Kenny's Tip of the Day - Kenny’s Quick Mixing!!!!
This is based on something I came up with years ago and I still find myself employing the concept on many mixes today. Especially if the tonal balance of the whole track feels off quite a bit. Right from the start when I just push up the faders.
I should add that this is a similar concept to the “Top Down Mixing” by Graham Cochrane that I learned about more recently. Also, this is a very similar concept used in live mixing where the room your working in can be less than ideal and many of the problems you’ll be fixing are similar from track to track. But this can definitely be applied to studio mixing as well. And it should be when it makes sense. As you’ll see.
So how does it work? It’s quite simple actually. And it’s the idea of working in very broad strokes. If you’ve ever mixed a song with 100+ tracks, you know how hard it can be to fix everything if the whole mix sounds too dull. Or all of the drums sound too boomy. Or everything has some excessive lower mid-range mud to it.
The first thing I’ll do is put up all of the tracks and create a really rough mix. Just adjusting the faders and the pans to see what problems jump out at me. The bigger the problem, the more important it is to spend time on that issue. And NOT to spend an equal amount of time on each track. It’s not necessary and it hurts you because it wastes time.
The next thing I’ll do is add a bit of compression and an EQ to the Master Buss or the Master Fader. I’ll tweak this EQ extensively to get the mix as close as possible. Of course, this is not the best place to fix all of the mixing issues that we have but it’s a great place to start. Your ears are fresh and you can get the entire tonal balance in focus, very quickly using this technique and position in the signal path.
This next part can vary from mix to mix but I will then create Group Busses for all of the main groups of instruments. Drums, Bass, Guitars, Keyboards, Lead Vocals and Background Vocals. This involves sending all the tracks that belong to each group to another fader or aux (or folder) so they can be treated as a Group. Not individually. Much easier to manage 5 or 6 faders than one hundred or more.
I’ll then move the EQ from the Master Buss to all of the Group Busses. I’ll leave the compression on (as it works differently there) and I’ll reset the Master Buss EQ back to its default. So it’s doing nothing. No boosting or cutting. But it should still sound the same as the EQ is now on all of the busses. So it’s still being applied everywhere but now you have more control. Because we can adjust them differently.
If the drums were very dark compared to everything else, we can now add more top end to the drums and a bit less to the Bass or Guitars etc. If there’s more mud in the vocals we can tweak that just on the vocal tracks. Not on everything else. Assuming that most of the vocals have a similar tone. I’ll probably add a bit of compression to each group buss as well but I’ll still keep it on the Master Buss.
As you can see, by doing things this way, we can quickly get our mix going while our ears are still very fresh. Fixing problems and creating EQ decisions that make sense in a much broader way.
Once I feel good about this step, I can then consider going to the individual tracks. But ONLY if it’s needed. For example, if all of the Background Vocals sound good with the same EQ and compression, why add any on the individual tracks? You may have 30+ of them. It’s time consuming and harder to keep track of them.
But if the Busses or Groups don’t provide enough control, we can start processing the individual tracks. So let’s say you have 12 guitars tracks. Maybe one pair of them was still too dull when using the Buss EQ for that Group. You can leave the Buss EQ but add another EQ on the individual tracks and boost the EQ there as well. Or create new busses within busses (Verse Guitars and Chorus Guitars) and EQ them differently while still using the EQ and compression on the Guitar Buss.
As you can see, anything is possible. But by employing a bigger strategy that starts with moves that make a bigger difference, you will be banging out killer mixes in just a few hours. Instead of 8-10.
And when you feel like you’re just about done. Take a break. Rest those ears. Come back an hour or so later and listen down to the mix without touching anything. Just take a few notes on the problems that really jump out at you. And ONLY fix those.
I tend to re-adjust the EQ on the Master Buss at this time in addition as I now have fresh ears again.
You’ll find that you’ll wind up adjusting a lot less things as everything doesn’t need to be tweaked. Just the the MOST important things.
You can learn more by watching my videos at www.groove3.com
I hope this message finds you well. Kenny Gioia