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Mix a pop song – 7f – Creating Mix Room

This is really something that came out of the “Tamla Motown” mixing scene, when people first realised that EQ was just as much a creative tool as a technical one.

I’m not a big fan of this, even though I know that other people use it a lot.

The idea behind “creating mix room” is that, when you can’t hear an instrument properly, then look for groups of other instruments that may be combining together to obscure the instrument you can’t hear. Then as a group, you subtractively equalise those parts collectively in order to “carve out some room” for the instrument you can’t hear enough of.

You can either “carve out” this space by routing the other instruments through an audio subgroup on the desk, and equalising that, or instead (and much better, although it takes a bit longer), by applying the same subtractive EQ using the individual equalisers patched across each instrument separately.

I’m quite set against this approach, as it seems philosophically extremely unsound – and too much of a dodgy “quick fix” – for my liking.

It may have been appropriate in the days of Tamla Motown, when radios were of poor quality, and people had to use every trick in the book in order to get their mixes to sound good compared to others, but I think it is less valid now we are in the digital age. The overall effect sounds artificial to me, and probably to anyone else listening on the high-quality digital playback equipment that is ubiquitous in this new millennium.

Notwithstanding the above, I do very occasionally use this technique as a last resort, if the instruments in the mix appear to be conspiring to cover up the lead vocal, and drastic action is deemed necessary.

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