Mixing and Mastering What Living’s All About

This week Scott Fraser and I finished mixing and mastering my jazz and blues CD, What Living’s All About. This is my third CD, but the first one I’ve participated in mixing. I found it not at all tedious (as I’d often heard), but, rather, really quite fascinating, probably because it’s typical of the intensely focussed, slow, painstaking, detail-oriented actions that are part of creating all kinds of art, even forms that appear spontaneous.

We listened to each instrument and voice separately and in combination, looking for “clams” to fix (not so difficult with today’s Photoshop-like digital recording programs). We adjusted volume between the instruments so that each was easy to hear in its moment to shine and each blended with the others without being hidden when someone else was in the spotlight.

In Scott’s studio, the trap drums get five microphones creating five sound tracks that have to be balanced with each other first, before the drums as a group can be balanced with the other instruments. Bass is next, balancing a track from the pickup on the instrument and a microphone on a stand nearby. The piano gets two microphones, both inside the piano, one pointed somewhat toward the bass end of the keyboard and the other pointed more toward the treble. And so forth, with the lead vocal worked on last.

The mastering process balances the volume levels of the songs, so that none are suddenly much louder or much softer than the rest of the collection. Also we listened for just the right amount of silence between the songs.