Audio Recording Issues – It Sounds GREAT On Its Own, but... Part OneHow many times have you set up a great sounding microphone, plugged it in to one of your favorite preamps, set up your level, tested positioning, and recorded a wonderful sounding performance. You can't wait to get down to mixing. Despite the fact that you have done your job well, it is simply not coming together. Highlight any single track, and there is nothing you would change. Start adding things back in, and it simply is not coming together. I am breaking certain elements of this concept down into different topics because it is part of the complexity of mixing itself. When treating recording, mixing, and mastering as art forms just as much as a science, we find that there are vitally important interpretations of what makes an identifiably successful mix. For this reason, we see massive trends in what the listener considers high quality.
At one time, the trend leaned towards increasingly louder mixes.
Mixers and Mastering Engineers had to increasingly become experts in learning ways to trick one's perception into hearing "high fidelity" while simultaneously crushing the very life from mixes with extreme gain drive and compression techniques.
To address the topic of sounds that are on target in technique but are not working in context, I am writing here to address some reasons for this along with ideas to correct the issue. In following posts, I will write about how this is sometimes the result of having too much of a good thing, and in the specific issues of overlapping spectral balance. For this post, let's look at the fact that different recording techniques give unique results. If we are talking about the most complex aspect of tracking or recording, then we are looking at the source, microphone, preamp, and then the mix context. In slightly easier form, we are dealing with virtual instruments, loops, or samples, which provide source that is selected in the composition and mixing process, but recording and some processing decisions have already been made for us. Let's assume that we want to address the problem first at the source. Is the offending track recorded in the same environment as the rest of the mix or a different one? Is it recorded at a distance or closely? Is it extremely clean or does it have a lot of ambient sound? How these variables connect to other tracks in the mix can have a huge impact on what our brains are interpreting from what we hear.