Sometimes a mixing engineer can only be as good as his tools. What are your tricks to getting the right mix for yourself or your clients? Im going to share a couple mixing tools that I use on almost every session that I work on.
So, to start with, I must say that most of us are mixing in the box these days. This leaves us with almost no limits as to what we can produce. Over the last few years I have realized that I don’t really need a ton of plugins and effects. This is largely due to making sure that I try to capture/record what I want the final product to sound like. But what do you do when you just can’t tame the vocalist or the snare drum. Its time to pull out the compressors.
A good compressor is in the back pocket of every studio engineer. Every DAW, even the free ones, come with a built in comp. Learning to use it effectively will shape your mixes and shape your sound as an engineer. My favorite is the CLA-76 from Waves. I tend to like almost all of the Neve 1176 copies, hardware and software based. I am sure the original is awesome too…I have just never had the chance to play with one. Use the comp lightly with one of the presets to get started. I use it very lightly on almost every buss, and sometimes pretty hard on the actual vocal or drum track depending on the take and the goal of the final sound. The next comp to really get to know, and it will save your life, is a multiband compressor. I use the waves C6. This is basically a Swiss army knife in a plugin. Getting to know the multiband comp takes a little practice, but due to being able to comp just certain bands of the EQ, its priceless, and very effective to make vocals sit in the mix just right.
Next you need a good transparent EQ. Just like the comp, they are built in to all DAW’s, so you dont need to go spending money on a plugin till you really think you need it (want it). Once again I stick with the Waves bundled plugins. I use the API plugins for EQ as well as Waves q10 and Puigtec EQ. EQ is a no brainer. Learn your EQ frequencies and how they effect each track, but remember that when you effect one track, it changes the way the total mix hits the master buss comp, so dont go too crazy. If you find yourself EQ’ing too much, adding >+4db, if you can, go back and re-track, re-mic.
Finally we have our reverbs and delays. I think these may take the longest to master, but if used sparingly and correctly, you will have nice wide stereo mixes. For the effects, I do put them on individual tracks, but most often they are used on the main buses for each instrument. Setup an Aux stereo track for each instrument…one Vocal, one drums, one guitar, one bass, etc. Then send all of the respective instruments to these tracks. Here you can add comp, eq, reverb, and delays that will bring band together.
Here is a link to FREE plugins as well. Try them out and see what works for you.
Hey, its all experimentation right? Keep it fun and learn as many techniques as you can. If you have any questions feel free to ask.