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The three essential categories of mixing discussed so far (compressor, equalizer, saturation) influence, in simple terms, the characteristics of waveforms, change the volume of certain parts of the sound spectrum from lows to highs, and their intuitively perceivable characteristics, which are described with linguistic metaphors such as “thin” or “full”, “smooth” or “rough”.
What has been ignored so far is the fact that sound waves propagate in a space. Either they reach a human ear directly, starting from their source, or they are first reflected at other places and are therefore directed to the listener’s point of view with a time delay and only partially. We quickly understand each other when we speak of reverberation in this context. A special case of this kind is the echo, where still recognizable single sounds repeat in a certain number and speed – depending on the distance from reflecting surfaces.
In audio mixing, the more general term delay is used, and its types include reverb and echo.
Here are three tutorials from the Recording Blog, delamartv and Martin Wolfinger on mixing reverb:
Martin Wolfinger also separately discusses the function of reverb for adding depth to a mix:
Big Z gives another English-language overview of essential aspects of reverb/reverb:
If you look at the setting options of reverb and delay, you will find a very wide range of style templates. Their effect is once again very variable in itself, in that the intensity of the application of the effect (optionally plus several parameters) produces quite different results (often up to irritating-disturbing distortions).
Of course, the stereo spectrum also plays a role for spatial effects, through which spatial positions of the sound source are signaled to the ear. Targeted imbalances in the delay to the left and right can also be used, for example, for psychoacoustic volume illusions.
In practice, the term delay often refers to either a limited use as a doubling of sound events at intervals of milliseconds (which already means another means of amplification besides level, compressor and EQ). At the other extreme are relatively long lingering, usually quieter repeats that either subtly create texture in the background to make the overall image fuller (without necessarily being clearly heard out) or are deliberately used to create clearly audible series of sound events. Thus, rather plainly played sequences of sounds can have more complex results. Far beyond the creation of certain realistic spatial illusions (denoted by styles such as “room” or “hall”), delays can then create extremely artificial soundscapes that were unprecedented before the corresponding effects units and plug-ins.
In the explanatory steps of this brief overview of mixing and mastering, we have now already traversed the dimensions of volume and frequency spectrum. They can be easily distributed in the visualization on a surface in height and width. However, with this we have also exhausted this visualization.
Another basic function like saturation can only be traced with listening experiences and their description. In general, this can perhaps be described as a manipulation of ‘density’ and ‘sound texture’ – depending also on the effects used in detail, which of course differ from each other. In a further metaphorical comparison, one can speak, among other things, of a ‘roughening’ or ‘plasticizing’ of the sound. The number of plug-ins for this – like all the others – is now large. The origin of these effects is a sound difference that arises between purely digital and thereby rather low-noise recording techniques compared to physical audio tapes of earlier times. It is still practiced today, depending on one’s preferences, to record tracks onto tape and play them back even after the fact. Many of the plugins refer to tape recorders by their names and/or design or even emulate special models of this hardware.
Holger Steinbrink explains it here for KEYS in German:
Here are three more tutorials on the basics of saturation from Musician on a Mission, Sage Audio, and Warren Huart of Produce Like A Pro:
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While volume/amplitude is often shown on a vertical scale, the usual displays and diagrams show the sound spectrum from bass to treble on a horizontal scale. The most important instrument for intervening in mixing and mastering at this level is the equalizer, or EQ for short. In different fine divisions (besides lows, mids and highs still low or high mids etc.) mostly stepless curves are used today.
Here are three tutorials to get you started – by Martin Wolfinger, delamartv and Jonas Wagner from the Recording Blog.
Like levels and compressors and limiters for volume, this balances the interaction of multiple tracks on the scale of frequencies so that not too many signals compete with each other in the same range.
This balancing also includes rather local and sometimes somewhat extreme reductions of frequency ranges – where they lead to particularly noticeable disturbances. It is dull sound qualities that are created in this way in the overall picture and can be prevented with the EQ. For this purpose, individual tracks or the entire mix are scanned for such disturbing frequency ranges with the EQ – one makes particularly loud on a trial basis, which is then lowered in its amplitude at this point on the horizontal.
Philipp Ernst from abmischenlernen explains it:
To recognize this better in the interaction of the tracks, today additionally advanced plugins help, which mark the competing places in the frequency band by simultaneous comparison of tracks and corresponding visualization. The Anglo-Saxons call this problem “masking”, as explained here by Plugin Boutique using the example of the plugin “Neutron 3” by iZotope: