It’s got me meditating on how to “open up” a mix — to allow things to breathe and move while still being full and textured.
The reality of getting a mix to sound “open” is that it’s not one single thing working. Most people will attribute openness to the instrumental arrangement and the way the sounds are captured and EQ’d. And this is true. But it’s also the space and dynamics. And the front to back perspective of the soundscape. It’s sort of the sum of everything.
Most obviously and most accessibly, the actual instrumentation of a song will define the openness of it.
Some things are meant to be more sparse and other things are meant to be fuller. Often times, it’s the change from sparse to full or full to sparse that gives a song momentum. Solo banjo will invariably be “open sounding” whereas a heavily layered synth orchestra a la Stargate (like the chorus of “Black and Yellow” by Wiz Khalifa) is going to be “dense and full.” Neither is necessarily good or bad. However, there are instances where you find fully orchestrated records that still have a very open sound. It’s rarer to find the opposite: a sparser record that is still dense and full — but engineers such as Young Guru and Mike Dean have managed to make that work.