From time to time someone will ask me, "what, exactly, is mixing, anyway?" The temptation is to respond with explanations of parametric equalizers, compressors, reverbs, delays and other whatnots involved in the mixing process. But, unless the question was asked by someone already knowledgable about mixing, that bunch of gobbledy-gook will just sail right over the questioner's head. I mean, seriously, plenty of novice mix engineers barely seem to know what a compressor does.
I figure it would probably make more sense to show rather than to tell in this case, so I've cooked up a little example based on a mix I recently completed. The song is called "September Lady," written, preformed and recorded by the band, Pole Position.
When I receive a recorded song to mix, it lands on my hard drive as a bunch of audio files, called tracks, each of which represents a recording of one or more instruments or vocals. When the tracks are played back simultaneously, the recorded performances of all the instruments and vocals are combined into one, glorious whole that represents the grand culmination of the artists' creativity.
There's a bit of a hitch, however. In this raw state, even if the tracks have been well recorded, there's no guarantee that all the tracks will fit together as intended. As an example, listen to this raw mix of "September Lady." And, by "raw" I mean exactly that: I imported all the tracks into my digital audio workstation (DAW), and hit play. At this point I haven't changed the relative volumes of individual tracks, I haven't modified any tracks, and I haven't applied any effects to them, either. Have a listen: