The five elements

Book worth looking up in the library about mixing is Bobby Owsinski’s The Mixing Engineer’s Handbook. It’s useful for both home-recorders and pros. What I found most interesting was a run-down of the five elements of a good mix: Foundation; Pad; Rhythm; Lead and Fills.

The foundation is usually drums and bass -the steady rhythm.

‘Pad’ refers to sustained notes used in the mix, like strings, organ, synth or even guitar such as slide or power chords.

‘Rhythm’ as far as I could tell refers to things that add momentum or excitement to the beat such as twangy or funky guitar, or extra percussion like shakers, congas etc…

Lead: usually main vocals, or it could be a lead instrument (like Satriani’s guitar)

Fills:fill in the ‘spaces’ between lead in order to carry the mix (or listener’s attention), such as backing vocals, guitar licks, horns or piano fills. In the songs I’ve examined on this blog I’ve often referred to this as ‘counter melody’. I found this as a great guideline because it doesn’t matter how complicated an arrangement or mix can get, you can strip it down to these five elements.


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