. It all comes down to philosophy here on which to chose but the technique is the same. We determine the lowest frequency band the vocalist sings in and we lower that band in the accompaniment so that nothing is fighting the vocal. An EQ does this by lowering frequencies only a set amount where a multiband compressor can react to the music and change the amount so that no matter what the vocalist is always in the perfect spot in the mix but at the risk of audio degradation.
– Spencer, Spencer Studios 313 W Liberty St. Lancaster, PA 17603