Why and how it makes a major difference, whether the majority know it or not.
Mixing is no more complex than changing the way each intrument/recording sounds, in a way that translates a musical performance through speakers as effectively as possible. The ultimate goal is to invoke the artist's intended effect on the listener. Where it gets complicated is thinking about why (and how) different music affects different people differently. That's alot of differents... The source of this infinite complexity roots in the fact that music is completely subjective- or- based on individual perception.
Physically, music is just air vibrations. A soundwave measured at a single point in space over time only has one dimension: amplitude aka volume. Humans use two points in space (our ears) to measure sound. Inside the ear are hundreds of special hairs setup perfectly to resonate/vibrate at their target frequency. The vibration of these hairs send electrical signals to our brain, just as all senses. The brain then filters/decodes these signals and in turn we experience auditory sensation. As we experience this sensation we judge it and that is when it becomes percieved. How it is judged/percieved is ultimately based on expectation. Our brains do this to simplify the vast amount of information we recieve from our ears which would be overwhelming otherwise.
The key is to hold no expectation when listening. Aim for absolute focus on whatever sounds you're experiencing in the present moment. Anchoring what you're hearing in other senses can be very helpful- moving your body, or visualizing in your minds eye. Visualizing can be extremely effective, unfortunately descriptions are of no use- it's based on the individual.
This is a tricky question and the reason so many artists overlook the mixing/sound-quality aspect of their music. The best way by far is to compare two mixes of the same song side by side (direct reference). Some clients will have us mix a previously mixed track and they're often surprised at the difference overall. Judging without a reference point is very difficult because both mixing and the music itself contribute to the listening experience in shared ways. The only way to judge then is by comparing with an imaginary reference of what different mixing could sound like. As mix engineers, we can very accurately imagine what our mix will sound like compared to the mix we're judging. It's all about what it could sound like and to truly know that you have to know how to get there.
One thing that is striking to the engineers of Arkon is that in most genres there's rarely a popular song that has 'just-adequate' mixing. By far the majority of popular songs have mixing that is thoughtful and clearly highlights the best parts of the music. Other side of the coin: the many small artists we hear rarely have mixing that's beyond just-adequate.
With music overall- to stand out from the ocean of other inspired artists, you need something special, impactful, which cuts through the short-attention-span-music that all blurs together. Mixing is a significant part of this. When you find music that really resonates with you, you want to turn it up and dive in deeper- at this point mixing becomes most apparent. Do the guitars have that uniform, musical growl- or are they clouded by inconsistent gritty distortion, does the snare have the perfect mix of pop! and crack! so that it sounds like a perfectly tuned musical cannon- or does it sound like a floppy fish-out-of-water getting smacked with a stick by a frantic 10 year old... Excuse the exaggerated cheesy imagery.
Unfortunately, the majority of professional mixing engineers view their client's art as just a task to be completed- a quick puzzle to be solved, and the final product isn't that important, because adequate is enough in 95% of cases as the client can't confidently tell if it could be better. What makes this even more enticing is the fact that any experienced engineer can mix a song adequate in less than an hour!
Imagine paying $400 /song for less than an hour of someone's time, only to get an adequate mix. We witness this frequently- a supposed top-quality mix by a prestigeous studio, and we can hear that it could have been done within an hour. It's not that it sounds bad, or that the engineer is unskilled- it's just that they gave into the temptation of doing a quick mix for top money- knowing they can get away with it.
If you're a competent, inspired mixing engineer there's two fundamental ways you can make it in this business. For example: get connected with a reputable studio, do quick mixes for smaller artists- make great money, and only apply yourself on popular bands. This way is based on money, not passion for an art.
The other way is to do a great job, make sure the customer is satisfied, and feel good about your work. Always give 100% because that's how you grow. The money comes later, it sets you up to go much further ultimately. Clients whose music is brought to life are likely to refer you to others, come back in the future, and become more successful, multiplying the fact that any mix you do is out there forever- a permanent ad that speaks for itself. All these factors reinforce each other. This is the thinking that got the very best mixing engineers to the top, and more crucially how they stay there. Great music takes great passion to create, and it's the same with mixing.
A key concept of our guiding principals. (Personal Opinion/Theory)
Much like sound- this reality contains infinite nuance. As humans- we tend to forget, because to function normally you have to simplify and filter the incredible amount of information from both psyche and senses. "Absolute" is only a concept, and in that sense- nothing is absolute. Example: Do you know what year it is? I'd guess you're practically 100% sure, but in actuality it's 99.99...% You kindof have to play the "what-if" game. Can you deny the possibility that (for instance) you had a stroke while you were sleeping which precisely altered your memory of the date? Of course, it's not worth considering things as unlikely as that. But in other cases it can be important to remember the difference between your habitual assumption of absolute- and true reality.
A decision as trivial as putting sugar in your coffee or not creates a shift that will affect All forever. Visualize an infinitely large, perfectly still body of water, and a singular disturbance which causes a wave. As that wave propagates further from the source, it gets smaller and smaller, eventually it's no longer visible- one would say it has disappeared, but with a measuring device accurate enough- that same ripple can be detected at any distance. Energy can neither be created nor destroyed.
Contrary to the conclusion some may draw- all established science implies that phenomena is infinite. Again, as humans we must know the answers- so if you asked someone on the street: "How did the universe start?" They would very likely answer: "The Big-Bang." when The Big-Bang is only a theory. It's just easier to think in absolutes. But the problem is- your fundamental conception of reality is the foundation that all your conceptions and decisions are based on. Living for the ultimate outcome of cold, lifeless matter separating further into nothingness- would certainly make me severely depressed, or at the least- wallow through life propelled by the cycles of perverted self indulgence.
If reality is infinite- everything that can happen (anything can happen), will happen (and has happened). More specific and useful- you're the result of countless years of life on earth evolving to it's enviroment. Progressively more specific- you're the result of the decisions of: the monkeys who first started crafting tools, the tyrant, the saint, the martyr- but most importantly- those who had the scope of understanding to see this continuity and amplify the wave that perpetuates the true spirit of humanity.
This article was written by the founder of Arkon and reviewed by it's members. I realize the potential for deturring clients with these quite abstract, arrogant ideas. I certainly don't know the accuracy of these words- but my best-guess is all I have, and I'm always looking to go back to the drawing board if that's what life shows me. Arkon Audio is my attempt to merge the contrary elements of earning money, and helping create the greatest version of reality.
A quote from Nikola Tesla:
"Nature may reach the same result in many ways. Like a wave in the physical world, in the infinite ocean of the medium which pervades all, so in the world of organisms, in life, an impulse started proceeds onward, at times, may be, with the speed of light, at times, again, so slowly that for ages and ages it seems to stay, passing through processes of a complexity inconceivable to men, but in all its forms, in all its stages, its energy ever and ever integrally present. A single ray of light from a distant star falling upon the eye of a tyrant in bygone times may have altered the course of his life, may have changed the destiny of nations, may have transformed the surface of the globe, so intricate, so inconceivably complex are the processes in Nature. In no way can we get such an overwhelming idea of the grandeur of Nature than when we consider, that in accordance with the law of the conservation of energy, throughout the Infinite, the forces are in a perfect balance, and hence the energy of a single thought may determine the motion of a universe." -Nikola Tesla
Arkon is actively run by two engineers and a logistics manager. There are musicians, engineers, video editors, etc. some of which work under Arkon regularly and some only on occasion.
Founder / Primary Engineer(+1) 425-681-6463
Logistics Manager(+1) 425-429-8591
Miscellaneous samples of our work from fully original to just mastering. Selected to showcase the widest-range.
Electronic Metal 2
Experimental 7/8 Time w/ Polymeter
Experimental 5/4 Time
A cover of Samiam's "Say So" performed by Companions of the Storm. (Link- Youtube Music Video)
Uncertain Fragrance by Polo Rojo (Link- Bandcamp)
Mr Chicken by Chris Peters (Link- Bandcamp)
Standing in Emotion by Dan Crandall (Link- Bandcamp)
Figure it Out by Rhys Daniel (After/Before Comparison) (Link- Website)
Green Flippers from Mondo Harp by Messer Chups (Link- Facebook)