Part 1 - PHASE:
Making records you encounter something you must learn called “phase”. Understanding phase is a lot like understanding Algebra. A lightbulb goes off when you comprehend that letters can represent numbers. WTF? Oh wait,…all of a sudden, you just get it.
Similarly - when you hear more than one sound (two signals from the same source) that are “in” phase and “out” of phase with each other and understand how to listen for it, again the mental light bulb goes off. You’ve just understood a very profound principle, the principle of consonance and dissonance and how to recognize it within music. Congratulations!
Since we know all that exists in the universe is nothing but waveforms and resonance in various shapes, either galaxy-sized or microscopic - I thought this might be worth exploring.
When two waveforms are in perfect consonance, they magnify each other and make the signal louder.
When two waveforms are in perfect dissonance, they cancel each other out and all is silent. For a visual:
If everything truly is a waveform down to the atomic level and up to the cosmic one - then these principles apply to things outside our 20/20 limited range of waveform understanding of sound, color, etc..
Know that we are undoubtedly boxed in by our five senses as to what we can experience physically in life, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there. We quit hearing below 20hz but Elephants have their own private chat line in the infra-sound range. The Phillipine Tarsier monkey speaks to its own kind in ultrasound - far above that range of even a dog whistle. The human perception is that these monkeys are mind readers, but they’re just speaking to one another far beyond what you and I can hear. Some birds and fish see in ultraviolet - a whole spectrum of colors we can’t see. Simply put - our limited range of sense perception is not all there is.
How many times have you felt “in phase” or “out of phase” with the things in your life? The things you read. Things you see. What you hear. What you hear yourself say. What you experience. “That’s not right. Wait a minute, no that has nothing to do with me. This rubs me the wrong way. I’m not cool with this. Wrong.” These are all various forms of you experiencing being “out of phase” with whats being projected at you, either visually, sonically, mentally, etc….
How you choose to mix it - however - is up to you.
We live in a perpetual state of being bombarded with sensations that are dissonant with *our* carrier signal. We are a species who live in an ‘out of phase’ condition to the world around us.
So - how do you fix it? Well - how do you fix phase problems in records? You have two options:
a) move the two signals to be in alignment - or if this is impossible,…
b) lose one of the signals all together
If you choose B - then your signal is now MONO (your own signal by itself) and, if the offending signal can’t have the phase altered, is the only way to mix the signal properly. Your mix is now mono - just you. You dont get stereo spectrum, or the added benefit of having ‘constructive interference’ - but a mono signal is just as powerful in a mix (if not more so) than a stereo one if there are phase problems between the two signal sources. Bear this in mind when considering if you even have the option of choosing A. You may only have the option of shifting your carrier frequency because the out of phase signal may be completely out of your control to move or alter. The only option then is to **mute** to the offending signal.
(However, when you ‘send’ the mono signal to the source room fx - the mono signal becomes wider than you can imagine purely by itself, stereo or not. Bear this in mind. These ‘sends’ are the most powerful thing you can do in a mix to create spatial depth.)
You - your waveform, your carrier signal is out of phase with the signal being presented to you: is the presented signal in phase or is the carrier signal in phase? Is it wrong, or am I wrong - why does this mix sound bad all of a sudden?
We’ll be exploring this more in depth in part 2 - but I wanted to lay the ground work for what “being out of phase” looks like. I know when a kick drum is out of phase - similarly I know when I myself am out of phase with something or someone. That doesn’t mean the kick drum isn’t a real kick drum - or those people, headlines or events aren’t real - it just means it’s a lesser version of what it should be. It’s mixed wrong. It’s a dissonant version of the original signal and should sound better.
These principles don’t just apply to sound - there’s light, and twisted light - which we’ll get into later.
So I ask myself - how much of life is in phase? How does my life - my mix - sound to me? Am I cool with it? What’s the carrier signal and what is the offending signal? Which one is *really* out of phase?
The beautiful part of mixing this life is that YOU are the mixer, and this is your mix. No one else’s. So how does yours sound?
YIWRFY —-»> kR.