Tis Magic

Double, double, toil and trouble; fire burn and cauldron bubble. The most famous in the history of English literature were the three witches in Shakespeare's

“Double, double, toil and trouble; fire burn and cauldronbubble.”

The most famous “mixers” in the history of Englishliterature were the three witches in Shakespeare's Macbeth.Admittedly, their raw material was a lot more exotic than thecontents of our music mixes: “eye of newt and toe of frog,wool of bat and tongue of dog” are a lot stranger than eventhe most “out” musical tracks. But the witches' rhyminglyrics were impeccable, and you have to admit that their resultswere more potent than your average music mix.

The Weird Sisters also understood the art of deception, thatwhat appears to be good can be bad: “Fair is foul, foul isfair,” they said before offering Macbeth seemingly optimisticpredictions that actually foretold disaster. Similarly, when webegin mixing a piece, we often discover that tracks we thought werefine don't work in the mix, whereas tracks that appear inadequatewhen soloed may prove a perfect complement to other tracks.

But how can one know when fair will turn out to be foul or foul,fair? We lack the witches' magic, though the technology we useseems magical enough at times. The three witches were guided byHecate, the Greek goddess of the moon and witchcraft who is theultimate source of their power. We recording musicians can turn tomuch more benign sources for guidance: expert engineers who have ahistory of success.

Following that philosophy, associate editor Brian Knaveinterviewed three highly successful producer/mixers with topcredits — Ken Kessie (En Vogue, Tony Toni Tone, Celine Dion),Chris Lord-Alge (Faith Hill, Green Day, Sheryl Crow, MelissaEtheridge, Dave Matthews Band, Barenaked Ladies), and Mark Needham(Chris Isaak, Bruce Hornsby, Meredith Brooks) — and askedthem to share the magic they use to avert or fix some of the mostcommon mixing problems (see “Mysteries of Mixing” on p.96). Of course, there is no perfect recipe for a great mix, but ourexperts' advice can help you recognize problems before, as thesecond witch put it, “something wicked this waycomes.”

While we're on the subject of magic, let's talk about analogmodular synths, which are among the most magical of electronicmusical instruments. These wonderful devices allow you to create anendless variety of unearthly sounds, but many people mistakenlyassume that they are historical instruments. In fact, analogmodular synths are very much in style these days, and at least 20companies currently offer a wide variety of modules. Associateeditor and inveterate synth junkie Gino Robair tested every modularanalog synth he could get his hands on; read his fascinating reportin “Something Old, Something New” (p. 60).

There's plenty more, but these stories ought to be enough tostir the pot.

We welcome your feedback. Contact us at emeditorial@intertec.com.