So what makes a song great? What makes a piece of music we can listen to over, and over…and over again! And still get a huge amount of enjoyment and good feelings from.
Well it comes from all of elements and aspects that make up music. There’s the concept or theme, melody, rhythm, harmony, lyrics, arrangement, instrumentation, song structure, performance, quality of equipment and recording and the mix.
I want to talk about the latter (the mix).
While the mix phase makes up part of the grander picture of everything that makes up a record; it holds a great deal importance because it brings together all the elements to its last stages right before the final master.
Now I’m not going to get too technical, I’m going lay out what makes a great song in the mixing realm of a song, but I’m going keep in it simple and discuss it more philosophically than anything; what makes a great mix from the perspective of anyone who loves music.
Inspiration came from the book “The Mixing Engineer’s Handbook” by Bobby Owsinski and “The Art of Mixing” by David Gibson; which gave the core concept and idea for this post.
Along with my experience mixing, I’m going lay out 7 elements of what makes the song (and mix) great (I’ll be using the words piece of music, song, music, and mix interchangeably).
The 7 Elements of A Mix (From the listening experience perspective)
I’m going lay out what the mix can do, to enhance and bring out a piece of music and I’m going to do it from a listening and listener perspective.
When mixing a song, you do it from a technical, artistic and listener perspective. But this post isn’t informational, but more a theory on how a listener consciously or subconsciously experiences a song and what makes that experience great.
They are plenty of other resources out there on mixing and those books I mentioned earlier are great resources.
And like on said in a previous post; these blogs, vlogs, podcasts are more for giving some of my thoughts, talking with you one on one, and some behind the scenes info.
WGP is about creating music, dance and cinema. And I’m itching to get back to creating…So I’ll make this short and sweet, enjoy!
Element #1: Clarity
When listening to a good piece of music, everything is clear and balanced. There’s nothing in the mix that makes the song hard to listen too. The lyrics stand out, the lead instrument is right under so you distinctly hear it and you can feel the kick.
Basically the song is a joy to listen to because all the important parts of the song are easy to listen to and nothing jarring takes us out of the song.
When listening to the mix, you want to clearly make out the fullness of the song. While at the same time the fullness and richness of the song shouldn’t be a mess.
When the music has clarity, it makes listening to the song enjoyable and blissful to listen to.
Element #2: Dimension
With dimension in a song; you get music that’s not flat but music that has a panoramic quality.
There are sounds coming up, down, left, right, front and back. You can feel the sound from different directions, there’s excitement blasting at you and a sense of depth from the mix.
You can imagine where all the sounds are in the song.
Some sounds are up above real high, some are real low and some way in back and some are right at your face. You can also get a sense of space of and width from the music. The music immerses you in this new world and wall of sound.
Element #3: Emotion
A good song will not only catch your attention but make you feel something.
The song can make you feel sorrow or happiness, fear or confidence, disgusted or aroused and much more.
When a song is mixed; at this stage the meaning is either preserved or enhanced; and when it’s enhanced…you’re in for a magical experience like no other.
Element #4: Dynamics
Now with dynamics from a technical standpoint, you’re looking at the contrast between softness and loudness (in volume) but not only that…In a great piece of music, the mix will also play with your emotions and subtlety/slightly alter the feel of the music at various moments in the song.
So a good song will not only have good dynamics in terms of volume but also in how it affects our hearts and our minds throughout the song.
Element #5: Pulse
When hearing great music, you strongly feel the pulse of the song surging through the speakers; it gets your heart going.
The groove of the song is not compromised and you feel the momentum of the song and it takes you deeper into experiencing and feeling the song.
Element #6: Interest
A great piece of music will hold your interest and attention throughout the entire song. Especially the first few times you hear it; you’ll be at the edge of your seat.
It’s sort like going to the movies. Listening to the music should feel like an event that is an experience to remember.
Element #7: Innovation
A mix should do something that pushes the creative boundaries of music.
In today’s day and age with the new possibilities in mixing and music; you should hear something in a song that makes you go “cool I never heard something like that before!”
Innovation is the part of the mix that rounds everything up in experiencing a great piece of music.
A mix that gives you song that is a wonderfully listening experience that you can listen to again and again; It’s a record!
It’s in the mix!
I’m a music producer and one of my favorite parts of producing music is the mixing phase.
Next to composing, mixing is one of my favorite parts of the music production process. It combines technology, artistry and a limitless amount of creative possibilities.
With the stage of mixing; when a song is mixed with all these elements in mind and then delivers on them, it creates a once in life time kind of listening experience.
Move and inspire,
What part of listening to music do you love the most? Let us know in the comments section. Be curious to hear from you.