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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.
So as a big sounding rock tune with a crunchy open chorus, Take Me Down incorporates reverb to help define its size and place elements in the mix. One thing I think people find surprising about mixing with reverb is how a little can go a long way or how a lot of reverb on a single element is all that's necessary to create a big sound in the mix. So if we look at the reverbs here and how we're using them, again, I have three main reverbs, I have a Room Verb, a Plate, and a Drum Room.
Now, if we look at my drums, the one thing that really defines the sound of the drum kit or I should say the size of the overall kit and the space that it lives in is going to be this Snare Reverb. So the kind of reverb you're using on the Snare is really going to define the overall size of the kit. So if we take a look here or I should take a listen, going to bring up my Sends F-J. I've got on the Snare, the Mike Snare a little bit of Big Plate, and even more on the Snare Sample.
So when the Snare Sample kicks in in the first chorus, it kind of gives it that really big sound. So, let's just take a listen here from the first chorus. (Music playing. Drum solo.) As we could see, it's not too much, but it's sort of just enough to kind of give it that nice wet sound on the snare.
I'm not going for the 80s super huge snare effect, but it's going to help define the size of the kit. Now the other thing that's going on here is that the DrumSubMix is actually being processed through a little bit of that DrmR verb. The reason that I'm doing this is that the drums were recorded in a smaller space. It was actually a converted garage recording studio, sounds great, maybe just not as big as it should be for this specific mix.
So what I did is ran the submix through this sort of specific drum reverb right here, if we scroll up, and basically it's just a room set in a very short tail. There's a little bit of compression going on just to kind of sponge that out a little bit. We've got some EQ taking away the low end, so I don't want to get that kick drum, that beefy kick drum. I don't want it making my mix muddy.
So, if we listen here, kick up that drum hall. (Music playing. Drum solo.) So, it's just giving a little extra space. So in the mix, it's just going to help those drums sound a little bit bigger.
(Male singing: So take me down, take me down and my feet will follow, wherever my heart goes.) (Male singing: I'm come around...) Again, less is more. I'm not really going for that super huge drums at the back of a warehouse kind of sound. But I don't want it to be super intimate and tied either. Now, if I move on to the vocals, go ahead and hide these Sends, the Lead Vocal here is mainly being processed with delays, which I'll talk about in the next video and a little bit of chorus.
So there's not as much reverb happening directly on the Lead Vocal. This can actually be a good thing, because I don't want to really obscure that vocal with a big washy long reverb. It's not a ballad tune, I kind of want that vocal to be upfront and carry the song. However, the background vocals are getting a bit of Room Verb, and if we look at our other Sends, they're getting a bit of the Big Plate. Now, it's kind of nice with the Lead Vocal here, add just a touch of the Big Plate.
It's almost something that's more subconscious than sort of overtly sounding like a lot of reverb on the Lead Vocal. So if we listen to that... (Male singing: ...down, take me down and my feet will follow, wherever my heart goes.) (Male singing: I'm come around, I'll come around, like I always. I'll keep my feet on the ground.) So mostly the vocal sound is kind of upfront and drier and there's just these kind of subtle hints that there is a bit of tail to them.
This could completely change depending on your tune, so you kind of want to play around with the amount of reverb, but be careful not to wash things out. And make sure you EQ those tails, de-ess them if you have to. The background vocals have a little bit more effects treatment. That's generally what I'm going for in this kind of song. The background vocals kind of sit a little more in the background. Now if we look at some of the other instruments that are using the reverbs, the B3 is using a lot of this plate.
So, if we listen here... (Music playing) It really isn't a main focal element in the mix. It's not something that you might instantly recognize when the whole mix is playing during the chorus. But it's just something that's kind of help glue some stuff together. A really cool trick that mixers like to use is adding a whole lot of the longest reverb to a non-percussive sound, something that's more legato, like a string pad or an organ or actual strings or maybe kind of a little lead guitar melody.
What that's going to do is help define the back wall of the mix. So again if we're thinking of the stage where the characters can be all over the stage, we need to have somebody at the far back to kind of define and help the listener get a sense of where that space is and where people are placed within that stage. If you take anything way from the reverb usage examples in the demo session, understand that it doesn't take a huge wash of reverb on everything to create a big sounding mix.
In fact, quite the opposite is true. To me, big sounding mixes generally showcase a distinct perspective of depth or a close to far. Without this relative relationship, everything is either really far away, which can be cool, or really close, which can also be cool. But that doesn't constitute big in my mind. Remember that a lot of reverb on only a few elements can effectively define the back wall, and they can share their tail with other elements.
So, a really long reverb on one element can make it sound like a lot of other dry elements also have reverb on them. So, make sure to keep a few things dry and upfront and really think about the perspective in the depth of your mix.
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