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Recording And Blending Instruments For A Great Sound

Jun 30, 2008
If you've ever seen a group perform or you have performed with one, one of the things you may or may not realize is that everything has to blend. Nothing can make a performance worse than not having the music blend properly. Have you ever heard a performance where one voices takes out over the others when it shouldn't, or where one instrument sticks out over the others like a sore thumb?

It's the same thing when you record. If you record music, there are two places you need to have the proper balance. This is with the equalizers, also known as EQs, and with the physical recording. When you work in the studio, you need to be aware of both of these sound levels, as you'll need to have them set properly for the proper sound.

Sound balance comes as a result of the mixing board. With the mixing board, you can balance the instruments so that they are set properly to each other and the volume of each does not stick out over the other; each instrument will sound natural as well. When you build this part of your mix, you'll need to pay attention to the input into your computer and the output that you'll hear through the monitors.

When you do this, of course, you'll need to make sure that all of the instruments are equal. This means that every instrument's volume should be about equal as compared to the others. If you start with the lowest level possible, you'll have room to change the mix later as you need to. You shouldn't have anyone peaking with his or her instrument during any part of the recording unless you plan to do this. When you do this, a sound check will help with both the input and output when you record.

Next, EQs (or equalizers) will help you get the right mix. You'll be doing the mixing prior to the final mastering. At each step, you'll need to make sure that your balance is good between high and low and that one sound does not dominate others.

You'll need to follow a variety of standards to keep your EQs at certain levels. This is in part your personal preference and industry standards depend on the genre of music you record. However, the main thing to keep in mind is that one frequency should not dominate or be too loud versus others. The low ranges of instruments, in other words, should roughly match the high ranges of the instruments.

Similarly, you should blend your instruments together well except in places you want the bass, for example, to be dominant versus other tones. Similarly, if you want the piano or guitar to be dominant, you can increase the volume for that instrument. Otherwise, though, instrument levels should be about equal for all of them. You can do this through normalization, mastering and mixing, and can also put "envelopes" within the individual instruments. This means that certain parts of the song will be kept at a certain level, moved up to normal dynamic levels in another part, and so on.

To see if everything is working right, look at how the monitors sound. You should place monitors up high and on both sides of the room, then check and see how sound is bouncing back to you. The low range will tell you if the bass is too high and the high range will let you know if those instruments are too high, too. In this way, you can adjust as you need to until you have just the perfect levels.

Whatever genre of music you choose, balance the individual instruments and then the whole. With mixing and equalizers, your CD is going to come out better and will sound more professional, too. As you adjust according to preferences and then take a look at industry standards, too, this should give you what you need to keep everything in balance.
About the Author
Kevin Sinclair is the publisher and editor of MusicianHome.com, a site that provides information and articles for musicians at all stages of their development.
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