The Art of Two-Dimensional Audio Mixing: Front & Back

Again use you ear and imagine the mix as if the band/musician is playing in front of you. Ask this question to yourself: Does my reverb setting reflect a realistic front and back image of the mix?

b.) EQ – you can use EQ to make the instruments sound up-front or back in the mix. A good example is when you are mixing a combination of lead and back-up vocals. The lead vocals should occupy the most obvious vocal frequency range (where ears are most sensitive). This is usually 800Hz to 5000Hz. In this range, the lead vocals should be dominant. However the back-up vocals are reduced in this frequency range so that they would sound like supporting the lead singer (at the back).

A typical EQ setting:

1.) Lead vocal – Boost +3dB 3000Hz Q=1.0
2.) Backup vocal- Cut -6dB 3000Hz Q= 1.4

If you do not cut the back-up vocals using EQ, they would dominate the lead vocals in their dominant frequency range thus you are not providing an accurate front/back image of your vocal mix.

c.) Compression – when used creatively you can use compression to make instruments sound up-front or back in the mix. A good example is a weak bass guitar sound or a poor bass guitar player performance. Usually, when the bass player is not that good; the dynamics of the recorded bass are not consistent in the mix. This ends up the bass being buried in some sections of the song where other elements are loud.

To bring up the bass, you need to compress it so that weaker sections would become loud. As a result, the bass has more consistent volume even in louder sections and it will now stand-out in mix. Combine with EQ effect, you can even make the bass presence stronger and even.

“Panning” pulls sound left or right

Finally, you can use panning to assign instruments either in the center, left, right or even mid-right or mid-left in the mix. You can easily assign panning settings in your DAW or even in analog consoles they have a panning knob.

To sum-up the two dimensional mixing, just look at this screenshot:

Front and back mixing screenshot

Front and back mixing screenshot

An example illustration on the use of the above diagram when you are mixing:

a.) If you want the lead vocals to sound up-front and center on the mix. You would need either need to apply less cut on the crucial frequencies or boost them if you want to use EQ. Or use an even compression to make the vocals sound even. Or even apply less reverb to make them appear dry and up-front. Use panning to put the vocals on the center.

b.) If you have piano track that you wish should provide a background melody of the song (not a lead instrument), then you can cut the EQ where other lead instruments are dominant such as the vocals. This will pull the piano sound at the back of the mix. Or you can further add reverb to make the background effect significant in the mix.

By establishing a clear front and back image of the mix; you get clarity, fullness, ambiance and balance sound in your mix.

Content last updated on July 29, 2012

  • Ilnur

    Emerson,thanks for your tips!