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Common words and terms to define a mix

Updated: Jan 19

Level: Beginner to Intermediate

In music production setting, when we collaborate with multiple artistes, engineers, producers, we need to communicate effectively about our desired sound and what we want to achieve in our final music release. These conversation often happens between using a blend of technical terminology and creative expression. So here are some of the common words and terms to help us in navigating the process:

Editing: Removing or minimising clicks, pops, breath, plosives, background noise, electronics hum and introducing proper fading in/outs.

Frequency Balance: This involves the allocation of frequency ranges to individual instruments to minimise masking and eliminate undesirable resonances. The definition of frequency balance is often decided by the genre of the music or the specific goals of the mix.

Dynamics Control: Commonly used to describe the control of ADSR (Attack, Decay, Sustain and Release) of an audio signal. All musical instruments have an ADSR, that can be often be controlled by the use of automation, compression, expansion and gating.

Phase Correlation: In the context of music production, it is used as a form of measurement for the extent of frequency cancellation occurring between various audio playback channels from a single stereo or multichannel mix.

Depth / Dimension: Commonly used to describe the management of the soundstage which includes the control of time based processing such as reverb and delay.

Panoramic (Pan): The use of the pan level to decide where each instruments exist in the stereo field.

Stereo field: This is a larger and more complex term. It usually means the use of depth, dimension, panning and control of phase to create an immersive presentation of a song in stereo.

Speaker Translation: How well does the entire mix of the song translate between different types of speakers. Some examples of the different type of speakers: Studio Monitors, Laptop Speakers, Mobile Phone Speakers, Car Stereo, etc..

Mono Compatibility: How well does a stereo mix played back from a mono source speaker. This usually means how much phase cancellation exist between the the left and right channel in a stereo mix.

Pitch / Tuning: Commonly used to describe if all the instruments are in the correct key or pitch within a song. It can also describe if any instruments are out of tune relative to song.

Clarity: Commonly used to express if the instruments can be heard clearly in the mix.

Instrument Timbre: Commonly used to describe the sonic quality or tonality of the instrument.

Pitch / Tuning: Commonly used to describe if all the instruments are in the correct key or pitch within a song. It can also describe if any instruments are out of tune relative to song.

Vibe: This usually means if the song is mixed in context to the genre or the vision of the mix. This is one of the more challenging terms to discuss. One of the most effective way to communicate this is to use multiple music references in the conversation.

Effects: This usually means the type of modulation effects used in the mix. Which can be; phaser, flanger, chorus, vibrato, tremolo, distortion, etc. It can also be used to describe sound effects such as radio playback, explosion, reverse cymbal swells, lasers, thunder, etc.

Highlights of the Song: The main question of this phrase usually means if the important hook or/and sections are emphasised enough to keep the focus of the audience to the song.

Musical Elements: Are the use of musical instrument adequate or too much for the mix? When there are lack of musical elements it can cause the music to sound empty and uninspiring to listen. Conversely where there are too many musical elements, the listener will have 'listening fatigue' as there are too many elements to focus on.

Instrument Balance: This usually means the presentation of each instrument in the song. This is usually decided by the vision and the genre of the music.

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