Academy Dashboard Forum Production Mixing PLAP User Mixing Techniques ( AKA Things I do often)

  • This topic has 5 replies, 6 voices, and was last updated 5 years ago by face (chris) Janton.
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    Magnus Emilsson

      I am not an expert, but I thought it might be good to share those things that one has developed as part of the workflow. This are the things that work for me, they might not be for anyone else. I work in Ableton, but most tips should work in any DAW.

      Master Bus
      Mono Checking
      I always have a "Utility" plugin on my master bus with a mono button on. So even if I'm not going through my X-Desks monitor section, I can still sum to mono to be able to check phase and other issues.

      I use Voxengo SPAN for metering at the end of my chain, typically set to K-14 metering. This, for me, helps to inform my decisions about level. So that I don't over cook things or have too much transients in my mix. I typically aim for an average of 0 db (K14). I never fix discovered issues on the master bus, I fix it in the mix by finding what is causing the problematic transients.
      I might use K-20 for something very "live" or more classical/jazz stuff that really needs a lot of headroom. If I'm hitting 0 db average on the K-14 scale, it won't be a problem to get it radio loud in mastering. I also make sure that I use a lot of the available bits.

      I always have a utility plugin with gain and mono functions on as the last plugin on all tracks. It is disabled until I need it.
      I use it for adjusting overall volume after I have done automation (as long as it isn't the automation that needs to change, then change that).
      On some sounds I use it to sum to mono (as all tracks in Ableton are stereo) if I feel that something weird is going on in the stereo image from some process or synth. Abletons Utility has a great mono function where you can set a frequency where it sums everything below to mono. Great for full spectrum sounds with a lot of stereo information, keeps the low frequencies firmly in the center.

      Gain Staging
      If I'm using an emulation plugin of some hardware I make sure, thru a gain plugin or by adjusting clip volume, that I'm hitting it at an appropriate level. As an example UAudios 1176 plugins will add a tremendous amount of saturation when you hit them hard, sometimes that's not what you want. Many plugins are setup so that -18 db digital is 0 db analog scale. (Remember on the analog side 0 db is just a voltage, rarely the level it will start to clip/saturate).

      Those were my small techniques I use to keep my mixes easy to work with.


        i have been doing this since i learned it.....linear mixing
        i loop the intro and make it how i want and move on to the verse / chorus does get me in trouble with dynamic swings but i can digest things better

        Just Lisa

          Oh, that's interesting, Kip.
          I've been thinking lately, Magnus, about how things I do might be typical or unique. I am fascinated by the act of learning, how subjects are taught and the various ways people learn.

          I notice my own work habits have changed quite a bit since Warren started doing his livestreams. I don't use a template anymore. I set up some preset fx chains so I can quickly add meters to my Main Out, a limiter and the trusty SDDR2 to my Mix Bus, and a stock level meter and eq to any other track or bus as I go along.
          Studio One automatically colors tracks as you bring them into a session. I don't start color coding them right away anymore. It's fun to look at the pretty rainbows.
          After I've organized and got my routing all in place, then I color code them before I roll up my sleeves to get to the real mixing.
          I do still use the same color coding scheme I made for myself last year.
          I ALWAYS set up a Mix Bus that isn't the Main Out.
          I ALWAYS "print'/record my mixes onto a track in real time and listen while it's happening.
          I don't like VU Meters, so I use a level meter with number display instead. (It dawned on me one day, it's my DAW, I can monitor the noise however I want to!)
          Putting an L1 limiter on the mix and main outs set at -2dB -- safety limit. I work in headphones, and I don't need the pain that happens when I forget to mute something or pull a bunch of faders down.
          We're getting better all the time!
          : )

          Tony Falbo

            I am so new to this mixing stuff I just came to see what others are doing. Yes Lisa, the organization and coloring is lesson I am glad I learned pretty quick.
            I probably should check in mono more often, I almost never do that. My gain staging is basically keep things as close to -12 db until I know I am getting close. After that I allow myself some leeway.
            I love the sound of overdrive and modulation in parallel for some reason. Sometimes I use a guitar pedal, sometimes I use a 76 with the compression off, sometimes I overload the input of a plugin.
            As for workflow, I usually start with what is bugging me the most and move down the list. Often I have to go back and tweak what I have done before as things continually change. I would like to try this "linear mixing" thing though.

            Great topic! I am sure I will be checking this thread quite often.

            Paul Motion

              Wow, what a lot of great info! I’m not nearly as advanced on the colour coding as I tend use positioning in the track list as a guide to what’s where, (I’m in Pro Tools). This usually goes drums, (kick-snare-hat-toms-oheads), perc, bass, gtrs, keys/strings/pads, random stuff, vocals.
              If the track is heavily gtr & vocal driven I’ll move the vocals up after the gtrs. Really depends and as it’s just me working on the mixes at the moment I can be as selfish as I want ?
              Will definitely need to investigate colour coding properly though.

              Always have a master bus with a mono utility and the Air Studios meter bridge plugins across as that includes a decent phase meter. I enable/disable as needed.

              I have a similar peocess to a few folks when starting a mix... full listen through, muting printed fx, panning and adjusting levels whilst we go... takes a few passes though.. certainly not at the speed of someone like Warren!

              I group everything as needed for ease of soloing, (shock horror), and for bussing I’ll usually bus all the drums so I can parallel compress if I want then everyting else is on an as needs basis.

              I’m exclusively on headphones & continuously check in mono.... I have no doubt I can improve my workflow so this thread will be getting alot of hits from me!

              face (chris) Janton

                My common template/starting point for a mix
                In the studio
                File the raw materials received in the tape vault. Everything winds up on an "external" disk on a separate computer. That gets backed up just like other things.

                Working folder gets created on the mixing system, everything unzipped and ready to go into the DAW. External disk. Backed up regularly including off-site.

                In the DAW - template
                Main Output (Stereo Out) - Logic Adaptive Limiter - true peak detection, -1.0 dB ceiling, 20ms lookahead - the last defense
                meters -> output - separate aux, Logic's MultiMeter, iZotope Insight 2
                dry bus -> meters - nothing - target for music that that is already processed (like reference tracks)
                mix bus -> meters - everything off, Logic Vintage VCA compressor tweaked like an SSL G bus compressor

                delay bus
                reverb bus

                10 "color coded" aux "tracks" DRUMS, BASS, etc.

                I create a project from the template and import all of the tracks that are part of the mix. Project gets saved. Audio files are saved in the project. Now I have the third copy of the material. I delete the "source folder" of raw audio. Take a break 😉

                When I bring in tracks I assign them to the appropriate AUX track and turn them into a "summing folder". This nicely groups the tracks with the corresponding AUX track which I can move around. I also get to put bus processing for the DRUMS in that one spot. Handy.

                Once that happens I pull down the master output level (no sound coming out) and I play the song. The meters remember peak levels so I can get a quick idea of where the energy will need control.

                For a 20-30 track mix this all takes me maybe 15 minutes. It's the Studio Assistant time, and I try and treat it like I am the assistant.

                Oh, yeah, there's a hidden MIDI track that is there so I can export marker sets, tempo, key and all that other stuff when I file things in the tape vault.

                Save the project. Take a break. Make sure I "sweep up" around the audio bins.

                Now I can tell the mixing engineer there's something for him to work with.

                Reality says it takes about 30 minutes. I listen to a lot of music while doing this. If I know what to reference I will listen to reference songs. If I find a really nice reference I will make it a point to put an MP3 into the project...

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