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I have been doing some mixing of a traditional type band setup guitar, bass, drums and vocals. I get the pan left to right center to give space to each instrument. But when I listen to professional music recordings I can hear that some instruments seem like they are at the back of the room and others nearer the front sometimes higher up like over your head.

How do you achieve this in the mix?

Is it all EQ? (something I don't have much experience of yet) or is there other things that can have this effect.

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The perceived "distance" of a particular instrument in a mix is achieved due to differing levels of reveberant and dry sound. For instance a "near" instrument will be louder and will have a a ratio of dry and reverberant sound that favours the dry component.

More distant sounds will have a slightly lower amplitude and will favour the reverberant component of the mix.

When you are building a mix with multiple instruments you will always have the dry sound of the instrument and a reverberant sound - this will either be achieved using artificial (convolution or algorithmic) reverb, or natural reverb from mics in the room.

If you are using artificial reverb, you will use an effects channel and vary the amount of the dry instrument sound that you send to the effects channel.

It is not possible to simulate this with just time-delay and EQ.

it is also not possible to simulate the experience of height unless you are using a combination of binaural rendering and an ambisonic mix bus.

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  • so basically you are saying to move an instrument further back, in a DAW with plugins, add reverb, with the mix more in the wet, and lower the volume. thanks
    – Gurnard
    Dec 9, 2019 at 15:04
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    Yes. That's basically it. This is where you start. You can add detail to your mix by simulating microphone proximity effect by adding bottom end but you will need to research proximity effect first before trying this.
    – Mark
    Dec 9, 2019 at 22:28
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Time delay will make an instrument seem farther back. You need separate tracks for each instrument to do that.

You might be able to fake it some by reducing the loudness a little and also with EQ if you could measure a sample with both near and far mikes and see how they differ.

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I'd like to add that there are lot of ways to make things sound from somewhere. Balancing the amount of reverberation or delay is not the only one. There are more, e.g.:

  • more / less Gain -- close / far (obvious, huh? :) )
  • more bottom end -- closer (not sure if this is always so, but at least sometimes)
  • more explicit transients -- closer (i.e. things with all-flat / no-attack sound more far away than otherwise)

To me 3D positioning is a large and complex topic, so I'd encourage you to search info / video on the net about this, e.g.:

Also, I believe "all-included" plugins for 3D positioning do account for things like gain, HF roll-off, transients and many more already, so one may choose to use them instead of emulating all these parameters manually

P. S. thanks to Mark from the first answer about Ambisonic, I didn't know about that :)

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