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Once recording and editing are finished, audio engineers can take advantage of the training in Mixing and Mastering with Pro Tools to punch up the final output. Digidesign Certified Expert Brian Lee White covers all the basic mixing tools that every producer and engineer should know, from using EQ to add clarity and focus to using compression and limiting to maximize track levels within a mix. Brian stresses the importance of setting up a solid mixing plan prior to any work in Pro Tools, and gives advice on the best plug-ins for each stage of the process. Exercise files accompany the course.
Not to be confused with mastering, master bus processing is a trick that mix engineers have been using for decades to get a gelled and punchy mix quickly and generally make the mixing process more fun and interesting from the get-go. By placing effects like compressors and saturation on your Master Fader or Master Submix and mixing through them, every decision you make during the mix process is made through the lens of the Master Bus effect. The result can be quite stunning. So if we look at what we are doing here on our master bus, I have got a compressor and I'm mixing into this limiter here.
Now traditionally the history of mixing into a compressor kind of came about when SSL started putting dedicated bus compressors on to their consoles. So the story was the record producer would come in and the A&R executive would be there and the engineer would turn on this bus compressor and the mix would just sound like a record and that's why they called it the Record button. Now, why would this help the mix sound more like a record? Well compression, remember, is going to tuck in any of those dynamics that might be spilling out over the mix.
It's also going to help everything sort of sit and gel together better and fill-out the overall sound, bringing up a little bit of the lower level elements in the mix while taming some of the peaks down. Now the attack and the release on that compressor can aid in adding a little bit more punch to the overall mix. Now this is different than adding compression at the individual track stage because everything is working in combination to push and pull on that compressor.
Basically how I would set up a master bus compressor. While the BF76 is not specifically designed to be a master bus compressor, it is something that comes with Pro Tools stock and you can use it for this purpose. My goal is I'm going to place this on my submix or my master fader and I'm going to look to get about two or three dBs of gain reduction, maybe 4 at the loudest section of the song. What I'm looking for is an attack from about 10 to 20 milliseconds and a release from about 200 to 300 milliseconds.
Now in the BF76, we don't have milliseconds, so I have got my attack at the slowest setting, which is still really, really fast on the 1176 and the release is faster but not as fast as it can go. So, let's listen to the difference that this makes in the mix here. (Music playing) (Male singing: We hit the town.) (Male singing: And I'll never...) Then the denser section of the song. (Music playing) (Male singing: So take me down, take me down and my feet will follow, wherever my heart goes.) (Male singing: I'm come around, I'll come around, like...) So, it's just adding a little extra punch, a little extra support.
It's kind of inflating the sound a little bit, kind of filling everything out. You don't want to push too hard because again you are working your whole mix and a lot of times I like mixing into this compressor because it's going to give me a little extra support, so I can push my automation rise into it. It's going to push back a little bit. Any dynamics decisions that I make are sort of colored by this overall compressor. So I might have to use less overall compression on individual tracks because I have a little bit on the mix bus. Now, some engineers don't like using mix bus compressors.
They feel it's kind of cheating while others completely swear by them. Some like kicking them in later, while others put them in from the get-go. Really you just need to experiment with using compression on your mixes. Certain genres you know, heavy rock and pop, kind of lend themselves more to the mix bus compression and mixing into them, than sort of more Americana folk and jazz mixes would. One thing that the mix bus compressor is going to give you also as a little bit of character from that compressor.
So, what I like to do is when I choose a compressor for my mix bus, I might choose one that has a little extra character, especially if I'm going for more of that gritty sound, right, more of a retro sound. So something it's going to add little bit of harmonic distortion to all the tracks. Otherwise, like I showed you before, I might use some console emulation like analog channel and I might kind of use that in conjunction with a mix bus compressor to kind of gel everything together. Again, the cool thing about this is it kind of gets things sounding punchy and gelled right from the get-go and like I said, some people think this is cheating.
I just think it makes mixing more fun. In the end again, you really just need to kind of experiment. This shouldn't be confused with mastering. If you are going to put the compression on afterwards, it's more sort of a mastering style compression. And while you might approach it the same way, you may have added more compression at the individual track level. So you might go lighter on your bus compression or you might treat the attack and release differently. So just kind of experiment, start a mix with one on, finish it and maybe if you have the time, do the same mix without using the bus compressor and maybe adding it on at the end and kind of see what works for you and getting your mix to gel better.
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