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A quick mixing demo

From: Digital Audio Principles

Video: A quick mixing demo

Okay, so we're back in Pro Tools. We're going to take a look at setting up kind of a basic mix. We have a pretty simple, what, about a nine-track session here with some drums, some bass guitar, and a little Rhodes track. We're just going to look at kind of getting started and dialing this in a little bit. So, let's first shift over to the Mix window, and just take a look at everything we have. I'm going to roll the tape. We'll just go through. I like to have everything - all the faders set to zero. So we're not really changing any volumes here. We don't have everything plugged in yet. We're not using any effects. Everything we're hearing is what you'd call the raw track.

A quick mixing demo

Okay, so we're back in Pro Tools. We're going to take a look at setting up kind of a basic mix. We have a pretty simple, what, about a nine-track session here with some drums, some bass guitar, and a little Rhodes track. We're just going to look at kind of getting started and dialing this in a little bit. So, let's first shift over to the Mix window, and just take a look at everything we have. I'm going to roll the tape. We'll just go through. I like to have everything - all the faders set to zero. So we're not really changing any volumes here. We don't have everything plugged in yet. We're not using any effects. Everything we're hearing is what you'd call the raw track.

So, I'll go ahead and set the pans to zero as well. So, we can start with everything kind of zeroed out, so to speak. So, this is a nice place to start. We have made some changes while we're doing some recording, and making some things easier when we are doing overdubs and things like that. But now I want to go back to kind of zero. So we're going to play the track back. I'll go through, and kind of solo each channel, and just take a listen to what I have. We'll start with kind of the big picture.

Then we'll go through and see what the pieces are. Then we'll decide where to start working. (Music playing.) Okay, so let's go through and solo each track now. (Drum playing.) There is the glorious kick drum. (Music playing.) (Snare drum playing.) Snare that we actually - looks like we mic'ed from the bottom.

(Snare drum playing.) (Music playing.) There is the overhead mic. (Drums playing.) (Music playing) There is a room mic. You can hear it's picking up the drums. We use that mostly to pick up the drums. But you can hear there is a little bit of bleed. You can hear some of the guitar track in there. (Music playing.) So, here is one guitar. (Music playing.) There is the bass amp.

(Bass playing.) There is the bass direct. Those are already, you can tell, they sound pretty close. Here is the Rhodes. (Music playing.) That's nice and kind of dirty. I like that. Then another guitar. (Guitar playing) Okay, so those are our pieces of the puzzle.

The first thing I'm going to do is I'd actually like to go ahead and kind of rearrange things, so that they're physically where I like them to be. I generally work from left to right, and try and build the drums out first. Then I put the bass guitar next to the drums, and then the rest of the instruments, and usually end up with vocals somewhere on the far right. And I'm going to go ahead, because both the bass tracks, to me, sound pretty similar, I'm going to go ahead and just mute one of them, and not - and decide to just work with one today.

(Music playing.) Yeah, I'm going to use the direct, because you can hear a little speaker noise in there. I think that speaker might not have been so great. So, I'm going to take this and just relegate it over here to the wasteland. All right, we'll take the bass di and bring it over here next to our drums, and that we won't mess with.

So then we have our two guitars in the Rhodes. So, let's go back and kind of take a listen to the overall mix of everything going on, just make some general assumptions about what's happening. (Music playing.) So, I'm feeling like just thinking about the drums. We want to get a little bit more kick and snare in there. Take some of the cymbals out. They seem to be kind of dominating right now.

The two guitars seem to be kind of fighting with each other. I'd like to get a little bit more thump, or low-end out of that bass guitar. So let's start by just working with the drums. We'll go ahead, and let's just isolate the bass drum track, and work on that a little bit. (Bass drum playing.) I'm going to start by using a plug-in. We'll just go ahead and tweak the EQ there a little bit. I want to take some of that kind of cardboard box sound out of there.

We'll use the old search and destroy. (Bass drum playing.) Probably about there! So I'm going to go ahead and get myself three of these to work with. There we go, because I know that I want to kind of boost the attack there a little bit. (Bass drum playing.) It's a little more present, but still kind of boxy.

(Bass drum playing.) Okay, so I think that's a little bit more focused than it was.

It's not perfect. Of course, we're listening in mono, so we're not going to be able to hear exactly all the different things that are going on. (Bass drum playing.) Now let's take a look at the snare drum and just see if we can affect that a little bit. I know I want to work with a little bit of EQ on that. So I'm going to go ahead and launch one. We'll focus that. (Snare drum playing.) It's nice and bright. (Snare drum playing.) I'd like it to have a little bit more thwack.

So, let's see what that thwack frequency is. (Snare drum playing.) It's not that. (Snare drum playing.) That's nice! Actually, let's go and cut, because we're on bottom, we're hearing a lot of that, now I want to take some of the sizzle out of there. (Snare drum playing.) So, that's a little bit more focused.

And also, whenever you add a little bit of EQ, sometimes your output will be higher than it initially was. So that's why they give you can output volume. So we'll reduce that a little bit. So, there is our kick and snare. (Snare drum playing.) All right, now the overhead. Things get a little bit tricky with the overhead. Remember, if you watched the section on mic'ing up the drums that we put that over. The objective is to pick up the cymbals, and not necessarily the rest of the drum set. So let's take a listen. Inevitably, you pick up other parts of the drum set, but what we want to try and use this track for is the cymbals.

(Drums playing.) We can hear quite a bit of the rest of the set in there. Now I'm just going to go ahead and take a one-band parametric EQ, and actually cut off the bottom frequencies, because cymbals don't make a lot of low-end noise. They don't thump; they shine. (Drums playing.) Now let's listen to that with our other tracks.

(Drums playing.) I know I'm going to bring that down a little bit too, because it's kind of dominant. So, I think that's better. Let's A/B that real quick. (Drums playing.) So, that's a little bit more focused, sound-wise. So we've kind of got the drums going. Let's just check out the room mic once more.

What I like to do with the room sound is kind of bring it in to the mix I have going in, to kind of round things out. (Drums playing.) So, that's pretty good! There is a little bit of bleed in there in the guitar, but I'm going to live with that, because I kind of like the room effect that this mic adds. Okay, so we've got the drums set up. They're close.

We're not releasing this tomorrow. We're getting close. Now, we'll deal with the bass. (Bass playing.) I'm just going to go ahead and add a compressor. (Bass playing.) But that's not the one I'm going to use. I'm going to go ahead and use this compressor. So, we'll go ahead and - sorry, wrong knob there. (Bass playing.) Move our threshold up so that we're not having any effect, then we'll just slide it down there.

(Bass playing.) So, you can see this is the amount being reduced on the top of that. Now that's pretty extreme. I'm going to take a little bit less off there. (Bass playing.) That's nice! That puts it up in front. We don't need that much output gain. It's a pretty loud track. So, I'm going to keep that, but now I'm going to go ahead and EQ it too. Again, we'll go ahead and use another parametric, maybe a 3-bander.

(Bass playing.) I'm not so fond of some of that buzzy stuff there. It gets a little masked out in the mix, so I'm not going to go crazy trying to get rid of it, but I'm going to try and find a little bit of balance here. I want this bass, I want it to kind of push the track. (Bass playing.) I think we can live with that for now.

We'll just see how that fits into the rest of the mix. (Music playing.) Now let's check out these guitars. (Guitars playing.) So, I like these, but I can't quite distinguish what's going on. So I'm going to pan them hard left and right. Now you won't be able to hear this, because the recording is mono, but I'm going to go ahead and do this anyway, to give some separation. Then we'll work a little bit with the volumes. (Music playing.) That's a pretty nice balance there.

Obviously, we've got kind of a rhythm, and then this is kind of a - it's not exactly a lead, but it's kind of an add-on line there. (Music playing.) Let's put a little bit of reverb on the Rhodes right away, just to kind of send it towards the back of the mix. It's kind of there to fill up the space and stuff. It's not really the lead line, by any means. So, we'll put it kind of in a Medium room, and see what we've got there.

(Music playing.) So, that sounds pretty good! So we've kind of dialed that in, and gotten it into a place where we can start to work with it.

Now we can listen to it, see what exactly we have going on, and take a step back, take it all in, then go back in and start to tweak it again, and think about the relationship between the different instruments. So, one other thing we can do is add a new track, or a Master Fader, which will feed all of our sounds into one final track, or one channel. We'll go ahead and create that. It's nice. It pops up it over here. Sometimes it pops it up in the middle, based on where you are. I always like to keep the Master Fader over to the right, much like the way it appears on a hardware mixing board. It's just kind of the way things are set up, and the way my brain likes to work with mixers.

So, now I can send all the signal and control it with the Master Fader. (Music playing.) Level-wise, a pretty good mix, pretty hot, which is nice. Now, the other thing I can do is go ahead and put a few plug-ins into this Master Fader to kind of affect the overall output of the whole mix.

If you wanted to do something like throw a reverb on the whole channel, or do some things to kind of master it a little bit, you could do that, but we'll actually look at that in the next chapter. So, for right now, I'm going to leave it the way it is. At this point, I would probably go ahead and bounce out of version to a single mix, then take it around and listen to it in a few different places, and just see what I notice, then come back, and do some more tweaks. You can also go ahead and do things like add reverb to the whole drum set, or parts of the drum set. There is really no shortage to the number of things you can do to start working on creating kind of a sonic landscape and working on the balance of the different things.

I can sit here when I'm working and mixing and I can play stuff and - (Music playing.) I'll just make little slides all day long. (Music playing.) You don't notice I'm here kind of in this mono setting, but it's easy to sit and tweak on this stuff a lot. I find it's productive to kind of make some big, broad strokes, move it over, take it, listen to it somewhere else, or not listen to it for a little while, and come back to it, readdress things. If you just kind of keep listening to it nonstop, and on end, a lot of times you'll kind of start to tune out things.

You'll become less sensitive to things. So it's good to get a little breath between mixes there, between kind of getting into mixing, because it's nice to approach it with fresh ears. You might find that you spend a bunch of time EQing one sound or one instrument, then when you come back a day later, that it actually is not that great an EQ, or that it sounds terrible in a car stereo, something like that. Anyway, hopefully, this was helpful and it just gives you an idea of kind of getting started in the world of mixing, and how you want to address all the sounds as one group, but then also pay attention to them individually, and then work on their relationship with one another.

So hopefully, this demo will give you an idea of kind of what mixing is, and how to get started, how to get things going, set up a few tracks, make some individual adjustments, and work with the different balances between the instruments. You'll find that mixing is very challenging, but also addictive, because it's tons of fun to see what's possible to bring in different sounds, and kind of adjust them. There is no one right, perfect combination necessarily. There are a lot of different combinations that might all work. That's kind of where the individual preferences come into play.

Show transcript

This video is part of

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Digital Audio Principles

110 video lessons · 27133 viewers

Dave Schroeder
Author

 
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  1. 50s
    1. Welcome
      50s
  2. 39m 10s
    1. What is sound?
      4m 15s
    2. Hertz and frequency response
      5m 34s
    3. Phase
      2m 39s
    4. Capturing audio
      3m 39s
    5. Sample rate
      6m 16s
    6. Bit depth
      9m 47s
    7. The waveform
      5m 3s
    8. Audio file formats
      1m 57s
  3. 7m 25s
    1. What is a digital audio workstation?
      2m 59s
    2. Typical DAW signal flow
      4m 26s
  4. 50m 33s
    1. What microphones do
      1m 57s
    2. Element types
      5m 0s
    3. Pickup patterns
      6m 51s
    4. Axis
      2m 52s
    5. Frequency response and the proximity effect
      5m 10s
    6. Phase issues
      1m 41s
    7. Microphone types
      8m 44s
    8. Miking vocals
      5m 39s
    9. Miking amplifiers
      2m 17s
    10. Miking drums
      10m 22s
  5. 16m 39s
    1. Cables and connectors overview
      2m 42s
    2. Balanced and unbalanced cables
      3m 19s
    3. Common cable types
      7m 13s
    4. Cable tips
      3m 25s
  6. 12m 16s
    1. What is an I/O device?
      1m 41s
    2. Analog to digital conversion
      3m 10s
    3. Tour of an audio interface
      4m 49s
    4. Interface considerations
      2m 36s
  7. 21m 5s
    1. What is a preamp?
      3m 21s
    2. Input levels
      5m 29s
    3. Padding
      2m 18s
    4. Phantom power
      2m 37s
    5. Phase reverse
      3m 4s
    6. Preamp demo
      4m 16s
  8. 12m 56s
    1. What is a mixer?
      5m 55s
    2. Input section
      1m 17s
    3. Channel strips
      3m 16s
    4. Master section
      2m 28s
  9. 18m 21s
    1. What is monitoring?
      2m 11s
    2. Speakers
      4m 47s
    3. Room considerations
      5m 43s
    4. Headphone types
      3m 50s
    5. Monitoring levels
      1m 50s
  10. 15m 23s
    1. What role do computers play?
      1m 36s
    2. Performance issues
      4m 11s
    3. Hard drives
      4m 38s
    4. Mechanical noise
      2m 10s
    5. Authorization
      2m 48s
  11. 6m 54s
    1. Planning for recording
      54s
    2. Doing a system check
      1m 26s
    3. Planning your inputs
      1m 42s
    4. The recording environment
      2m 52s
  12. 25m 52s
    1. Types of digital audio software
      38s
    2. Multi-track recorders/sequencers
      4m 56s
    3. Two-track recorders/waveform editors
      4m 55s
    4. Loop-based music production software
      5m 44s
    5. Plug-ins
      6m 56s
    6. Other varieties
      2m 43s
  13. 18m 59s
    1. Common components
      46s
    2. The transport
      2m 4s
    3. The toolbar
      3m 19s
    4. The Edit/Arrange window
      4m 42s
    5. The mixer
      5m 8s
    6. The file list
      3m 0s
  14. 19m 17s
    1. Setting up a session
      3m 30s
    2. Assigning inputs and getting signals
      3m 19s
    3. Input modes
      3m 28s
    4. Overdubbing and punching
      5m 14s
    5. Bouncing down
      3m 46s
  15. 19m 42s
    1. What is editing?
      1m 21s
    2. Waveforms
      2m 53s
    3. Making silent cuts and trims
      7m 1s
    4. Fades and automation
      8m 27s
  16. 1h 23m
    1. What are plug-ins?
      3m 0s
    2. Using plug-ins
      6m 11s
    3. EQs
      7m 4s
    4. Dynamics pt. 1: Compressors, limiters, expanders, and gates
      5m 40s
    5. Dynamics pt 2: Applying dynamic effects
      7m 2s
    6. Pitch shifting
      6m 14s
    7. Reverb
      9m 28s
    8. Echo and delay
      6m 23s
    9. Modulation effects: Phaser, flanger, and chorus
      9m 39s
    10. Sound tools pt. 1: About, gain, normalize
      7m 39s
    11. Sound tools pt. 2: Reverse and time compression/expansion
      6m 29s
    12. Sound tools pt. 3: Noise reducers, dither
      8m 11s
  17. 23m 43s
    1. What is MIDI?
      3m 6s
    2. Keyboard controllers
      1m 23s
    3. Computer-based virtual instruments
      1m 6s
    4. Control surfaces
      1m 6s
    5. Recording and editing MIDI
      12m 4s
    6. Virtual instruments
      4m 58s
  18. 27m 29s
    1. What is mixing?
      1m 54s
    2. Some common objectives
      3m 4s
    3. Some useful techniques
      5m 59s
    4. A quick mixing demo
      16m 32s
  19. 18m 48s
    1. What is mastering?
      2m 24s
    2. Sonic maximization
      9m 43s
    3. Final preparations and exporting
      6m 41s
  20. 13m 34s
    1. What is audio compression?
      2m 16s
    2. Popular formats
      2m 9s
    3. Bit rate, sample rate, and channels
      5m 42s
    4. Other adjustments and considerations
      3m 27s
  21. 15m 6s
    1. Essential gear
      7m 36s
    2. Voice recording setups
      1m 43s
    3. The voice production process
      5m 47s
  22. 10m 4s
    1. Analog vs. digital
      2m 48s
    2. Tube vs. solid state
      5m 6s
    3. The continual upgrade
      2m 10s
  23. 18s
    1. Goodbye
      18s

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