Audio Recordings tell a story in a four-dimensional world. So, we should be thinking about all of those dimensions as we produce a song. Here, I put together a guide for thinking like a four-dimensional record producer.
Use depth to create a sense of space in the mix. Volume and distance don’t go hand-in-hand when mixing. Clarity undermines distance. So, use effects like delay and reverb to create distance. Start studying sound in your everyday life. Consider what it sounds like to talk to someone who’s in another room. Some high-end gets cut out of that person’s voice because of the indirect route the sound waves take to get to you. You would also likely hear some reverb. If you’re talking to someone through a door, you’ll hear a muffled voice that loses a lot of its high-end. Use your experience with distance in the real world to create depth in your mixes.
Use width not only to separate, but also to build. Panning is a great way to cleanly hear two guitar parts by separating them so each ear can clearly hear one. More importantly, we can tease the listener’s ears with balance adjustments. When the track feels off balance, the listener subconsciously wants to hear it balanced. You can use this to create a sense of tension and release throughout the mix.
Use height to bring one sound over the top of another. When talking about height, we should focus on the faders themselves. Bringing up certain parts creates a hierarchy of importance for our listeners. Listeners focus mostly on the top line, which is usually the vocal and melody. In other parts, you can replace the top line with a different important part by bringing that part to the top.
Use time wisely on recordings. At a show, artists get away with more repetitions and less layers simply because the fans eyesight is engaged. But on a record, we need to add layers (lead guitars, pianos, drum changes, new vocal motifs, background vocals) to keep the listener’s ear engaged. These should be used to build and transition.
Good producers spend time getting great sounds. Four-dimensional producers spend time thinking about where those sounds will fit in the mix. Get out there and start creating four-dimensional recordings!