After seeing the theoretical notions here, let's put them in practice. How can we make our recorded instruments clearly distinct from one another, what frequencies should we boost or cut, where should we place the instruments, etc.
We are going to study the complete mixing of a song I wrote: Life.
Instrument after instrument, we will see what plugins and virtual instruments were used and how, and we will proceed until the ultimate mastering stage. Of course, this is my way of doing things, this is not a recipe that everyone should apply in all circumstances, but that's an example that can be used as a solid base, in order to know what amateurs can do when there's no outside help.
Concrete exemple with a song of mine: LIFE
I made this song entirely in my home studio. And my home studio is only vaguely related to professional recording studios. It's just a room in the appartment, it isn't soundproof and my neighbors don't appreciate tube amps played in the evening. So I plugged my guitars directly into my audio interface (through a preamp) and used amplifier simulations for the guitars and the bass, an acoustic drums software instead of a real drum set, as well as software synthesizers. The only thing that produced some noise during the recordings was my voice. But that's a rather quiet song, vocally speaking.
Of course, before mixing it, the song doesn't sound like much, as you can hear below.
We are going to go from here...
No effects whatsoever are used in this version. The takes are raw, superimposed one onto another, the sound is monophonic (everything's centered) and the guitars are thinner than a fashion model... As for the drums, they sound really flat. To sum up, it lacks everything that could make it sound good. It's even hard to imagine that it will sound good.
Here is the waveform of the song before mixing.
As we'll see in this tutorial, we are going to have to use some tools to make Life come to life (!).
This is the finished song. As you can hear and see in the graphics, the difference is huge.