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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.
Remember, through the use of Reverb, Delay and other time domain processors, you can really start to rein in on the emotion and the message of this song. But before trenching everything with the verb and slap-back echoes, go back to your mix plan and think about how these spacial processors can work to achieve your idealized goal for this song. Is it wet and dreamy, close and intimate? Is it off the distance or in your face and big at the same time? Here some of my tips for using Reverb and Delay. Again, remember a little goes a long way.
Every element doesn't need to be wet. So, it's normal to have a few completely dry elements. For example, in this mix the electric guitars are for the most part dry. They have the little bit room verb on them just to give them a little bit of space, to put them in a room, but I'm not washing them with a ton of plate. Again, dry elements are going to borrow tails off of the wet ones, all becoming sort of one as they gel together in the mix.
You also want to avoid adding a lot of Reverb to very low frequency instruments. The problem with this is that the mud can tend to build up in the Reverb. We're not really hearing a lot of those low frequencies in the Reverb tail, especially if your EQing them out. You can experiment with this, but it's generally not a good idea to feed a ton of your kick drum into your longest Reverb. But a little bit can be kind of tasty sometimes. So another thing to considered is setting Reverb times.
When your setting Reverb times, consider the tempo of the song and consider what the elements are doing. Percussive instruments and faster rhythms need shorter tails, so that your not obscuring the next hit or next beat with the Reverb tail. This is why gated the Reverbs are very common on snare drums and percussive sounds. So, think of the tempo and the rhythm that the instrument is playing when sort of evaluating the time of the Reverb.
When you want to sort of create that big sound, add a lot of Reverb to the more legato and slower instruments in the sound they can get away with having a lot this Reverb in creating that back wall. So, your strings, your pads and stuff like that, give those a lot of Reverb. Now, your vocals can generally sit in the middle. If it's too long they can start obscuring the lyrics or creating a muddy vocal. So I'd like to use Pre-Delay to separate the dry from the wet signal when I'm looking at a vocal Reverb.
So, add a little Pre-Delay in, just sort of separate the two, or maybe just use the Delayed Reverb. Feed the vocal into the Delay, and then the Delay into the Reverb. When setting Delay times, again, you're also going to want to consider the tempo and the rhythm. If you have really dense rhythmic drums, don't put really big long Delays on them unless you're trying to create some sort of cool polyrhythmic effect. In that situation it becomes more of a production and arrangement decision where the Delay actually becomes part of the performance and the song.
Again, use rhythmic Delays to help reinforce the tempo of the tune, and maybe work with some off tempo Delays to help things stick out better. So, try a dotted eighth note, so that it's not tapping directly on the eighth note and trying to rob the space created by your hi-hat and your snare and other percussion instruments. Use shorter the decay times like under 40 milliseconds to create more of a doubled or thickened sound. You can pan these left and right to thicken or sort of create a full stereo image on a mono sound.
Play around with treating in returns with other effects. Feed your Delays in to choruses, flangers, other Delays, other Reverbs. You can do chains and you can create send and return chains from one into another as much as you want. And you do some really cool sound design by doing this, feeding Delays into Reverbs back into Delays again and things like that. Treat your Delays and verbs with different effects straight up. So I might put a chorus right after my Delay.
Or a chorus right after my Reverb to create a cool chorused Reverb effect, like in some of the old school hardware Reverbs. Play with the pan on Delay and Reverb returns. So, if your looking to sort of make something really big you might use a hard left to hard right stereo Delay or stereo Reverb. But if you're trying to maintain some thing's place in the mix, you might opt to use a mono return and pan that to match that instrument's place in the mix.
Or maybe try taking a Delay panning the dry signal right and the wet signal to the left. These can be some cool tricks you can play with pan. Now, you can also create manual Delays via editing. So something I see people do a lot is they'll actually take specific elements let's say like the lead vocal. They'll drop those on to other tracks. Drop a duplicate on to another track, and then use the grid to nudge it by let's say an eighth note or a quarter note.
So, what does that sound like? (Male singing: And I'll never forget...) So, when you just want to affect one word or just sort of add a delay to a single word, this can be an effective method. You can also automate the send to come in and out, again, if you want to just have delays on certain words or phrases. So, you can either approach this from an edit standpoint or an automation standpoint. We'll cover automation in another chapter. So, the example session is a very straight ahead live rock song, so its use of Reverb and Delay is pretty standard for that genre.
But don't let that stop you from heavy experimentation. You can get some really cool sonic textures by layering Delays and Reverbs and just be mindful of the additional frequency considerations that come along with extending an element's decay in time.
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