The weeks are flying by, and the initial run of the Digital Music Production Workshop is almost complete. This past Saturday we held the 7th session of our 8-session program at Carnegie Hall's Weill Music Institute in partnership with Building Beats. The session focused on mixing and mastering songs to ready them for publishing.
The session began with our staple ‘Organic Orchestra’ warm-up exercise, but with a twist: 5 microphones had been set up to capture the different 'instrument sections' so students would be able to hear the difference between a recorded song and a performed song. The room came alive as the session's lead TA's Charles Burchell and Manny Oquendo conducted.
After the warm-up, Charles and Manny led a short discussion about the importance of mixing and mastering songs. Emphasis was placed on creating a full and interesting mix, and how each producer or engineer leaves their mark on a song through the process of mixing. To highlight the difference a proper mix can make, Manny played 2 versions of a song produced in an earlier workshop session. One was just the raw tracks, while the second version had been mixed by Manny. The difference was astonishing. The mixed song sounded much fuller, yet also much clearer. While the raw tracks contained the same elements, the mixed song was able to captivate the listener by varying which elements were given prominence, and which fell to the background. After listening to the songs, Manny and Charles presented the challenge: youth participants would be given one of two un-mixed songs, which they would mix and master during the creative time. The participants chose whether they wanted to mix on a laptop DAW or on an iPad using BeatMaker 2, and split into smaller groups to work until lunch.
Because the weather is finally improving, the Teaching Artists and participants were able to enjoy their lunches in the sun on the patio of the Weill Music Institute. It was a beautiful day, and made for a nice break before returning to work.
TA's provided assistance and offered input as students worked in teams on the laptops, and individually on the iPads. The students made use of different finishing effects like the compressor and equalizer to allow each track to mesh with the song as a whole.
After working to hone their songs, the students came together for the share session. It was really interesting to hear the differences in the way each individual or small group chose to mix the tracks. As they shared their work, the students were encouraged to talk about the process and how they had achieved their certain sound for the song. One participant mentioned that he had tried to "just raise the volume" of the bass to help it come forward, but found it required more fine-grained control with the compressor and equalizer in order to fit with the rest of the instruments. The hands-on experience gave students an opportunity to fully appreciate the intricacies of creating a successful mix.
The next session of our Digital Music Production Workshops will be held this Saturday, April 25th.