So you have nice track ready to mix. If you are mixing a full band, you are most likely trying to get that radio sound or that of your favorite artists. When I started out in the studio, it would take me hours or even days to mix a track, and it still didn’t stand up to my favorite tracks. Since then I take a very simple approach to mixing. I usually only use a few tools…EQ, Compression, Reverb, and Delays….and as I mentioned in other posts, I really love the Waves plugins.
Everyone has their own tactics when mixing in the box. Some say you need great converters, a great interface, etc. In reality you can make the same tracks as the pros if you know your tools and have some method to your madness. For starters, I want my track to sound like it was already mixed while I am tracking, with nothing more than a little panning to give it a stereo image. If I have a great sounding tune at that point, I know I have a good track to work with. If its a demo, I am usually done. I throw an EQ and comp on the master buss and bounce it. The reason for this is I want to keep on creating and not wasting my time on something that no one will hear. If the track is for a release that will have my name tied to it, I take much more time.
For me, the next step in mixing is setting up buses for each instrument group. Sometimes you need separate buses for individual instruments to make them one, but usually I can get away with busing all of the drums, guitars, bass, vocals, etc to their respective buses. I then add EQ and compression to individual tracks and see how each track effect each groups buss levels, starting with the drums. I usually do the drums and then the vocals, a tactic taught to me by another engineer. This keeps your signals clean and you are not trying to fight the levels of the guitars and bass. Instead you are finding the levels that support your vocals. Once you have your levels on your individual tracks, bring them together a little more by adding the EQ and compression to the buss of each group. I try to keep my track faders at Zero and use the compressors output to attenuate or increase the levels. This isn’t a science but it works for me. My reasoning behind this is that the Pro Tools, or your DAWs mixer, isn’t changing my sound, or isn’t changing it enough for it to matter to me. I do recommend that you do not change your group or master fader levels from Zero unless its a minimal change towards the end of your mixing stage.
After you find your levels using EQ and compression, you now want to sprinkle the magic fairy dust of reverbs and delays on your mix. Setup a group buss for each the reverb and delay. Once you get more familiar with your effects you will want to have a few of each. You could even setup one of each for each of your instrument groups i.e. drums, vocals, etc. Generally I use one plate reverb and one room. You can set your send level to each of these effect groups. “Smaller reverbs or short delays make things sound bigger. Reverbs with decays under a second and delays under 100 milliseconds tend to make the track sound bigger rather than push it back in the mix, especially if the reverb or delay is in stereo.”(musicconnection.com).
Each one of these categories deserves a blog or two of its own, so go play with what we mentioned here and check back often. We will write more on each of the effect discussed in later blogs. you can join our mailing list at the top of the page to be updated on on future post.
Please ask questions or comment below and we will be glad to discuss.