Electronic Musician - May 2015 - (Page 74)
Fig. 1. Here's a section of the mix
window from a Pro
Tools session with
drums going through
a subgroup via Bus
1 & 2, instruments
through Bus 3 & 4,
and vocals through
Bus 5 & 6.
mix faster and better
By Mike Levine
Mike Levine is a multiinstrumentalist, producer,
and music journalist from
the New York area.
2 01 5
e mu s ic ia n . cO m
M ixing is a complicated task, and anything that helps make it easier is always useful. In
that spirit we present a sub-grouping technique that simplifies the process of balancing
levels, allowing you to mix more quickly and effectively. This technique is particularly
helpful when you have a large amount of tracks, but it's also useful on simpler mixes.
The concept is simple: Split tracks into a few
subgroups, each comprising a major element of
the mix. The basic groupings I use are drums, instruments, and vocals, and I'll add a forth group
if there are, say, a bunch of percussion tracks.
Depending on the nature and instrumentation of
your mix, you could divide it up differently. For
example, if you had a string or brass section, you
might want to put those in their own sub group.
But first, let me backtrack for those not familiar
with subgroups. On a DAW mixer, a subgroup is an
auxiliary channel through which you can route the
outputs of any number of individual tracks, allowing
control of many tracks from one mixer channel.
In virtually any DAW, a subgroup is created by adding an aux track and using a stereo bus to route track
outputs into the subgroup. Here's a hypothetical example: Let's say you were making a drum subgroup, and
using Bus 1 & 2 (a stereo pair of buses) to feed it. You'd
set the output of all your drum tracks to Bus 1 & 2, the
input of the auxiliary track you created to Bus 1 & 2,
and its output to the main output pair that you normally use to send tracks to the master track (see Figure 1).
The way I like to use this sub-grouping technique
is leave the subgroup faders at their default level during the beginning of the mix, and work on balancing
the mix elements, using individual track faders. Once
you have a rough balance-meaning that within each
subgroup, the relative balances are good-you can ad-
just the subgroup faders when necessary to change the
relative levels of these major subgroups you've created.
You'd be surprised how helpful this technique can
be. For example, having all the vocals on one subgroup
makes it easy to quickly nail the critical balance between vocals and instruments. If the instruments are
too loud, turn down their subgroup or turn up the vocal
group; if the vocals are too loud, turn their group fader
down or turn up the instrument group, and so on.
Why not just use track groups (individual channels
linked together in the mixer) to accomplish the same
thing? There are a couple of reasons. First, having a
lot of track groups active can cause you to accidentally
move a whole group when you want to just move one
individual track fader. Second, if an individual track
has automation written on it, you'll have to overwrite
that automation (and any other tracks in the group
that you're moving) to keep tracks from snapping
back to where the existing automation dictates.
Speaking of automation, the subgroup faders
can also be automated, giving you additional control, if needed. For instance, you could automate
drum and instrument subgroups to rise subtly
during choruses to add more dynamics.
Using this category subgroup scheme has
helped me mix more efficiently. The beauty of it is
that even with the groups set up, you're still totally
free to adjust individual tracks. The difference is
that you now have an extra layer of control. n
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Electronic Musician - May 2015
Electronic Musician - May 2015
Microphones for Muscians
Death Cab for Cutie
Steve Aoki and Benasis
Slate Digital Virtual Mix Rack
Arturia Matrix 12
iZotope Iris 2
Yamaha DBR Series
Electronic Musician - May 2015