Audio Recording Issues – It Sounds GREAT On Its Own, but... Part TwoOur goal is to get an individual track working with the rest of its mix. We've identified that it was recorded and performed well, so this is not an issue of quality. Most often in the modern mixing scenario, we use a combination of limiting, compressing, EQ'ing, and effects to build the collection of sounds into an arrangement that accomplishes the final sonic goal. The issue of a track's success becomes contextual in place of individual merit. In this case, I am not talking specifically about an issue where you discover an imbalance of Frequencies in context, but rather we have a blending process that does not work.
My recommendation here is to identify the reason, or reasons. What is the context of the recording? Is it a tight, punchy radio hit, or is it about natural performance and room ambience? Is it about a strong lead vocal in front of a balanced music track, or about a band's sound having simultaneous impact? Is the track that you are struggling with not working because it sounds out of place, too quiet, too dynamic, off pitch, boring? You may have a combination of issues taking place. If you cannot identify what bothers you, you will be using random techniques to resolve the issue that may or may not work.
I know from experience that this process is not always as easy as we would like for it to be. Sometimes the problem is very subtle, and other times it results from various combined issues. It may be that a wonderful, elegant, smooth, rich, rounded low end Frequency sounds muddy once bringing things together. Or, the mere fact that something was recorded with an incredible spectral range is making other parts of the mix sound inferior in comparison. For example, you start with a great, punchy drumset, that is until you record one of the best rhythm guitar tracks ever, and all of a sudden the full range of energetic lows and screaming highs now make the drum heads sound papery, thin, and clicky. You didn't necessarily do anything wrong when recording the drums OR the guitar, but the end result doesn't measure up.