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Analysis of the Subgrouping Practices of Professional Mix Engineers

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Subgrouping facilitates the simultaneous manipulation of a number of audio tracks and is a central aspect of mix engineering. However, the decision process of subgrouping is a poorly documented technique. This study sheds light on this ubiquitous but poorly defined mix practice and provides rules and constraints derived from a questionnaire that could be used in intelligent audio production tools. We prepared an online questionnaire consisting of 21 questions testing nine assumptions and identifying subgrouping decisions, such as why a mix engineer creates subgroups, when they subgroup and how many subgroups they use. We analyzed responses from 10 award winning mix engineers. Thematic analysis enabled us to discover five themes: Decisions, Subgroup Effect Processing, Organization, Exercising Control, and Analogue versus Digital. By analyzing the themes and each respondent’s quantitative data we were able to show that eight out of nine assumptions could be accepted to be true.

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AES - Audio Engineering Society