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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.
The AIR or Advanced Instrument Research, suite of plug-ins is broken down into two main categories. Time Domain and Modulation Style Processors like Reverb, Chorus, Flange, etcetera and filter and saturation processors like EQ, Distortion, Bit Crushers, and stuff like that. Most of these plug-ins generally fall under the more creative side of Mix Processors, which is why they called the Creative Collection, and there are no really hard and fast rules for using them in your mixes.
Let me show you how I'm using some of these processors in the demo session. On my FX Returns, I'm using some of the AIR suite for Chorus and Flange. So I'm using the AIR Chorus on the Chorus FX return. I have that bus into a bus name Chorus, and then I have added that in a few different places, but mainly on the Lead Vocal and the Background Vocal. And then the AIR Flanger again routed on a FX return into the Bus Flanger.
These are two different types of modulation effects. So we've got a chorus that's going to modulate time, sort of like a delay, as well as pitch. And so we kind of get that doubling effect that kind of adds a richness. We can hear what that does, on the Lead Vocal here, solo that up. (Male singing: We hit the town.) (Male singing: And I'll never forget that sound.) And it's kind of nice.
I often use Chorus very subtly. Maybe I'll put it after a delay or after a reverb, just to kind of mix it up a bit. And when I do add it to Lead Vocals, I'll just mix it little bit in so it's more of subconscious thing rather than an overt chorus. So however, sometimes it's really cool to have a ton of chorus on your vocal. You'll just kind of got to look back to your Mix plan and evaluate that. Now the Flanger, if we bring that one up. Flanger or Flanger, some people like to call it.
I'm using primarily on the Background Vocal, so move this over here, and we'll solo this up. And let me pull up the section that has background vocals. (Male singing: Don't take me down. Laaaa.) (Male singing: Don't come around. Laaaa.) And so the Flanger is going to give a bit more of a swirly sound than the Chorus.
Go ahead and play with some of these Presets here. There is a quite a few you can do sort of more of a slower flange that kind of moves back and forth in time with the music or sort of a faster kind of flange sound. The Flanger and the Phaser are fairly close in terms of sound. So bring both of them up and see what works for you. Again, sometimes it's nice just to add in a little bit of these effects, just to kind of fill out the sound of something, or sometimes it's cool to just go wild. You can put a ton of flange or phase on a guitar, or maybe a loop with a really slow LFO on it and it kind of just sweeps through the mix at the BPM.
Now if I move over here to the HiHat track, I'm actually using the Kill EQ and the Kill EQ is a special kind of EQ filter. And what it's designed to do is just cut out the High, Mid, or Low band. So it's kind of like we were using those filters, right, like high-pass and low-pass filters on the EQ3.
However, this is just exclusively for that and the way I'm using it on the HiHat is to filter out all of the mud from the bleed on the HiHat mike. Let's listen without. (Music playing) So you can hear the Kick and the Snare, you know, fairly well. There is a lot of low end. It's almost like there is more Kick and Snare than HiHat going on. So what I'm going to do is kind of cut out all that low end.
So I'm cutting now here pretty aggressively. Let's listen to that. (Music playing) Now the other thing that you can do with Kill EQ that's pretty cool, besides just cutting now a section of the tracks frequency bandwidth is you can sweep through these. So I can use the Sweep parameter to kind of sweep through this frequency and it's kind of a resonate sweep.
So it's kind of like a DJ Style Sweep Effect, if we just turn off the automation here and listen. (Music playing) So that can be a really cool if you automate that parameter, especially on a loop. You kind of get that, like I said, DJ style filter. And this can be cool. You can apply this effect to a sub-mix or even the whole mix to get that cool filter sweep kind of sound.
I'm going to show you how to automate plug-ins in the automation chapter. So be sure to watch that video to learn how to automate parameters like Sweep. Now last thing I want to show you here in the AIR collection is the Stereo Widener. And this is kind of a cool effect and you can use this to make signals more stereo. There is a Width control and there is three different modes. They sort of use three different methods for making something sound wider.
The Adjust mode here is going to be your basic Stereo Width kind of plug-in where you can just use the Width percentage to kind of give anything that's already stereo a little bit extra width. What it's actually doing is using some mid-side encoding/decoding to kind of separate the left and right from what's in the center, and then being able to kind of push those out even more. And I have got his on the mix bus, and the goal is just to give it a little bit extra width. So give everything just a little bit more into the left and right hand speakers.
You got to be really careful with these effects, because what they can end up doing is creating phase problems between your left and right hand sides. So if we listen to this. (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 I always do. I'll keep my feet on the ground.) (Male singing: I'll keep my feet on the ground.) And so the way I like to use Stereo Width plug-ins, I'll use them on individual tracks.
I'm actually using it here on the B3Sub, just to give it a little bit extra width. And I can use it a little bit more aggressively on individual tracks than I would on the entire mix. Again, sort of the risk is phase problems between your left and right hand sides, and when that gets sent to mono, it can create a lot of problems for the center channel. The other thing that can happen if you push it too wide is that it creates a hole in the middle of your mix. So while it could sound really cool, especially on headphones, you definitely want to check this on real speakers, and you don't want to push it too far.
The way I like to use it is I'll push it until I can just hear it sort of widening the mix, and then I'll put it back a few percent. So it's just a little bit. So experiment with that. The Comb and Phase are going to give you much more radical effects and those are more of sort of special effects for individual instruments and not so much for your entire mix bus. So I highly recommend you take and listen through the Presets of each one of this AIR plug-ins, just to get a sense of what they do, and store them in your database of sounds to call upon during mixing and producing.
Many of these effects would fall under the production or arrangement process rather than traditional mixing effects. But since many are seeing their entire projects through start to finish, the defined roles between mixing and production are pretty much non-existent at this point. So feel free to be creative and use these at any stage during your production.
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